Community Read 2020


Thank you for participating in a fantastic Community Read!

Listen to the audio recording of our final book discussion
featuring Jon Mooallem

Because many members of the public participated and were visible on video, we opted to post the audio recording only. We have, however, included a slide show of historical photos of the 1964 Alaska earthquake for you to view as you listen to the program. 

View the video recording of the Kick-off Event
featuring author Jon Mooallem!

Connect with Your Community This Fall!

What is a Community Read?
A Community Read is a large-scale book club, spanning an entire community and cultivating a local culture of reading and conversation by bringing people together around a common book. Thomas Memorial Library will be collaborating with the South Portland and Scarborough Public Libraries on a three-town Community Read this fall, running from September through November.
What will we be reading?
Our featured book is This is Chance! by New York Times Magazine writer Jon Mooallem. This is Chance! recounts the devastating 9.2-magnitude Great Alaska Earthquake that hit Anchorage, Alaska in March of 1964 and chronicles how the local community came together in the immediate aftermath to respond to the crisis. Mooallem tells a riveting true story about the quake that also serves as an ode to the spirit of community in the face of disaster. 

This is Chance, by Jon Mooallem

“An intimate, moving story about our capacity to care for one another  when things fall apart—and, just maybe, on all the ordinary days, too.”

—Elizabeth Gilbert

In the spring of 1964, Anchorage, Alaska, was a modern-day frontier town yearning to be a metropolis—the largest, proudest city in a state that was still brand-new. But just before sundown on Good Friday, the community was jolted by the most powerful earthquake in American history, a catastrophic 9.2 on the Richter Scale. For four and a half minutes, the ground lurched and rolled. Streets cracked open and swallowed buildings whole. And once the shaking stopped, night fell and Anchorage went dark. The city was in disarray and sealed off from the outside world.

Slowly, people switched on their transistor radios and heard a familiar woman’s voice explaining what had just happened and what to do next. Genie Chance was a part-time radio reporter and working mother who would play an unlikely role in the wake of the disaster, helping to put her fractured community back together. Her tireless broadcasts over the next three days would transform her into a legendary figure in Alaska and bring her fame worldwide—but only briefly. That Easter weekend in Anchorage, Genie and a cast of endearingly eccentric characters—from a mountaineering psychologist to the local community theater group staging Our Town—were thrown into a jumbled world they could not recognize. Together, they would make a home in it again.

Drawing on thousands of pages of unpublished documents, interviews with survivors, and original broadcast recordings, This Is Chance! is the hopeful, gorgeously told story of a single catastrophic weekend and proof of our collective strength in a turbulent world.

There are moments when reality instantly changes—when the life we assume is stable gets upended by pure chance. This Is Chance! is an electrifying and lavishly empathetic portrayal of one community rising above the randomness, a real-life fable of human connection withstanding chaos.

Will there be Community Read events?

YES!! There will be many opportunities for you to participate and engage with your friends and neighbors over the course of the next two months. The author will be (virtually) joining our library communities to discuss the book, both to kick off and to wrap up the Community Read. In between, all three libraries will be working together to offer book discussions, read-alouds, concerts, storytelling, creative opportunities and a full slate of related programming around the book’s themes of community and resilience. All events will be open to residents of all three towns and there will be opportunities to meet, converse and get to know your neighbors from Cape, SoPo and Scarborough.

How do I participate?

First, fill out the form below to register for the Community Read. This will ensure that you receive all Community Read announcements and links to join our events.

Next, order your copy of the book here. Multiple copies are now available at Thomas Memorial Library.

For anyone who prefers to purchase their own copy of the book, both Print: A Bookstore (coupon code: CHANCE) and Nonesuch Books are offering discounts on this title for the duration of the Community Read.

Then, click here to check out our Community Read Events page!