The Pioneer Library System invites local readers to be part of our annual initiative, PLS Reads 2021, by selecting the featured book.

Each year PLS identifies a topic that is relevant on a community, state, and national level. Members of the community select a book to be read and PLS provides programming throughout the year to explore and discuss the issue further. The topic chosen for PLS Reads 2021 is poverty. 

“While a difficult topic, it is important to PLS that we provide a space for our community to discuss and deepen our understanding of an issue that affects so many. A team of library staff has been reading a long list of titles around the issues of poverty for months,” PLS associate director Caroline Dulworth said. “We have narrowed the list down to three, and we are all eager to see which of those three books will win our customer vote.” 

That title will be selected by readers in the coming days. Click here to cast your vote

Readers will choose from these three books: 


Maid, Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive

Maid, Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive, by Stephanie Land

At 28, Stephanie Land's plans of breaking free from the roots of her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to chase her dreams of attending a university and becoming a writer, were cut short when a summer fling turned into an unexpected pregnancy. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet, and with a tenacious grip on her dream to provide her daughter the very best life possible, Stephanie worked days and took classes online to earn a college degree, and began to write relentlessly. She wrote the true stories that weren't being told: the stories of overworked and underpaid Americans. Of living on food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) coupons to eat. Of the government programs that provided her housing, but that doubled as halfway houses. She wrote to remember the fight, to eventually cut through the deep-rooted stigmas of the working poor. Maid is Stephanie's story, but it's not her alone. It is an inspiring testament to the strength, determination, and ultimate triumph of the human spirit. 


Tightrope cover

Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

With stark poignancy and political dispassion, Tightrope draws us deep into an "other America." The authors tell this story in part through the lives of the children with whom they grew up with. And while these particular stories unfolded in one corner of the country, they are representative of many places the authors write about, ranging from the Dakotas and Oklahoma to New York and Virginia. But here too are stories about resurgence, among them: Annette Dove, who has devoted her life to helping the teenagers of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as they navigate the chaotic reality of growing up poor; Daniel McDowell, of Baltimore, whose tale of opioid addiction and recovery suggests that there are viable ways to solve our nation's drug epidemic. These accounts, illustrated with searing images by Lynsey Addario, the award-winning photographer, provide a picture of working-class families needlessly but profoundly damaged as a result of decades of policy mistakes. With their superb, nuanced reportage, Kristof and WuDunn have given us a book that is both riveting and impossible to ignore. 


Wes Moore cover

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence? Wes Moore, the author of this fascinating book, sets out to answer this profound question. In alternating narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world. 


Voting ends on Monday, Nov. 9, and the title will be announced soon after. Copies of the book will be available at libraries in early 2021, and programs centered on the book, including discussions and other related activities will take place during the spring. 

For the past 14 years, PLS has participated in both The Big Read and PLS Reads, inspired by the National Endowment for the Arts. Activities now will continue into the future under the “PLS Reads” theme.

PLS Reads 2021 is sponsored by the Pioneer Library System Foundation and the Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation.