Community Read Shifts Its Content to New Sites Throughout Port Townsend

The Port Townsend Community Read of Pam Houston’s travelogue Contents May Have Shifted reaches out to new audiences with workshops, events and discussions in nontraditional locations.

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The Port Townsend Library is offering discussion groups in nontraditional locations, like the local pub. | Photos courtesy of the Friends of the Port Townsend Public Library

After eight years, Port Townsend’s Community Read has developed a bit of wanderlust.

While the library has traditionally selected books rooted in the culture of the Pacific Northwest, this year the community will be reading a travelogue: Contents May Have Shifted, by Pam Houston. And, following the book’s lead, the library is taking the programming for the Community Read outside of the library walls and into nontraditional venues throughout the community.


Who: Friends of the Port Townsend Public Library
Established: 1978
Serves: 9,000
Mission: “The Friends of the Port Townsend Library provide services, programs and materials for the library that are beyond the means of the city budget, for cultural and educational enrichment of the community.”
On the Web:


Beginning March 2 and culminating in Houston’s visit on March 28, the Community Read will present interactive workshops on everything from the writing process to alternative therapy to the Camino de Santiago. It’ll also host book discussion groups in local cafes, bars and other welcoming venues. This push to reach new audiences helped the Friends of the Port Townsend Library win a Humanities Washington Spark Grant for the program last fall.

“The idea behind the Community Read is to build more community around books in Port Townsend, so if everybody’s reading the same book, then they can go to the book discussions, they can go to free events, they can meet people,” said Cris Wilson, project director and librarian with the Port Townsend Library. “If (people are) intimidated to come to a book group at the library, this is a way to come to a book group somewhere where they feel more comfortable.”

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A packed house at a previous Port Townsend Community Read author talk. Pam Houston, this year’s author, will visit on March 28.

Community Read looks for “authors with themes that might interest (the) community and with a sense of place,” said Wilson. Several past authors have had connections to Port Townsend’s rich natural environment, including Linda Greenlaw’s The Hungry Ocean and Susan Vreeland’s The Forest Lover.

This year’s book has a bit more expansive theme. Contents May Have Shifted follows a woman who, dissatisfied with her life and her relationship, travels the world searching for self-discovery. Though this book may not be directly connected to Port Townsend, Contents May Have Shifted is set to spark conversations about the universal experiences of traveling, searching for personal freedom and relationships.


  • Adventure Travel – Hiking the Camino de Santiago (March 6) [Details]
  • Shirley Valentine Screening and Discussion (March 10) [Details]
  • A Smorgasbord of Alternative Therapy (March 11) [Details]
  • Book Discussion Group (March 13) [Details]
  • Book Discussion Group (March 14) [Details]
  • Collaborative Play and Creativity with Leif Hansen Intergenerational (March 16) [Details]
  • Book Discussion Group (March 19) [Details]
  • Book Discussion Group (March 20) [Details]
  • Contents Shifting From a Writer’s Perspective, with Author Judith Kitchen (March 25) [Details]
  • Pam Houston Meets Port Townsend (March 28) [Details]

“We hope that people try to say what fulfilled them in their lives or what are they still looking for. We hope that people share their experiences that they’ve had traveling,” said Wilson.

This year’s Community Read will feature several other creative programs related to facets of Contents May Have Shifted, including an interactive program on alternative therapy, a theater performance enacting segments of the book, a juried art show, a presentation on hiking the Camino de Santiago, a talk on the writing process from local author Judith Kitchen and a screening of the travel-and-romance film “Shirley Valentine.”

Programming builds to the end of March, when Houston comes to Port Townsend for a discussion at the local high school about the novel and the writing process, which is free and open to the public.

“Every year more and more people become connected with their library and with their neighbors through the Community Read,” said Wilson.

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