The History of Lake Forest Reads

In 2012, Lake Forest Library proclaimed, "Join your Lake Forest friends and neighbors and read!" and launched One Book/One City LF, its first shared reading program, with funding from the Friends of Lake Forest Library and The Dick Family Foundation. The first 30 patrons to sign up for Summer Reading (which took place at the same time) received a copy of "Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer" by James Swanson, a fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal. Adult Librarian Kate Buckardt said the line was "out the door” to sign up and receive a free copy of "Manhunt," an early indication of how enthusiastic Lake Foresters were to unite as a city and read together. Book-related events that year included three book discussions, a family program featuring Civil War reenactors, and a lecture by a Lake Forest College professor entitled "Lincoln: The South's Enemy?"

The format of reading one book together, working with community partners, and hosting book-related events has continued, with the purpose of fostering literacy, a culture of reading, and a sense of community. The highlight event each year is always the author's visit.

In the fall of 2013, the program blossomed into a true community-wide affair, called "Lake Forest Reads: Ragdale" in recognition of a new co-sponsor, The Ragdale Foundation, the local artist residency which has been a creative incubator for numerous written works. Author and previous Radgale resident Gail Tsukiyama kicked off the month-long reading celebration with a presentation at the Library on her novel, "The Street of a Thousand Blossoms."

Shared reading programs unite communities around common discussion points. In addition, centering around a featured book creates a framework for fascinating programs which enrich the experience of reading—by providing additional context and insights—and expand the range of topics to explore from literature and art to cooking, travel, history, and more. Noteworthy, well-attended events have included a Japanese tea ceremony, a sustainable seafood presentation featuring lobster rolls, a landscape painting class, a powerfully moving panel discussion on epidemics and AIDS, and an antique appraisal, among many others.

Beginning in 2021, Lake Forest Reads: Ragdale was rebranded as "Lake Forest Reads," enabling the Library to continue broadening its slate of featured authors. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Lake Forest Reads. The featured book is “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford. The novel follows Henry Lee, a Chinese American boy in Seattle who falls in love with Keiko, a Japanese American girl, as she is sent to a concentration camp during World War II. It is a bittersweet tale about racism, commitment, and enduring hope—a noble romantic journey set in 1942, and later in 1986 when the belongings of Nikkei families are discovered in the basement of an old hotel. (Synopsis adapted from

Events this year have included book discussions, a hands-on origami class, a presentation by Lake Forest resident and Academy Award-winning producer Diane Quon who optioned the novel to make the novel a film, a look at Chinese diplomacy during World War II when Lake Forest was a center of the isolationist movement, an exploration of art being made during wartime, and a personal story of a family’s journey from Japan to America and through the U.S. incarceration camps during WWII. The Lake Forest College and Lake Forest Book Store were again supporting partners.

We look forward to Lake Forest Reads continuing to unite and inspire Lake Forest readers!

To see up-to-date program information along with past authors visit