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books logoWhat if all of Carlisle read and discussed one book? A committee of readers has narrowed down your suggestions to five options, and we need your help NOW to choose what Carlisle will read in 2017. Events will be planned for mid-March to mid-April.

Carlisle Reads is sponsored by the Friends of the Gleason Public Library. Would you like to receive updates on library events? Click here to subscribe to our monthly enewsletter.


Pick your top two choices; anyone can vote even if you have not read the books. One ballot per person. Scroll down for more information on the nominees.

Please vote for your top two choices:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (Description | Request copy)

Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference, by Warren St. John (Description | Request copy)

Genius of Place: the Life of Frederick Law Olmsted, by Justin Martin (Description | Request copy)

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert (Description | Request copy)

American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution, by Walter R. Borneman (Description | Request copy)

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If you have suggestions for future titles or programs, or if you'd be interested in helping to plan Carlisle Reads, please email Martha at or ask at the Library any time.


Huckleberry Finn cover

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

Here’s your chance. If you didn’t read it in high school or college, or if you read it a long time ago, here’s your chance to read one of America’s funniest, pithiest, poignant, pointed, adventurous, poetic, and generally jam-packed novels. Truly a masterpiece, Huckleberry Finn is as fresh and lively today as it was when it was published in 1884. Mark Twain was the Will Rogers, George Carlin, Jon Stewart, and Seth Meyers of his day, skewering grifters, politicians, racists, and all manner of villains and creating characters to rival Dickens. There is nary an issue of modern life that Huck does not encounter as he makes his way down the Mississippi River. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is written cinematically, enabling it to engender several film versions, the wonderful interpretations of Hal Holbrook, and the rollicking musical version, Big River, some of which we’ll watch together. When we read it together, we’ll be questioning and learning about ourselves and probably sharing some great home-cooked food as we travel the river and "light out for the territory" with Huck. Come along on the journey for the pure joy of it.

Outcasts United

Outcasts United, by Warren St. John, tells about the Fugees, a soccer team in a beleaguered and depressed town near Atlanta, whose players are teen and preteen refugees from virtually every conflict zone in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The coach, a remarkable young Muslim woman from Jordan, has no background in social services or any sort of work with children, but a passion for the game and an instinct for leadership.

St. John expands this story well beyond its essential elements: how the team was organized, practices and strategies, and missing basic resources: a field for practice and games, suitable clothing, shoes, equipment (they lack a proper soccer goal till near the end of the book), transportation. He tells of players’ families long and traumatic flights from ethnic and tribal persecutions and other upheavals, often losing parents and siblings along the way. Their new situations are still tough, illustrating issues of adjustment and survival in a hostile new culture faced by thousands of others, not only in Clarkston.

For at least some of these boys the team comes to serve as a safe space and a source of critical discipline, as a bridge to find a bit of footing in an alien society and culture, and as a refuge for freedom and fun. St. John portrays the Fugees as the embodiment words like diversity, teamwork, discipline, and integration that too often describe our aspirations for, rather than the reality of, American society, making this a hopeful, even joyful, work.

Programs might include coaching kids' sports, local refugee or immigrant stories, how the experience of immigration has changed, how to help refugees or asylum seekers, or films (Universal has optioned the rights).

Sixth Extinction

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert, a science journalist, professor at Williams College, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, chronicles 13 stories of a species becoming extinct or endangered due to human activity, such as predation with weapons, loss of habitat, climate change, competition from invasives, and ocean acidification, as well as natural events such as asteroid impact, glaciation, or volcanic eruption. Earth has had five major extinctions in the past; we are now experiencing the sixth. The rate of environmental change is increasing, largely due to human activity, and many species can’t adapt fast enough to survive. Ecological communities are at risk, therefore human survival on earth is at risk. Engineering can solve some of the problems. Perhaps we can colonize other natural or artificial worlds, perhaps not. Kolbert gives us a lot to think about in this engrossing ecological history of earth.

Genius of Place

Genius of Place, by Justin Martin, is a biography of Fredrick Law Olmsted, who was born in 1922 in Connecticut, and was a sailor, farmer, journalist, and writer on southern slavery before becoming involved in landscape design. In 1858, he won a contest, along with architect Charles Vaux, to design Central Park in New York. Olmsted pioneered the idea that public parks should be natural spaces to escape from city life. He went on to design many other parks throughout the country, including Elm Park in Worcester and the Emerald Necklace in Boston. During the Civil War he headed the Sanitary Commission, a precursor to the Red Cross, and was an innovator in management of the wounded. Later he became instrumental in the conservation movement. Events could include a field trip to one of the parks he designed locally.

American Spring

American Spring, by Walter B. Borneman

This is not your old American history book. Walter B. Borneman shakes the dust and cobwebs off the American Revolution and breathes life into the years of revolutionary ferment and war by focusing on the people who experienced them. You’ll feel as if John Hancock and Samuel Adams are your next-door neighbors; you’ll probe the mind of General Gage, the man who was supposed to be keeping a lid on Boston. You’ll see the difficulties the British government had trying to manage colonies that lay across a vast ocean and how their missteps provoked a dream that eventually became a reality. You’ll see, feel, smell, and hear the life of the last quarter of the eighteenth century as if it were happening today and be surprised at its timeliness. Besides gaining an intimate understanding of the conditions that led to the formation of the United States of America from this very accessible, exciting, and rocking good read, you’ll be able to hear more stories of the Revolution from local speakers and perhaps make that field trip that you’ve been putting off to Minuteman National Park, the Old North Bridge, and other places right in our backyard that were such an integral part of the beginnings of our nation.




American Nations dinner
2014's American Nations dinner


Past community reads have included:

  • 2016: No Man's Land: Preparing for War and Peace in Post-9/11 America, by Elizabeth Samet
  • 2015: Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
  • 2014: American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, by Colin Woodard
  • 2013: The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard
  • 2012: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
  • 2011: Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers
  • 2010: The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, by Jeffrey Toobin
  • 2009: The Post-American World, by Fareed Zakaria

The One City, One Book concept began in Seattle in 1998, when librarian Nancy Pearl asked what would happen if the whole city read the same book. The idea caught on nationwide and has become popular in the Boston area as a way to promote reading, build community, and provoke discussion. Carlisle's program was established in 2009.