Flashback: 2001 Tacoma Loves a Good Read

27 Aug

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Art at Work Month, our Flashback series is highlighting 10+ years of Tacoma arts and culture. This week, we salute a popular Tacoma Public Library program, Tacoma Reads Together.

Tacoma Reads Together is T-town’s version of a literary potluck; in the age of whizbang digital entertainment, this tasty sit-down gathering, started in 2001, has achieved unexpected popularity. The city-wide reading initiative has serious underpinnings: it was introduced in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York City, when Tacoma educator Patrick Erwin saw the need to bring the community together to talk about divisive issues close to home. David Domkoski, Library Community Relations Manager, explains: “Erwin met with Mayor Mike Crowley and others to suggest that perhaps Tacomans should be encouraged to come together to read, reflect upon, and then respond to ideas and issues raised by one good book.” The result was Tacoma Reads Together.

The Northwest Room & Special Collections at the Tacoma Public Library.

Each year’s book choice is selected by the Mayor for the opportunities it presents to discuss critical issues such as “racism and discrimination, the balance between the needs of the individual versus the rights of the State, immigration and cultural assimilation, and the ever-increasing role of science in our lives,” says Domkoski. Perhaps more importantly, it “offers city residents an opportunity to come together with their friends and neighbors and talk. And listen.” Set the table, and they will come.

The reading series’ inaugural tome was Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Since then, the reading list has included The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba (the author’s standing-room only lecture drew 325 people), The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Imaginative programming takes place throughout the city: the Museum of Glass was the setting for a discussion of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, SOTA staged readings of The Crucible, and Wilcox Farms hosted Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food by Barbara Kingsolver (700 people attended). The next book choice by Mayor Marilyn Strickland is still under wraps. Strickland recently appointed Erik Hanberg as the new chair of the community reading initiative.

Tacoma Public Library has a full menu of special events scheduled for Art at Work Month in November, kicking off with a book reading by world-renowned wildlife photographer, Art Wolfe, November 3 at 7p.m. at the Main Library. Check out the library’s Facebook page, and join the literary feast!

One Response to “Flashback: 2001 Tacoma Loves a Good Read”


  1. Knit Wit Strikes Tacoma « Tacoma Arts - October 26, 2011

    […] wow); the magnificent Northwest Room and Special Collections upstairs; its citywide bookclub, Tacoma Reads Together); and so much more. TPL headquarters is the most appropriate of places for an anonymous artist to […]

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