Community Read

Two books on a brick wall—entitled "The Secret Garden" and "The Last Garden in England," against an outdoor background of green gardens and trees.

Community Read 2024

Our award-winning Community Read program is designed to bring books and people together, and spur discussion around an important topic or idea.

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

Community Read 2024

Our 2024 selections include The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly, our first historical fiction Community Read book all about the meaning, beauty, and solace we can find in gardens. Our title for younger readers is a picture book adaptation of the classic novel The Secret Garden, which follows Mary Lennox as she moves into a confusing new home and finds comfort from exploring the surrounding grounds and gardens.

Get the Books ...

Available for purchase at major booksellers and at The Garden Shop at Longwood Gardens—in-person and online.

... and Start Reading!

Titles also available for borrowing at most public libraries in:

New Castle County, DE

Cecil County, MD

Gloucester County, NJ

Berks County, PA

Chester County, PA

Cumberland County, PA

Delaware County, PA

Lancaster County, PA

Montgomery County, PA

Select titles available as ebooks for Members:

Read. Think. Engage.

Browse Previous Community Read Selections

Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora by Bryant Terry
Celebrated chef and writer Bryant Terry edited and curated this exuberant celebration of foodways and culture.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer
A 2013 nonfiction book, this selection explores alternative forms of indigenous knowledge outside of traditional scientific methodologies.

Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis by Robbin Gourley
This selection for ages 4–7 traces the roots of Edna Lewis, a descendant of slaves who grew up to be a famous chef, and includes five kid-friendly recipes.

Canopy Career Chronicles by the team at the Morton Arboretum (Illinois)
This engaging graphic novel follows the stories of eight people pursuing careers caring for and protecting trees.

The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food by Joseph Tychonievich, illustrated by Liz Anna Kozik
This graphic novel serves as a guide to growing a successful vegetable garden.

The Enormous Potato 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.

The Great Kapok Tree 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.

The Home Place 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.

The Reason for a Flower 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.

A Sand County Almanac 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.

The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors by David Haskell
In 2022, we explored 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.

The Tree Lady 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.

The Triumph of Seeds: 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.

The Way Things Work Now 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.

We Planted a Tree written by Diane Muldrow and illustrated by Bob Staake
In this poetic picture book with environmental themes and illustrated by an award-winning artist, the elegant text celebrates the life and hope that every tree—from Paris to Brooklyn to Tokyo—brings to our planet.

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.