Not so very long ago, book lovers across the country were struck by inspiration: what if an entire city read the same book and discussed it? The idea gained national momentum, and, in 2002, Fort Collins hosted its inaugural Fort Collins Reads, one of the first programs of its kind in Colorado. Each spring, our local volunteer group selects a book and invites the author to come to Fort Collins in the fall to speak about it. Those famous folks have included Lois Lowry, Louis Sachar, TC Boyle, and Garth Stein.
This is such a great idea for people who appreciate a good book and the chance to hear the author discuss it. Plus, it gives the community something to talk about besides the weather, reality TV, and/or the contentious political climate (it doesn’t matter what year it is, the political climate is always contentious). And for the past eight books, Fort Collins Reads has been on my Best Intentions list. I have always meant to participate, but I never have. But this year, thanks to the Books and Bites book club of which I am a member, I finally made good on my “someday I will” promise. (A note on Books and Bites: we’re not vampires, we just like our desserts, okay?)
The book for 2011—March, by Geraldine Brooks—is the story of the gone-to-war father from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. It’s such a compelling idea for a novel, and so well done that it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006. So if you noticed a little something special in the air on Saturday, it very well may have been because we had a Pulitzer winner in the Fort. (Kudos, Fort Collins Reads.)
On Saturday, I met my fellow book-clubbers (eww, that makes me think of baby seal clubbers, which we also are not) at the Hilton for a bite before the talk by the esteemed Ms. Brooks. We discussed the book over lunch, and by the time we moseyed in to the banquet room, it was almost full. That’s right—nearly 900 of my closest friends showed up to share in this group experience.
Ms. Brooks was very warm and engaging, and I was so pleased to have the opportunity to hear her discuss March, her writing process, and how her marriage to a Civil War buff helped inspire the book. Thanks, Fort Collins Reads, for bringing her to our town. Though she’ll be a tough act to follow, I can’t wait to see who’s coming next year.
Visit the Fort Collins Reads website for more information about March and Geraldine Brooks, to read this year's winning essays, and to see a picture of the amazing reproduction Civil War-era quilt that was raffled off on Saturday.