One Book, One Community
The purpose of Reading Together is to build a stronger community with deeper connections through the common experience of reading the same book and exploring its themes together. When we do that, we engage and learn, not only about ourselves, but more importantly about each other and the world around us.
By experiencing the same book, hearing the author of that work speak right here in Kalamazoo, and delving deeper into the books’ themes, we are able to embrace our similarities and differences from a common point of reference.
Very simply, when we read together, we grow together.
Each year following book selection, a community steering committee develops a wide variety of programs that may include films, concerts, exhibits, expert presentations, author visits, and more. The kick-off to the programming phase of Reading Together is a public appearance by the author of that year’s selected title.
2018's selection, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, represents the single highest circulating Reading Together title in the history of the program. Local programs discussed tenant and landlord issues as well as information about the eviction process in Kalamazoo. But the highlight was Matthew Desmond's compelling and engaging presentation at Chenery Auditorium. 2017 marked the 15th anniversary of Reading Together which was observed with the very special appearance in Kalamazoo of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, author of Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White, our selected title for that year.
The 2016 Reading Together title was Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. In 2015, we celebrated our place in the world with Jerry Dennis’ The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas. Reading Together 2014 featured two books: New York Times bestseller The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Brooklyn-based writer Tracie McMillan; and Farm City: the Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter.
Earlier Reading Together highlights include a 2013 visit from former New York Times reporter and award winning writer Amy Waldman (author of The Submission), a 2012 appearance by Pulitzer Prize finalist and Latino Literature Hall of Fame member Luis Alberto Urrea (author of Into the Beautiful North), and a 2011 visit by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder, with special guests Deogratias (Deo) Niyizonkiza, the focus of Kidder’s Strength in What Remains, and Dziwe Ntaba, co-founder with Deo of Village Health Works. Novelist David Guterson visited Kalamazoo in 2010, Rick Bragg talked with the community in 2009, Tim O’Brien met with dozens of armed forces veterans at the Air Zoo in 2006, and James McBride gave a special performance with his jazz band at First Baptist Church in 2005.