Sarasota County’s 2021 One Book selection tells story of Bertha Honore Palmer’s role in county’s history

Author scheduled to present programs at county libraries

Image courtesy Sarasota County

Sarasota County’s 2021 One Book selection is Suncoast Empire: Bertha Honoré Palmer, Her Family, and the Rise of Sarasota, the county’s Libraries and Historical Resources Department has announced.

Written by Frank A. Cassell, “the book details the true story of Bertha Palmer, one of the most well-known and wealthiest women in America who, in 1910, traveled to the small settlement of Sarasota on the west coast of Florida,” a news release explains.

For the rest of her life, the release adds, Palmer spent much of each year in Sarasota, investing in cattle and farming, and “creating communities out of marshlands, pine forests and tropical jungles.” The release points out, “The society queen and social reform advocate excelled as a frontier entrepreneur, just as she had in every other endeavor in her life. She managed to make a good deal of money and to change Sarasota forever.”  

Sarasota County Libraries and Historical Resources Director Renee Di Pilato said the book was a perfect fit to be a part of the Centennial programming for Sarasota County, the release notes.

“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,” said Di Pilato in the release. “Whether you are new to the county, or have lived here your whole life, you have likely been affected by some decision or influence that Bertha or her family had,” Di Pilato added in the release. “In 2021 our department is sharing programming, displays and exhibits as part of the [county] Centennial, and this One Book selection complements those efforts.”

Over the years, the release points out, the One Book, One Community program has recognized local authors as well as world-renowned writers. A committee selects the One Book title and then hosts a public event with the author and readers, the release explains. “This celebration includes follow-up programs at county libraries and other venues.” Anyone can participate in One Book, One Community by attending a library event or hosting a own book discussion, the release adds. 

The Sarasota County Government webpage about the 2021 One Book program offers these details about author Frank Cassell. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As part of the One Book and Centennial programming, several libraries will host the program Bertha Palmer and Her Family in Sarasota, which will be told by author Cassell, the release notes. “The program focuses on the impact Palmer and her family had on the development of the Sarasota County area and features Palmer herself, as portrayed by Kathryn Chesley,” the release says.

For more information about library programs, call the county Contact Center at 861-5000 or visit For more information about the One Book program, visit