Tag Archives: “Read Together Palm Beach County”

Read Together Palm Beach County: Last Train to Paradise

The Read Together Palm Beach County 2012 selection was announced on March 12. This year’s book selection is one with considerable local interest to Palm Beach County readers: Last Train to Paradise is acclaimed novelist Les Standiford’s fast-paced and gripping true account of the extraordinary construction and spectacular demise of the Key West Railroad, one of the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken, destroyed in one fell swoop by the strongest storm ever to hit U.S. shores.

Last Train to Paradise celebrates this crowning achievement of Gilded Age ambition, a sweeping tale of the powerful forces of human ingenuity colliding with the even greater forces of nature’s wrath. In 1904, the brilliant and driven entrepreneur Henry Flagler, partner to John D. Rockefeller and the true mastermind behind Standard Oil, concocted the dream of a railway connecting the island of Key West to the Florida mainland, crossing a staggering 153 miles of open ocean–an engineering challenge beyond even that of the Panama Canal.

“The financiers considered the project and said, Unthinkable. The engineers pondered the problems and from all came one verdict, Impossible. . . .” But build it they did, and the railroad stood as a magnificent achievement for twenty-two years. Once dismissed as “Flagler’s Folly,” it was heralded as “the Eighth Wonder of the World”–until a will even greater than Flagler’s rose up in opposition. In 1935, a hurricane of exceptional force, which would be dubbed “the Storm of the Century,” swept through the tiny islands, killing some 700 residents and workmen and washing away all but one sixty-foot section of track, on which a 320,000-pound railroad engine stood and “gripped its rails as if the gravity of Jupiter were pressing upon it.” Standiford brings the full force and fury of this storm to terrifying life.

In spinning his saga of the railroad’s construction, Standiford immerses us in the treacherous world of the thousands of workers who beat their way through infested swamps, lived in fragile tent cities on barges anchored in the midst of daunting stretches of ocean, and suffered from a remarkable succession of three ominous hurricanes that killed many and washed away vast stretches of track. Steadfast through every setback, Flagler inspired a loyalty in his workers so strong that even after a hurricane dislodged one of the railroad’s massive pilings, casting doubt over the viability of the entire project, his engineers refused to be beaten. The question was no longer “Could it be done?” but “Can we make it to Key West on time?” to allow Flagler to ride the rails of his dream.

The Read Together Palm Beach County 2012 campaign kicks-off on March 30 with the Love of Literacy Luncheon at the Kravis Center, continues with book discussion groups through April and ends with the May 7 campaign finale to be held in the Flager-Kenan Pavilion at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach at 5:30 p.m. The finale event is free, but reservations are necessary as capacity is limited to the first 400 who register. To register, call the Literacy Coalition at 561-279-9103 or email:info@literacypbc.org


Find or purchase the book

Find a discussion group near you  


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Read Together Palm Beach County 2012

The Read Together Palm Beach County 2012 campaign hopes to involve 10,000 – 20,000 adults throughout Palm Beach County in reading the same book at the same time. This campaign is one of the many great efforts of the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County:


This community reading campaign is targeted at adults who can read, but often don’t, to get into the habit of reading again. It will also promote community dialogue and engagement as readers gather together to discuss the book. Based upon the success of similar campaigns in Seattle and Chicago, Read Together Palm Beach County conducted similar campaigns in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010. Thousands of adults read and discussed with great enthusiasm the selected books for those years: Fahrenheit 451 (2002), Their Eyes Were Watching God (2004), To Kill a Mockingbird (2006), The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (2008) and The Book Thief (2010). Former Governor Jeb Bush wrote to every city in Florida and encouraged them to form “One Book, One Community” reading campaigns based on the Palm Beach County model. Read Together Palm Beach County produced a handbook on how to conduct a similar reading campaign and Former Governor Bush urged municipalities to use this book to guide them in their campaigns.

The five finalist books have been selected for Read Together Palm Beach County 2012. One of these books will be selected in January as the 2012 campaign’s community book:


Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

More than twenty years ago, loner Larry Ott took a pretty girl to the movies and came home alone. She was never found. Now another young woman is missing and suspicion has fallen on Larry again. The chief investigator is local constable Silas Jones, Larry’s unlikely boyhood friend in their small, racially divided Mississippi town. In this mystery novel, the only way to get to the truth is by uncovering the past…

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Two families become intertwined when they both adopt baby girls from Korea. This gently humorous novel explores the notions of fitting in, what it is to be an “American,” and the adventure of finding love again in later years. An insightful tale of culture clash, with endearing characters working their unique ways through the bustle and flow of family life.

Last Train to Paradise by Les Standiford

The true story of a man of extraordinary vision and drive. Oil tycoon Henry Flagler spent the last years of his life building a railroad to span the length of Florida, including 157 miles of open ocean to Key West. The story captures the herculean efforts of the dedicated men who built this engineering marvel, plagued by mosquito and alligator infested swamplands and the fury of hurricanes. Travel through familiar Florida spots and explore early twentieth century attitudes towards working conditions, the environment, and the tourist industry.

Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton and Erin Torneo

A memoir of forgiveness and redemption. Ron Cotton is wrongly accused of committing a brutal rape. Based in part on the testimony of the victim, he is convicted and spends 11 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence. He not only forgives, but befriends his accuser and her family. The authors have been instrumental in current efforts to change the way eyewitness testimony is used by police and prosecutors.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

What happens when civil rights collide with national security in the aftermath of a natural catastrophe? Dave Eggers explores this issue through the true story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, an ordinary man living through the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Zeitoun remains in New Orleans to protect his business after his family evacuates, but his future is threatened when he is arrested. A gripping and disturbing view of America’s response to natural and man-made disasters.

You can post comments on these five finalist books by going to:


Start reading now to be prepared to vote in January!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized