Founded in 2002, Fort Collins Reads has worked to connect neighbors through literature and speaking engagements with some of the nation’s most recognized authors. Over the years, they’ve featured everything from staples of young adult fiction (Lois Lowry’s The Giver) to Pulitzer-winning authors (Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach). Titles are selected with the goal of sparking conversations and igniting interest in literacy.
This year, Fort Collins Reads is partnering with the Fort Collins Book Fest to present Kali Fajardi-Anstine, National Book Award Finalist and author of the short story collection Sabrina & Corina. You can find Kali’s talk at the Lincoln Center on Saturday, October 23 at 2PM. Free tickets to her presentation are available starting Sept. 16 at the Lincoln Center Box Office or online at lctix.com.
In anticipation of the event in October, we thought it would be fun to share titles from the past 18 years of Fort Collins Reads selections, available in the library’s collection:
2002 Title: The Giver by Lois Lowry
Living in a “perfect” world without social ills, a boy approaches the time when he will receive a life assignment from the Elders, but his selection leads him to a mysterious man known as the Giver, who reveals the dark secrets behind the utopian facade.
2003 Title: Holes by Louis Sachar
As further evidence of his family’s bad fortune which they attribute to a curse on a distant relative, Stanley Yelnats is sent to a hellish correctional camp in the Texas desert where he finds his first real friend, a treasure, and a new sense of himself.
2004 Title: Bless me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
Tony faces the daunting prospect of growing up amidst constant religious and cultural uncertainty. His mother is a devoted Catholic, but her influence is challenged by Ultima–a woman with magical healing powers. As Tony follows his own path toward adulthood, he relies on Ultima’s wisdom. With her guidance, he is able to forge his unique identity.
2007 Title: An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg
Jean Gilkyson is floundering in a trailer house in Iowa with yet another brutal boyfriend when she realizes this kind of life has got to stop, especially for the sake of her daughter, Griff. But the only place they can run to is Ishawooa, Wyoming, where Jean’s loved ones are dead and her father in law, the only person who could take them in, wishes that she was too. For a decade, Einar Gilkyson has blamed her for the accident that took his son’s life, and he has chosen to go on living himself largely because his oldest friend couldn’t otherwise survive. They’ve been bound together like brothers since the Korean War and now face old age on a faltering ranch, their intimacy even more acute after Mitch was horribly crippled while Einar helplessly watched. In an extraordinary tale of love and forgiveness, Mark Spragg brings us this novel of a complex, prodigal homecoming.
2008 Title: When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka
On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family’s possessions. Like thousands of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their home and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert. In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism. When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today’s headlines.
2009 Title: Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
The story of illegal aliens in California, told through the eyes of two very different couples, one well-off Anglos, the other illegal Mexicans living in a canyon. The novel chronicles their relationship against the background of growing hostility between immigrants and natives.
2010 Title: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny’s wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.
2011 Title: March by Geraldine Brooks
March leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause in the Civil War, but his experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs.
2012 Title: The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar
American divorcée Armaiti has six months to live and her last wish is to see her three best friends again–Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta, all in Bombay. But Nishta’s husband, Iqbal, a fellow university idealist turned fundamentalist, will be the biggest obstacle to fulfilling Armaiti’s final desire.
2013 Title: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
The bestselling author of “Devil in the White City” turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power. The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany where he is forced to associate with the Nazis in an increasingly violent city and his daughter pursues a relationship with Gestapo chief Rudolf Diels.
2014 Title: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
A rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s. A radical young Irish monk struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. A 38-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth. Weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann’s allegory comes alive in the voices of the city’s people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the “artistic crime of the century”–a mysterious tightrope walker dancing between the Twin Towers.
2015 Title: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian
Six months ago, a nuclear plant in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom experienced a cataclysmic meltdown, and both of Emily’s parents were killed. Her father was in charge of the plant– was he drunk when it happened? Instead of following the rest of the refugees after the meltdown, Emily takes off on her own for Burlington, where she survives by stealing, sleeping on the floor of a drug dealer’s apartment, and inventing a new identity for herself–an identity inspired by her favorite poet, Emily Dickinson. When Emily befriends Cameron, a homeless boy, she protects him with a ferocity she didn’t know she had. But can she outrun her past, or escape her grief?
2016 Title: Brother I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
In a personal memoir, the author describes her relationships with the two men closest to her–her father and his brother, Joseph, a charismatic pastor with whom she lived after her parents emigrated from Haiti to the United States.
2017 Title: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly–thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families. Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them. Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.
2018 Title: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career with the Ziegfeld Follies, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a nightclub, she chances to meet Dexter Styles again, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.
2019 Title: The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
In his final days, beloved and ailing patriarch Miguel Angel de La Cruz, affectionately called Big Angel, has summoned his entire clan for one last legendary birthday party. But as the party approaches, his mother, nearly one hundred, dies, transforming the weekend into a farewell doubleheader. Among the guests is Big Angel’s half brother, known as Little Angel, who must reckon with the truth that although he shares a father with his siblings, he has not, as a half gringo, shared a life. Across two bittersweet days in their San Diego neighborhood, the revelers mingle among the palm trees and cacti, celebrating the lives of Big Angel and his mother, and recounting the many inspiring tales that have passed into family lore, the acts both ordinary and heroic that brought these citizens to a fraught and sublime country and allowed them to flourish in the land they have come to call home.
2020 Title: The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked. Lea and Ava travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses; from a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved.