The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle’s salad days may be far behind it, but that doesn’t mean it’s wilting.
This year’s CLSC roster boasts numerous award winners and buzzworthy titles, including Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists, National Book Award winners and finalists, and multiple New York Times Notable Books.
It also includes the winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.
Sherra Babcock, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, said that it’s the first time since she’s been in her role that the current Pulitzer Prize winner has been part of the CLSC selections.
Doerr’s presentation on his book, which will take place in the Amphitheater rather than the Hall of Philosophy in order to accommodate a larger audience, will take place at 12:15 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14.
According to Babcock, many of the accolades that the CLSC books received happened after they had already been chosen for the 2015 season.
“Looking at the award winners is rather amazing,” she said. “That’s not the way we chose it, but that is the way it came out.”
Babcock said the breadth and variety of this year’s CLSC selections also offers readers a unique opportunity — and one that’s a little different than normal for the CLSC.
“[Chautauquans] have an opportunity to read some of the most important literature that’s been written in the very recent past,” Babcock said. “And that is not always our goal — we’ve always had a combination of brand new books and books that are a few years old.”
Babcock said opportunity was a big part of the process when making this year’s selections, especially with Erik Larson’s Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania and Jon Krakauer’s Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, both of which are 2015 releases.
“We’re getting ahead of ourselves in terms of timing with Erik Larson and Jon Krakauer,” Babcock said. “Those are 2015 books. We reached out to them when we read the books, before they got all of their critical acclaim. That’s one thing: the opportunity to read some books that are really on the cutting edge that people are talking about right now.”
Larson and Krakauer will also be incorporated into the morning lecture platforms. Krakauer will speak on Friday, July 10, and Larson will speak on Wednesday, Aug. 5.
Krakauer’s presentation on Missoula is set to be his first public reading of the book.
Babcock said that both Larson and Krakauer’s books fit perfectly with the themes of their respective weeks, and that’s why they were incorporated into the CLSC selections for this year.
“Every book is related in some way to the themes — some more obvious than others,” Babcock said. “We think that that’s a wonderful way of looking at literature. The idea that you can learn about issues by reading literature is one that we like to reinforce.”
Babcock said that choosing a more “spacious” vertical theme, “Truth and Consequences,” allowed a little more “room” for this year’s selections, but she also feels it’s one that unites many different books.
“It just came to us,” Babcock said. “We thought about it and we tested it in our minds, but it was something that just seemed fairly obvious of literature and fairly important — to ask everybody in every book they read this year, ‘What is the truth, and what are the consequences?’ ”