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.


Showing 1 through 25 of 57 results

The Age of Innocence

by Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton (1862-1937) wrote carefully structured fiction that probed the psychological and social elements guiding the behavior of her characters. Her portrayals of upper-class New Yorkers were unrivaled.

At the heart of the story are three people whose entangled lives are deeply affected by the tyrannical and rigid requirements of high society. Newland Archer, a restrained young attorney, is engaged to the lovely May Welland but falls in love with May's beautiful and unconventional cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska. Despite his fear of a dull marriage to May, Archer goes through with the ceremony -- persuaded by his own sense of honor, family, and societal pressures. He continues to see Ellen after the marriage, but his dreams of living a passionate life ultimately cease.The novel's lucid and penetrating prose style, vivid characterization, and its rendering of the social history of an era have long made it a favorite with readers and critics alike.

Pulitzer Prize Winner

Date Added: 05/25/2017


My Antonia

by Willa Cather

Date Added: 05/25/2017


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


Washington Square

by Henry James

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


The Thief and the Dogs

by Naguib Mahfouz

After four years in prison, the skilled young thief Said Mahran emerges bent on revenge for the treachery of his beloved wife, his trusted henchman, and his mentor.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Sun, Stone, and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories

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


Zeitoun

by Dave Eggers

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, longtime New Orleans residents Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun are cast into unthinkable struggle with forces beyond wind and water. Good Samaritan Abdulrahman has stayed on in the city, traversing its deeply flooded streets by canoe, feeding trapped dogs and rescuing survivors, as New Orleans becomes a disaster zone. But nothing could prepare him for the wholly unexpected nightmare that follows . . . 'As a piece of writing, Eggers's book is sublime - simple and unintrusive in style. He builds the characters well and then lets them drive the story. ' Gary Younge, The Guardian 'Dave Eggers' account of one man's ordeal rebukes the Bush regime. ' Valerie Martin, The Observer 'What happened to Zeitoun and his family over the next month is an extraordinary story, related by Dave Eggers, a skilled practitioner of literary non-fiction, with both dramatic flair and domestic sympathy'. Sameer Rahim, The Telegraph 'Reminiscent of Gabriel García Marquez's documentaries, this is a true story told with the skills of a master of fiction. It's an immensely readable account of ordinary people struggling through extraordinary circumstances. ' Robin Yassin-Kassab, The Independent 'How could this happen in America? It's the stuff of great narrative non-fiction . . . Fifty years from now, when people want to know what happened to this once-great city during a shameful episode of our history, they will still be talking about a family named Zeitoun' The New York Times Book Review 'A riveting, intimate, wide-scanning, disturbing, inspiring nonfiction account . . . Humanistic in the highest, best, least boring sense of the word' Vanity Fair 'A fiercely elegant and simply eloquent tale . . . So fierce in its fury, so beautiful in its richly nuanced, compassionate telling of an American tragedy, and finally, so sweetly, stubbornly hopeful' Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

Date Added: 05/25/2017



Showing 1 through 25 of 57 results