What book should we all be reading? Nominations open for annual One Book, One San Diego program

Gina Bravo, branch manager for The Mission Hills-Hillcrest/Harley & Bessie Knox Library looks through a book on Feb. 3, 2020.
Gina Bravo, branch manager for The Mission Hills-Hillcrest/Harley & Bessie Knox Library looks through a book on Feb. 3, 2020.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Now in its 17th year, region-wide program aims to build community by getting people to read — and talk about — the same book.


Nominations have opened for the annual One Book, One San Diego reading program.

Now in its 17th year, the program aims to bring the community together by encouraging people to read and discuss the same book at public events in San Diego County, Imperial County and Baja California during the fall and winter.

The 2022 book for adults was “The Vanishing Half,” a novel by Brit Bennett. In 2021, it was “Being Heumann,” a memoir by disabled-rights activist Judith Heumann.

There are also selections for teens, children, and Spanish-language readers.

Nominations can be made online at or via paper forms available at local libraries and bookstores. They are due by April 24.

Local residents typically nominate hundreds of books every year. An advisory committee of representatives from the program’s partners — public broadcaster KPBS, city and county libraries, and community groups — selects the winners.

Selections are based on several criteria. The author must be alive, and the book published during or after 2018. The book must have been professionally reviewed in a reputable magazine, newspaper or literary journal, still be in print, and available in large quantities.

In the adult category, the book should also be of “high literary quality,” with a clear and compelling narrative or argument. It should have themes that resonate with local and/or global communities, and inspire conversations and action.

Winners will be announced during the San Diego Union-Tribune’s annual Festival of Books on Aug. 19 at the University of San Diego. Public events, including some featuring the authors, will be held throughout the region in the fall and winter at libraries, bookstores, community centers and other locations.

The “One Book” program started in Washington state 25 years ago. Nancy Pearl, executive director of the Seattle library’s Washington Center for the Book, came up with what she called “If All Seattle Read the Same Book.” She chose Russell Banks’ novel “The Sweet Thereafter” and invited him to town for three public events.

By June 2002, there were 63 “One Book” programs in 30 states. By December 2005, it was 350 programs in all 50 states.

The first “One Book” in San Diego, in 2007, was “Enrique’s Journey” by Sonia Nazario. It was chosen because immigration was a hot topic that year. Adapted from Nazario’s Pulitzer Prize-winning feature stories in the Los Angeles Times, the book tells the story of a boy traveling from Honduras to California to find his mother, who had come here for work.