For Release: Immediately
Department of External Affairs
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
For Release: Immediately
Contact: Communications and Development

2009 One Book, One Philadelphia Selection Chronicles Author's Friendship with Homeless Musician

PHILADELPHIA, October 14, 2008—This morning Mayor Michael A. Nutter broke the suspense and revealed the book chosen as One Book, One Philadelphia’s 2009 featured reading selection. “Steve Lopez’s The Soloist is a timely and moving story that every Philadelphian should read,” Mayor Nutter declared. “By recounting his unlikely friendship with a homeless musician, Lopez shines a light on the complex issues surrounding homelessness and mental illness. The Soloist is as compelling as it is inspiring.”

Based on a series of Los Angeles Times editorials, The Soloist follows the true story of columnist Steve Lopez as he meets and befriends Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless man living on Los Angeles’ Skid Row. After spotting Ayers playing a violin with just two strings, Lopez uncovers an extraordinary story about a Julliard-trained musician who dropped out of the famed performing arts school after suffering a breakdown caused by schizophrenia. Lopez works tirelessly to encourage Ayers’ talent and bring him in off the street, but his efforts are met with a series of setbacks. While Lopez initially attempts to improve Ayers’ circumstances, he soon finds that it is his own life that has been profoundly changed.

Joining the Mayor for the announcement were Free Library Foundation Chairman William Sasso, Library Foundation CEO Linda E. Johnson, Library President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon, One Book, One Philadelphia Chair Marie Field, and Joseph A. Frick, CEO of Independence Blue Cross. Mrs. Field commented, “As the curtain rises on our 7th season of building literacy and community around a single book, OBOP appreciates the countless participants who make this ever-expanding program possible. We deeply appreciate having Independence Blue Cross return as Lead Sponsor for the seventh consecutive year and are also grateful for the generosity of PECO, Stradley Ronon and Sovereign Bank, and our media sponsor, WHYY. With its intersecting themes of music, friendship, mental illness and homelessness, The Soloist will be an inspirational fount for an extraordinary season of reading, discussion and programming both for our community partners and throughout the library system.”

Sister Mary Scullion, the co-founder of Project HOME who is featured in the book, commented “We are so glad that the Library has chosen Steve Lopez’s book The Soloist for One Book, One Philadelphia. It is powerful and moving story because it tells the truth by humanizing the plight of people who are homeless.”

Following the announcement, Lopez spoke to area students from Parkway Northwest High School, Charter High School for Architecture and Design, Girard College, Masterman High School, and Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls. Steve Lopez said of the selection of his book as the One Book, One Philadelphia featured selection, “This has special meaning for me because Philadelphia is where I first felt a connection to readers as a journalist. I feel privileged now to be invited back to the place where I have so many friends and fond memories. I'm looking forward to the coming months and to many return visits.”

For the third year in a row, One Book has named two thematically related companion books for children, teens, and family reading: Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin’s A Chance to Shine and

Founded in 2003 by the Library and the Mayor’s Office, One Book motivates tens of thousands of people annually to pick up the featured selection and participate in discussions, events, workshops, classes, and more. All Free Library locations have copies of The Soloist, as well as the two companion books. Read The Soloist now and join in One Book programming and events from January 14 to March 19, 2009.

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The Free Library of Philadelphia system consists of 49 branches, three regional libraries, the Parkway Central Library, and the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. With more than six million visits annually, the Free Library is one of the most widely-used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia.


Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850