Ready, Set, Read

Sarasota County Announces 2021 One Book Selection

A history of pioneering Sarasota entrepreneur Bertha Palmer takes the spot.

By Kay Kipling February 17, 2021

An elegant younger Bertha

An elegant younger Bertha

Drumroll, please: After much discussion, the Sarasota County Libraries and Historical Resources system has announced its choice for its annual One Book, One Community program. And the winner is local writer-historian Frank A. Cassell’s Suncoast Empire: Bertha Honore Palmer, Her Family, and the Rise of Sarasota.

It’s a logical choice for the county’s centennial year, which features all kinds of ongoing activities in celebration. In telling the true story of Palmer’s impact on Sarasota, from the time she arrived here in 1910 to the decades her children and grandchildren also played significant roles in our history, Cassell’s book provides an eye-opening saga. Palmer was not only one of the wealthiest women in America, a society queen and a social reform advocate, but in her time in Sarasota she became a frontier entrepreneur who invested in cattle, farming and development.

Library system director Renee DiPilato, calling the book “a perfect fit for the centennial,” adds that “The One Book, One Community program encourages discussion across the community, and the Bertha Palmer story is one that still fascinates and inspires us today.”

Over the years, One Book, One Community has recognized both local authors and world-renowned ones. This year’s celebration includes follow-up programs at county libraries, featuring both writer Cassell and actress Kathryn Chesley portraying Palmer herself.

For more on library programs, visit For more about One Book, go to

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