One of the things I miss most about graduate school is the time to luxuriate in conversation with intelligent, engaged people about literature. Inevitably, someone had a different take on some element of the book that made me re-evaluate my own position or, conversely, helped me feel more confident about an interpretation.
In a recent interview on NPR’s Morning Edition, Oprah Winfrey told interviewer Lynn Neary that her reason for starting the original book club (that catapulted so many authors to fame and fortune) was for the exact same reasons as my own: wanting to talk to other people books.
Of course, there are probably hundreds of book clubs in every city and intimate gatherings are great. But if your life and relationships are anything like mine, trying to get friends to commit, show up at the same time, and actually have read your selection by a specific date can about as successful as herding cats.
That’s why I think that this year, for the first time, I am going to attempt to participate in a number of “Big Reads.” The Big Read is a project sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts “designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment.”
Here is a brief description of how The Big Read works (learn more by clicking the link):
Through The Big Read, selected communities come together to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 34* selections from U.S. and world literature. In addition, The Big Read provides comprehensive information about the authors and their works in the Our Books section of The Big Read website.
Click here to enter your city, state, or zip code to find out what your community is reading, find a “real life” book club or online discussions.
Curious what titles up for discussion? Here are just a few of the selections, ranging from new works to classics:
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
My Antonia by Willa Cather
The Poetry of Emily Dickinson