Lake Forest Reads

One Book, One Community

Since 2012, Lake Forest Reads has encouraged Lake Foresters to come together and read one book with the purpose of fostering literacy, a culture of reading, and a sense of community. Lake Forest Library and community partners present a month-long series of events and activities focusing on themes in the novel, culminating in a Meet the Author event. We encourage you to deepen your experience with the book by attending events and hosting your own book discussions!

Lake Forest Reads 2021

 

2021 Selection

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"Sentimental, heartfelt ... A timely debut that not only reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, but cautions us to examine the present and take heed we don't repeat those injustices." —Kirkus Reviews

"Especially relevant in today's world, this is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more importantly, it will make you feel." —Garth Stein, bestselling author of "The Art of Racing in the Rain"

"Jamie Ford's first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love." —Lisa See, bestselling author of "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan"

About the Book

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut novel, "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet," Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry's world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While "scholarshipping" at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship—and innocent love—that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel's dark dusty basement, he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice: words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

About the Author

Jamie Ford is a Northwest author most widely known for his bestselling Seattle-based novels. His debut, "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet," spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list, won the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award, the Pacific Northwest Book Award, and the Langum Prize for Historical Fiction. It was also named the #1 Book Club pick in 2010 by the American Bookseller Association and is now read widely in schools all across the country. This multi-cultural tale was adapted by Book-It Repertory Theatre, and has recently been optioned for a stage musical, and also for film, with George Takei serving as Executive Producer.

Jamie's second book, "Songs of Willow Frost," was also a national bestseller. His third novel set in Seattle, "Love and Other Consolations Prizes," was published in 2017 and Library Journal named it one of the Best Historical Fiction Novels of 2017. An award-winning short-story writer, Jamie's work has been published in multiple anthologies, from Asian-themed steampunk set in Seattle in the "Apocalypse Triptych," to stories exploring the universe of masked marvels and caped crusaders from an Asian American perspective in "Secret Identities: The First Asian American Superhero Anthology," and "Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology." His essays on race, identity, love, heroes, and complex families have been published nationwide and his work has been translated into 35 languages. He says he's holding out for Klingon, because that's when you know you've made it.

Jamie is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer, Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the western name "Ford," thus confusing countless generations. Having grown up near Seattle's Chinatown, Jamie now lives in Montana where he's on a never-ending search for decent dim sum. When not writing or daydreaming, he can be found tweeting @jamieford and on Instagram @jamiefordofficial.

Read · Discuss · Attend

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Upcoming LFR Events

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Writing Contest

Rules

  • Submit your typed entry by September 30, 2021, using the form below.
  • Entries must be between 2,000 and 10,000 words.
  • Entries must involve some theme from “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” (racism, friendship, Japanese or Chinese culture, etc.).

Prizes

  • Your entry published on the Library’s blog and promoted on social media
  • A personalized, signed copy of “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet”
  • A $50 gift card to Lake Forest Book Store
  • An invitation to a special event at Ragdale

Submit your Entry

 

Thank You to Our Partners

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Previous Selections

Jump to: This Year's SelectionEvents & DiscussionPartners

It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes.

Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love.

But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it’s Amy’s turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets ... secrets that will reveal more about Amy’s complicated family—and herself—than she ever could have imagined.

A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love.

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In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for a Chicago art gallery, is about to pull off a coup, bringing an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDs epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico's funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico's little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago epidemic, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways the AIDS crisis affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. Yale and Fiona's intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of 80s and the chaos of the modern world, as both struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina's World.

"Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden."

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.

As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.

Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

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In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there's only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates' bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao's only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao's drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.

Full of Ozeki's signature humour and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.

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From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia, an exhilarating novel about marriage, creativity, art, and perception.

Fates and Furies is a literary masterpiece that defies expectation. A dazzling examination of a marriage, it is also a portrait of creative partnership written by one of the best writers of her generation. Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it.

Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart.

  • Finalist for the National Book Award
  • Finalist for the Kirkus Prize
  • NPR’s Morning Edition Book Club Pick
  • New York Times Bestseller
  • Foreign rights sold in 20+ countries

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Meet the Devohrs: Zee, a Marxist literary scholar who detests her parents' wealth but nevertheless finds herself living in their carriage house; Gracie, her mother, who claims she can tell your lot in life by looking at your teeth; and Bruce, her step-father, stockpiling supplies for the Y2K apocalypse and perpetually late for his tee time. Then there's Violet Devohr, Zee's great-grandmother, who they say took her own life somewhere in the vast house, and whose massive oil portrait still hangs in the dining room.

The Hundred-Year House unfolds a generational saga in reverse, leading the reader back in time on a literary scavenger hunt as we seek to uncover the truth about these strange people and this mysterious house. With intelligence and humor, a daring narrative approach, and a lovingly satirical voice, Rebecca Makkai has crafted an unforgettable novel about family, fate and the incredible surprises life can offer.

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Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the United States to find work. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn't the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village—they've all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men—her own "Siete Magníficos"—to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over.

Filled with unforgettable characters and prose as radiant as the Sinaloan sun, Into the Beautiful North is the story of an irresistible young woman's quest to find herself on both sides of the fence.

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It is Tokyo in 1939. On the Street of a Thousand Blossoms, two orphaned brothers are growing up with their loving grandparents, who inspire them to dream of a future firmly rooted in tradition. The older boy, Hiroshi, shows unusual skill at the national obsession of sumo wrestling, while Kenji is fascinated by the art of creating hard-carved masks for actors in the Noh theater.

Across town, a renowned sumo master, Sho Tanaka, lives with his wife and their two young daughters: the delicate, daydreaming Aki and her independent sister, Haru. Life seems full of promise as Kenji begins an informal apprenticeship with the most famous mask-maker in Japan and Hiroshi receives a coveted invitation to train with Tanaka. But then Pearl Harbor changes everything. As the ripples of war spread to both families' quiet neighborhoods, all of the generations must put their dreams on hold—and then find their way in a new Japan.

In an exquisitely moving story that spans almost thirty years, Gail Tsukiyama draws us irresistibly into the world of the brothers and the women who love them. It is a world of tradition and change, of heartbreaking loss and surprising hope, and of the impact of events beyond their control on ordinary, decent men and women. Above all, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms is a masterpiece about love and family from a glorious storyteller at the height of her powers.

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The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history--the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin led Union cavalry troops on a wild, 12-day chase from the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness.

Based on rare archival materials, obscure trial transcripts, and Lincoln’s own blood relics Manhunt is a fully documented, fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal. A gripping hour-by-hour account told through the eyes of the hunted and the hunters, it is history as it’s never been read before.

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