Special Collections

Big Read

Description: Spark conversation and provoke thought with this diverse list of acclaimed fiction and non-fiction. The Big Read is a program sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts aimed at bringing reading back to the heart of American culture. #adults


Showing 1 through 25 of 57 results

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain

Mark Twain's classic story of a young boy's life in a small town on the Mississippi River. [This text is listed as an example that meets Common Core Standards in English language arts in grades 6-8 at http://www.corestandards.org.]

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Gilead

by Marilynne Robinson

In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowan preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition: He "preached men into the Civil War," then, at age fifty, became a chaplain in the Union Army, losing his right eye in battle.

Reverend Ames writes to his son about the tension between his father--an ardent pacifist--and his grandfather, whose pistol and bloody shirts, concealed in an army blanket, may be relics from the fight between the abolitionists and those settlers who wanted to vote Kansas into the union as a slave state. And he tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton, his best friend's wayward son.

This is also the tale of another remarkable vision--not a corporeal vision of God but the vision of life as a wondrously strange creation. It tells how wisdom was forged in Ames's soul during his solitary life, and how history lives through generations, pervasively present even when betrayed and forgotten.

Pulitzer Prize Winner

Date Added: 06/12/2017


Housekeeping

by Marilynne Robinson

A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt.

The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck, and their mother drove off a cliff to her death.

It is a town "chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere."

Ruth and Lucille's struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


The Call of the Wild

by Jack London

London's classic tale about a dog's adventures in the North.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

by Edgar Allan Poe

Well introduced collection.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


This Boy's Life

by Tobias Wolff

Autobiography of Wolff as a boy in the 1950s, by turns tough and vulnerable, crafty and bumbling. Separated by divorce from his father and brother, Toby and his mother are constantly on the move. As he fights for identity and self-respect against the unrelenting hostility of a new stepfather, his experiences are at once poignant and comical, and Wolff masterfully recreates the frustrations, cruelties, and joys of adolescence.

Date Added: 06/12/2017


The Shawl

by Cynthia Ozick

Two stories: In "The Shawl," a woman watches a concentration camp guard murder her daughter. In "Rosa", that same woman appears thirty years later, "a madwoman and a scavenger" in a Miami hotel.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Sun, Stone, and Shadows

by Jorge F. Hernández

An anthology of short stories by writers such as Paz, Fuentes, Rulfo, Castellanos, Reyes, Arreola, Pacheco, Elizondo, Revueltas, Garro and more. Published expressly for The Big Read.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Into the Beautiful North

by Luis Alberto Urrea

Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US to find work. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn't the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village--they've all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men--her own "Siete Magníficos"--to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over. Filled with unforgettable characters and prose as radiant as the Sinaloan sun, INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH is the story of an irresistible young woman's quest to find herself on both sides of the fence.

Date Added: 06/12/2017


To Live

by Yu Hua

An award-winning, internationally acclaimed Chinese bestseller, originally banned in China but recently named one of the last decade’s ten most influential books there, To Live tells the epic story of one man’s transformation from the spoiled son of a rich landlord to an honorable and kindhearted peasant. After squandering his family’s fortune in gambling dens and brothels, the young, deeply penitent Fugui settles down to do the honest work of a farmer. Forced by the Nationalist Army to leave behind his family, he witnesses the horrors and privations of the Civil War, only to return years later to face a string of hardships brought on by the ravages of the Cultural Revolution. Left with an ox as the companion of his final years, Fugui stands as a model of flinty authenticity, buoyed by his appreciation for life in this narrative of humbling power.

Date Added: 06/12/2017


In the Time of the Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

Set during the waning days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republica in 1960, this extraordinary novel tells the story of the Mirabal sisters, three young wives and mothers who are assassinated after visiting their jailed husbands. [This text is listed as an example that meets Common Core Standards in English language arts in grades 9-10 at

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Selected Poems

by Robinson Jeffers

The poems in this volume have been selected from Robinson Jeffers' major works, among them Be Angry at the Sun, Hungerfield, The Double Axe, The Beginning and the End, and Roan Stallion, and Tamar and Other Poems.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


When the Emperor Was Divine

by Julie Otsuka

Julie Otsuka’s commanding debut novel paints a portrait of the Japanese internment camps unlike any we have ever seen. With crystalline intensity and precision, Otsuka uses a single family to evoke the deracination—both physical and emotional—of a generation of Japanese Americans. In five chapters, each flawlessly executed from a different point of view—the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train ride to the camp; the son in the desert encampment; the family’s return to their home; and the bitter release of the father after more than four years in captivity—she has created a small tour de force, a novel of unrelenting economy and suppressed emotion. Spare, intimate, arrestingly understated, When the Emperor Was Divine is a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times. It heralds the arrival of a singularly gifted new novelist.

Date Added: 06/12/2017


Brother, I'm Dying

by Edwidge Danticat

From the best-selling author of "The Dew Breaker," a major work of nonfiction: a powerfully moving family story that centers around the men closest to her heart--her father, Mira, and his older brother, Joseph. From the age of four, Edwidge Danticat came to think of her uncle Joseph, a charismatic pastor, as her "second father," when she was placed in his care after her parents left Haiti for a better life in America. Listening to his sermons, sharing coconut-flavored ices on their walks through town, roaming through the house that held together many members of a colorful extended family, Edwidge grew profoundly attached to Joseph. He was the man who "knew all the verses for love. " And so she experiences a jumble of emotions when, at twelve, she joins her parents in New York City. She is at last reunited with her two youngest brothers, and with her mother and father, whom she has struggled to remember. But she must also leave behind Joseph and the only home she's ever known. Edwidge tells of making a new life in a new country while fearing for the safety of those still in Haiti as the political situation deteriorates. But "Brother I'm Dying" soon becomes a terrifying tale of good people caught up in events beyond their control. Late in 2004, his life threatened by an angry mob, forced to flee his church, the frail, eighty-one-year-old Joseph makes his way to Miami, where he thinks he will be safe. Instead, he is detained by U. S. Customs, held by the Department of Homeland Security, brutally imprisoned, and dead within days. It was a story that made headlines around the world. His brother, Mira, will soon join him in death, but not before he holds hope in his arms: Edwidge's firstborn, who will bear his name--and the family's stories, both joyous and tragic--into the next generation. Told with tremendous feeling, this is a true-life epic on an intimate scale: a deeply affecting story of home and family--of two men's lives and deaths, and of a daughter's great love for them both.

Date Added: 06/12/2017


A Lesson Before Dying

by Ernest J. Gaines

In a small Cajun community in the late 1940s, a young black man named Jefferson is an unwitting party to a liquor store shootout in which three men are killed. The only survivor, he is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Gaines explores the deep prejudice of the American South in the tradition of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird and Toni Morrison's Beloved. A Lesson Before Dying is a richly compassionate and deeply moving novel, the story of a young black man sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit, and a teacher who seeks to share his wisdom before the execution.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Old School

by Tobias Wolff

The author of the genre-defining memoir" This Boy's Life, the PEN/Faulkner Award'winning novella "The Barracks Thief, and short stories acclaimed as modern classics, Tobias Wolff now gives us his first novel. Determined to fit in at his New England prep school, the narrator has learned to mimic the bearing and manners of his adoptive tribe while concealing as much as possible about himself. His final year, however, unravels everything he's achieved, and steers his destiny in directions no one could have predicted. The school's mystique is rooted in Literature, and for many boys this becomes an obsession, editing the review and competing for the attention of visiting writers whose fame helps to perpetuate the tradition. Robert Frost, soon to appear at JFK's inauguration, is far less controversial than the next visitor, Ayn Rand. But the final guest is one whose blessing a young writer would do almost anything to gain. No one writes more astutely than Wolff about the process by which character is formed, and here he illuminates the irresistible power, even the violence, of the self-creative urge. Resonant in ways at once contemporary and timeless, "Old School is a masterful achievement by one of the finest writers of our time. "From the Hardcover edition.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Burning Bright

by Ron Rash

New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Ron Rash is "a storyteller of the highest rank" (Jeffrey Lent) and has won comparisons to John Steinbeck, Cormac McCarthy, and Gabriel GarcÍa MÁrquez. It is rare that an author can capture the complexities of a place as though it were a person, and rarer still that one can reveal a land as dichotomous and fractious as Appalachia-a muse; a siren; a rugged, brutal landscape of exceptional beauty, promise, and suffering-with the honesty and precision of a photograph. "If you haven't heard of the Southern writer Ron Rash, it is time you should" (The Plain Dealer). In Burning Bright, the stories span the years from the Civil War to the present day, and Rash's historical and modern settings are sewn together in a hauntingly beautiful patchwork of suspense and myth, populated by raw and unforgettable characters mined from the landscape of Appalachia. In "Back of Beyond," a pawnshop owner who profits from the stolen goods of local meth addicts-including his own nephew-comes to the aid of his brother and sister-in-law when they are threatened by their son. The pregnant wife of a Lincoln sympathizer alone in Confederate territory takes revenge to protect her family in "Lincolnites." And in the title story, a woman from a small town marries an outsider; when an unknown arsonist starts fires in the Smoky Mountains, her husband becomes the key suspect. In these stories, Rash brings to light a previously unexplored territory, hidden in plain sight-first a landscape, and then the dark yet lyrical heart and the alluringly melancholy soul of his characters and their home.

Date Added: 01/09/2019


Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

by Edgar Allan Poe

Enduring Literature Illuminated By Practical Scholarship A collection of the Gothic master's classic works in prose and verse. This Enriched Classic Edition Includes: A concise introduction that gives the reader important background information A chronology of the author's life and work A timeline of significant events that provides the book's historical context An outline of key themes and plot points to guide the reader's own interpretations Detailed explanatory notes Critical analysis, including contemporary and modern perspectives on the work Discussion questions to promote lively classroom and book group interaction A list of recommended related books and films to broaden the reader's experience Enriched Classics offer readers affordable editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and insightful commentary. The scholarship provided in Enriched Classics enables readers to appreciate, understand, and enjoy the world's finest books to their full potential.

Date Added: 06/12/2017


The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

by Carson Mccullers

With its profound sense of moral isolation and its compassionate glimpses into its characters' inner lives, the novel is considered McCullers' finest work, an enduring masterpiece first published by Houghton Mifflin in 1940. At its center is the deaf-mute John Singer, who becomes the confidant for various types of misfits in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s. Each one yearns for escape from small town life.

When Singer's mute companion goes insane, Singer moves into the Kelly house, where Mick Kelly, the book's heroine (and loosely based on McCullers), finds solace in her music. Wonderfully attuned to the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition, and with a deft sense for racial tensions in the South, McCullers spins a haunting, unforgettable story that gives voice to the rejected, the forgotten, and the mistreated -- and, through Mick Kelly, gives voice to the quiet, intensely personal search for beauty.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


The Things They Carried

by Tim O'Brien

A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, The Things They Carried is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling. The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O'Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. Taught everywhere--from high school classrooms to graduate seminars in creative writing--it has become required reading for any American and continues to challenge readers in their perceptions of fact and fiction, war and peace, courage and fear and longing. The Things They Carried won France's prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize; it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Bless Me, Ultima

by Rudolfo Anaya

Stories filled with wonder and the haunting beauty of his culture have helped make Rudolfo Anaya the father of Chicano literature in English, and his tales fairly shimmer with the lyric richness of his prose.

Acclaimed in both Spanish and English, Anaya is perhaps best loved for his classic bestseller ...

Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic.

Under her wise wing, Tony will test the bonds that tie him to his people, and discover himself in the pagan past, in his father's wisdom, and in his mother's Catholicism. And at each life turn there is Ultima, who delivered Tony into the world-and will nurture the birth of his soul.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


In the Shadow of the Banyan

by Vaddey Ratner

Told from the tender perspective of a young girl who comes of age amid the Cambodian killing fields, this searing first novel--based on the author's personal story--is one of survival, endurance, and forced exodus.

Date Added: 06/12/2017


The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The exemplary novel of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgeralds' third book, The Great Gatsby (1925), stands as the supreme achievement of his career. T. S. Eliot read it three times and saw it as the "first step" American fiction had taken since Henry James; H. L. Mencken praised "the charm and beauty of the writing," as well as Fitzgerald's sharp social sense; and Thomas Wolfe hailed it as Fitzgerald's "best work" thus far.

The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when, The New York Times remarked, "gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession," it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s that resonates with the power of myth.

A novel of lyrical beauty yet brutal realism, of magic, romance, and mysticism, The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.

[This text is listed as an example that meets Common Core Standards in English language arts in grades 11-12 at http://www.corestandards.org.]

Date Added: 05/25/2017


A Wizard of Earthsea

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Originally published in 1968, Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea marks the first of the six now beloved Earthsea titles. Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth he was the reckless Sparrowhawk. In his hunger for power and knowledge, he tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tumultuous tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance.

Date Added: 06/12/2017


My Antonia

by Willa Cather

Date Added: 05/25/2017



Showing 1 through 25 of 57 results