Our award-winning Community Read program is designed to bring books and people together, and spur discussion around an important topic or idea.
Highlighting a different book each year and working with more than 50 partners, we have explored topics from conservation to innovation, from birding to weird plants.
About the Community Read
Launched in 2014, the Community Read was uniquely envisioned as a collaborative effort between the Gardens and community to encourage reading for pleasure and to start a conversation surrounding gardens, plants, or nature.
In 2021, the Community Read received the American Public Gardens Association’s Program Excellence Award, which recognizes original programs that display a truly innovative spirit.
Today, the Community Read features more than 50 partner organizations and has led to the donation of more than 10,000 books to area libraries. Each year, more than 200 events in the community explore the books and keep the conversation going.
Our Partners Put the Community in the Community Read
A partnership with the Community Read means engaging our region in the important conversations surrounding nature, plants, and gardens. Together, we can make an impact. To learn more about how your organization can get involved, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Read 2022
What would a tree tell us if we just took the time to listen?
In 2022, we’re encouraging our Community Readers to explore the concept of trees as nature’s great connectors, and how trees may help us gain insight into ourselves and our place in the world Trees represent growth, peace, and nature while teaching us how to plant deep roots and reach for the sky. Our three selections include our featured book The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors by David Haskell, the poetic picture book We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow, and the engaging graphic novel by the team at the Morton Arboretum Canopy Career Chronicles. Learn more.
Browse Previous Community Read Selections
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer
A 2013 nonfiction book, this selection explores alternative forms of indigenous knowledge outside of traditional scientific methodologies.
Enormous Potato, The by Aubrey Davis
This humorous tale begins with a farmer who plants an eye—a potato eye. Retold by professional storyteller Davis, uncover what can be accomplished when everyone lends a hand to solve a problem.
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery
Uncover the story of an unlikely heroine—a woman who, to escape personal struggles—in 1955 embarks on a journey of several thousand miles of rugged terrain, alone, without any equipment , at the age of 67.
Great Kapok Tree, The by Lynne Cherry
A modern fable with an urgent message for young environmentalists, this gorgeous picture book (for which Cherry journeyed deep into the rainforest of Brazil to write and illustrate), tells the story of a man who exhausts himself trying to chop down a giant kapok tree.
Home Place, The by J. Drew Lanham
Birds are a lifelong passion for Lanham, and in The Home Place, he examines his history and path, its influences, and his struggles.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
This fascinating memoir invites you along Jahren’s journey to become (and prosper as) a scientist. Her personal frankness in meeting challenges is inspirational, and she delivers the message with her own spirited voice and personality.
On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole
The perfect book for everyone who loves nature, this children’s selection celebrates the environment, ecosystems, and individual empowerment.
Reason for a Flower, The by Ruth Heller
Can you guess the reason for each flower—even weeds? "The reason for a flower is to manufacture … seeds." Award-winning author artist Heller delightfully reveals, however, there's much, much more involved in the development of plants.
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
A charming, witty picture book about believing in yourself and pursuing your passion, this selection tells the story of Rosie, a little girl with dreams of becoming an engineer.
Ruby’s Birds by Mya Thompson
Meet Ruby, a plucky young girl who uncovers the wild side of her city neighborhood with the help of a grown-up friend. When Ruby realizes there are amazing birds right in her neighborhood, her imagination takes flight.
Sand County Almanac, A by Aldo Leopold
Published posthumously in 1948, A Sand County Almanac is a seminal book about conservation and land stewardship.
Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
Follow along as the simple act of a 9-year-old girl planting lima bean seeds sparks 13 very different individuals from various ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and age levels to come together to create a community garden.
Semiosis by Sue Burke
A tale of first contact, this generation-spanning sci-fi tale follows a group of colonists forced to land on a planet they aren't prepared for, where plants are the dominant life forms and humans are their pawns.
Tree Lady, The by H. Joseph Hopkins
Unearth the true story of green-thumbed pioneer and activist Kate Sessions, who helped San Diego grow from a dry desert town into a lush, leafy city known for its gorgeous parks and gardens.
Triumph of Seeds, The: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson
Award-winning author and biologist Hanson explores both the natural and cultural history of seeds, examining why they are so dominant in nature and why we are so utterly dependent upon them.
Way Things Work Now, The by David Macaulay
From the simple lever to the modern microprocessor, this worldwide best seller explains complex processes in a humorous and accessible style, accompanied by engaging illustrations.
Weird Plants by Chris Thorogood
This compilation book showcases weird, mysterious, and bizarre plants from around the globe. Through the combination of Thorogood’s jarring illustrations and botanical expertise, these fantastic plants seem to leap off the page and come to life.
Women In Science by Rachel Ignotofsky
This groundbreaking New York Times bestseller highlights the contributions of 50 notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from the ancient to the modern world.