CNY Reads

CNY Reads One Book


October 13, 2014:  CNY READS announced today that the 2015 selection is The First of July by Elizabeth Speller. 

The season will run from January 1 through March 31, 2015

Within The First of July, four stories – three written in third person and one in first person - trace the lives of four young men in the years leading up to the Battle of the Somme.  Through Speller’s beautiful writing and skilled character development we learn what prompted young Jean-Baptiste, a French blacksmith apprentice, to leave his village for Paris; and we are introduced to Benedict, a talented British music student and organist who lives in the shadow of his friend Theo.  We learn about the British upper class through Harry, an entrepreneur residing in New York City who isn’t all he seems; and we get a feel for the working class through steady Frank, a carpenter and coffin maker in London who has a passion for racing bicycles. 

Following the outbreak of World War I, they all find themselves part of divisions that will fight in the Battle of the Somme – a battle that claimed the lives of 60,000 British troops on the first day, and a total of over one million British, French and German soldiers by the time it ended in November.  

Booklist 10/15/13:  “Utterly gripping and completely immersing, Speller’s historical novel of WWI captures the experience of four very different young men during the war’s early years, leading up to one of the grimmest campaigns, the Battle of the Somme, which began on July 1, 1916.  Elegant writing steeped in atmospheric realism describes a journey undertaken by men with a mistrustful reluctance.”

Kirkus Reviews 8/12/13:  “By foregrounding, with poetic intensity, four individual experiences, Speller implicitly acknowledges the countless who fought in WWI. A well-crafted tribute.”

To suggest a title for future consideration, visit our Suggest A Title section.

What is CNY Reads One Book?

Since 2001, representatives of Central New York's cultural, educational, and social service organizations have come together to sponsor "CNY Reads One Book", the largest "one book, one community" reads program in New York State. The CNY Reads Consortium, currently coordinated by Onondaga County Public Library, and consisting of a rapidly expanding group of Central New York partners, promotes reading, research, discovery, and sharing of perspectives among local citizens by encouraging them to read the same book and to participate in programs related to that book. Past selections have included Earnest Gaine's A Lesson Before Dying, works by Arthur Miller, and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

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Our Mission & Vision

CNY Reads One Book promotes reading, research, discovery, and a sharing of perspectives among Central New Yorkers by encouraging them to read the same book and participate in programs related to the content and themes of that book.

CNY Reads One Book aspires to use its shared reading program as a catalyst for greater community dialogue, collaboration, and understanding about issues and themes raised through our book selections. With a commitment to expand the number of diverse cultural, educational, and social-service institutions participating in CNY Reads One Book, the consortium is creating a new model for community building and programming while celebrating the written word.

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How to Get Involved

Read The First of July
After you read the book, share the book with family, friends, and co-workers. Offer to read it aloud to people who are not able to read. Don't forget about OCPL's Book Club Kits. Book club kits are available for most titles. Kits include 12 paperback books, and 1 reader's guide with discussion questions, all provided in a handy tote bag for easy carrying. For more information about Book Club Kits, please see the Book Club Kit section of the OCPL website.
Reserve A Book Club Kit Online, or call 315-435-1900.

Register Your Book Club
Is your club planning to read The First of July? We'd love to hear from you about how your community is getting involved. Contact Kathy Osmond at or call 315-435-1900.

Attend CNY Reads Events
[Events listing coming soon]
Dozens of CNY Reads events will be scheduled through the season.

Enter the Cover Art Contest
[Information coming soon]

Join the CNY Reads One Book Consortium
Would your organization like to help plan events and be a part of the selection process for future CNY Reads One Book books? Contact Kathy Osmond, Chair, CNY Reads One Book Consortium at or call 315-435-1900.

Suggest a Title

Please see the Book Criteria webpage, then Contact Us to suggest a title.

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Contact Us

For 2014 CNY Reads One Book will be coordinated by the Onondaga County Public Library, and Kathy Osmond, Director of Community Relations. She can be reached at or call 315-435-1900.

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Sponsored By:

OCPL logoWCNY logo

And a Consortium of Community Partners:

Barnes and Noble of Syracuse
Central New York Library Resources Council
Downtown Writer's Center of the YMCA of Greater Syracuse
Friends of the Central Library
Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County
Onondaga County Executive's Office
Onondaga County Public Library
Onondaga Historical Association
Syracuse Post-Standard
Syracuse Stage
Syracuse University

Special thank you's to our Community Volunteers:

Dianne Emmick, Retired High School Teacher, West Genesee High School
Heidi Holtz, Program Director, Community Grantmaking, Rosamond Gifford Foundation
Ed Kochian, Member of the Friends of the Central Library Board
Evelyn Williams, member, Lambda Kappa Mu Business & Professional Women's Sorority

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Last updated: November 3, 2014