Fort Collins Reads Builds Community & Conversation

What if everyone in the community read the same book and then joined all those readers in talking about it?

That’s the idea behind Fort Collins Reads.  This year’s featured novel is Commonwealth and author Ann Patchett will deliver a community talk on Sunday, November 5, at the Hilton (425 West Prospect Road, Fort Collins).

The unique idea of taking the book club discussion and expanding it to a city-wide event is credited to Nancy Pearl, known as “America’s Librarian,” who started it in 1998 as the One City One Book program in Seattle, Washington. Since that time, the concept of an entire city or region reading the same book and gathering to discuss it has expanded to hundreds of programs across the country and even internationally. Some are still called One City One Book, while others have adopted a different but similar name, keeping with the same concept.

Our local group began shortly after 9/11 when former mayor Susan Kirkpatrick wrote an article in a local newspaper about an area in upstate New York that was looking for ways to bring the community together. Current Fort Collins Reads committee member Deb Hayman Polk saw the write-up and contacted Kirkpatrick to form a Fort Collins-wide reading group. For the first effort they selected a young adult author that would draw kids and adults alike. Fort Collins Reads began in 2002 with the The Giver and author Lois Lowry spoke to a standing-room-only crowd.

Each year, Fort Collins Reads features an acclaimed author. Photo: Fort Collins Reads

Fort Collins Reads is a non-profit, community-supported program. The Reads committee is comprised of a well-rounded group of 8-10 community members including teachers, writers, and librarians. The group is proactive and meets at least once a month throughout the year to discuss and plan for fund-raising, program management, and marketing.

While many communities offered the city-wide reading program initially, some have dropped out in recent years. But Fort Collins Reads is still going strong, and we’re one of the few cities that bring the author in for a presentation that ends with time for the audience to ask questions.

The primary goal of the program is to build a sense of community and promote literature, often with a centralized theme, but with a focus on national authors. Last year’s author Edwidge Danticat presented the nonfiction work, Brother, I’m Dying, which focused on the immigration issues involving both her father and uncle. This year’s fiction title centers on family, particularly the unique issues in blended families.

Edwidge Danticant speaks at 2016 Fort Collins Reads. Photo: Fort Collins Reads

Even though this year’s event is sold out, the community is still encouraged to read Patchett’s Commonwealth and have their own discussions.

In the meantime, you can take part in a variety of other great author presentations around town. Poudre River Public Library District partners with Old Firehouse Books and CSU Morgan Library among other organizations to bring nationally-recognized authors to town for book talks and signings.

Coming Up:

Connie Willis
Wed. November 8 at 6PM
Old Town Library

Helen Thorpe
Wed. November 15 at 6:30PM
Old Town Library

John Fielder
Thurs. November 16 at 7PM
CSU Lory Student Center Theatre

See the Library District online event calendar for additional information and other great programs.

To take part in 2018 Fort Collins Reads events, keep an eye out for announcements in early summer of next year’s book and author. The program website is

Karen Cagle, Council Tree Library