Reading Up and Down the East Coast
As states slowly open back up and the warm summer months begin, many Americans are itching to be out traveling and exploring again. Route 1 Reads is just the transition needed for those looking to take a road trip either physically or from the comforts of home. This partnership between the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and affiliates takes place along U.S. Route 1 which spans the eastern seaboard. Readers can pack up the reading list to take with them on their journey or follow along at home.
U.S. Route 1
This United States highway is the major road that runs from the northern tip of the east coast to the southern. Also known as the longest north to south route in the United States, U.S. Route 1 runs 2,369 miles and takes travelers from North Kent, Maine right outside of the Canadian border to Key West, Florida.
This highway hits most major cities on the East Coast which means those driving along it can expect to pass through Philly, New York City, Washington D.C. Richmond, and Miami among many others. This highway of history holds over 300 years of stories. In the past, this path was used by early settlers and even used by the first U.S. president to travel in times of peace and war. Nowadays, we use it to travel along the coast for business and sightseeing.
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Route 1 Reads
Route 1 Reads was an initiative that began over half a decade ago when it was launched at the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. The goal was to connect traveling readers to the important history behind the states and commonwealths they were traveling to and through. This road-trip-inspired reading list touches on history from each of the 16 states the highway passes through and includes a variety of genres for readers to dive into.
The partnership is centered around the Library of Congress's Center for the Book which was established by Congress in 1977. The hope was to promote literature among the public and get people excited about books and reading. The Library’s Center for the Book sponsors many programs and events used to reach readers at its affiliated centers, literature-focused nonprofits, and the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress.
Centers Choose Books to Represent Their State
Public libraries all along the border have joined in the initiative to get people reading. Many public libraries have been participants since its inception and have an exciting time choosing the book they will submit for the list.
Each year’s book list highlights a different genre of literature. States then select their book based on historical significance, relation to the state, or author. In 2018, romance was the theme to go by. The Washington D.C. Public Library chose Big Girls Don’t Cry by Connie Briscoe to represent the District. This book was written by a D.C. novelist and touches on the life and loves of a Black woman growing up in a middle-class family in the nation’s capital.
The diverse options chosen each year are great books for any reader to add to their reading lists. The most recent book list released last year in 2020 featured a selection of books that related to the genre of historical literature. The Harriet P. Henry Center for the Book in Maine chose to include Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy on the list to represent their state.
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy is about Turner Buckminister who hates living in Maine until he meets Lizzie, an exciting character who is from a community of freed slaves and whites living on Malaga Island. The story touches on the two friends who embark on an adventure to save the island from being turned into a lucrative tourist destination.
This book was significant to the state of Maine because it touched on actual events that occurred in 1912 when the state evicted a mixed-race community of inhabitants from the same island in the book. It touches on the motivations behind the decision which included “economics, racism, eugenics, and political retribution.” By including the book on the Route 1 Reads reading list, they were able to shed light on the injustices of the situation and share a story about a community that had been lost and forgotten by many.
Follow Along with the Route 1 Reading List
Those interested in joining in on the reading list can do so with an entire community of book lovers at their fingertips. The initiative can be tracked using the hashtag #route1reads on social media which means those who have decided to join the road trip can connect with others who are taking the same road.
Social media is also a great way to discover the authors and events related to each Center for the Book affiliate’s chosen book. Search the hashtag on places like Twitter to find spotlights on the authors and learn more about their writing processes for each story. Oftentimes, the Centers will also invite authors in for conversations that can be viewed online. The Virginia Center for Book was able to discuss Racial Equity During & After COVID with their featured author, Ta-Nehisi Coates. The event was hosted with the National Low Income Housing Coalition and was able to touch on important issues like housing injustice in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Having these internet discussions is also a great way for the public to chime in on their thoughts regarding the list. People can update others on their progress and their road trip adventures. Some have even used it as a way to make suggestions for future reading list titles. Christy Hyman on Twitter made a suggestion to North Carolina Humanities this way when she recommended an audiobook of Moses Grandy’s slave narrative.
The Route 1 Reading List highlights each state’s history, culture, and stories as well as those of the East Coast as a whole. This fun list of novels are not only a great way to spend your road-tripping days but also a great way to get in touch with the nation’s history and talented authors. The site currently houses the reading list for 2020 which includes titles like The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna and The Judge Hunter. Past reading lists are available through each individual state. While we wait on the release of the 2021 Route 1 Reading List, browse through titles from previous years, catch up on some good reads, and get ready for one of the best road trip experiences.