The Big Read

Series produced by National Endowment for the Arts

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The Big Read initiative was created to inspire people to read more great literature. As part of this program, the NEA produced several half-hour audio documentaries to accompany print materials.

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with Arts Midwest. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment.

The Big Read answers a big need. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 report by the National Endowment for the Arts, found that not only is literary reading in America declining rapidly among all groups, but that the rate of decline has accelerated, especially among the young. The concerned citizen in search of good news about American literary culture would study the pages of this report in vain.

The Big Read aims to address this crisis squarely and effectively. It provides citizens with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities. It includes innovative reading programs in selected cities and towns, comprehensive resources for discussing classic literature and an extensive Web site providing comprehensive information on authors and their works.

Each community event lasts approximately one month and includes a kick-off event to launch the program locally, ideally attended by the mayor and other local luminaries; major events devoted specifically to the book (panel discussions, author reading, and the like); events using the book as a point of departure (film screenings, theatrical readings, and so forth); and book discussions in diverse locations and aimed at a wide range of audiences.

The NEA inaugurated The Big Read as a pilot project in 2006 with ten communities featuring four books. The Big Read continues to expand to include more communities and additional books. By June 2010, more than 951 grants have been awarded to communities in the U.S. to host Big Reads since the program's 2007 national launch. Hide full description

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with Arts Midwest. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment. The Big Read answers a big need. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 report by the National Endowment for the Arts, found that not only is literary reading in America declining rapidly among all groups, but that the rate of decline has accelerated, especially among the young. The concerned citizen in search of good news about American literary culture would study the pages of this report in vain. The Big Read aims to address this crisis squarely and... Show full description


26 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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Actor Ed Harris reads from one of his favorite novels, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath---an epic story about the Great Depression told through...

Bought by KMUN, KQED, KRZA, KUCB, and PRX Remix


  • Added: Aug 16, 2011
  • Length: 28:44
  • Purchases: 5
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In this half-hour radio show, we'll explore Bradbury's terrifying vision of a future without books as we discuss his groundbreaking 1953 novel, Fah...

Bought by WKMS, KMUN, KFAI, KMUD, KPIP-LP and more


  • Added: Aug 12, 2011
  • Length: 28:51
  • Purchases: 12
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Featuring commentary by actor Robert Duvall, playwright Horton Foote, NEA Jazz Master David Baker, and Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, among ot...

Bought by Prairie Public, KMUN, KPIP-LP, KPTZ, Port Townsend, WA, KMUN and more


  • Added: Aug 12, 2011
  • Length: 29:17
  • Purchases: 18
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A beloved American classic, Willa Cather's My Ántonia is best summarized by its epigraph---"the best days are the first to flee." Garrison Keillor ...

Bought by KMUN, KPIP-LP, and KQED


  • Added: Aug 12, 2011
  • Length: 28:58
  • Purchases: 3
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A half-hour audio program that explores Amy Tan's gripping, The Joy Luck Club. It features Amy Tan and readings by actress Ming-Na from the film ad...

Bought by KMUN, KPIP-LP, KQED, and KRZA


  • Added: Aug 12, 2011
  • Length: 28:55
  • Purchases: 4
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Meet Sam Spade, detective, lady-killer. Before it became a classic film, it was first an incredible moral tale of crime and deception. Find out why.

Bought by KMUN, KPIP-LP, KQED, WXAV 88.3FM, KRZA and more


  • Added: Aug 12, 2011
  • Length: 29:17
  • Purchases: 6
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Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried (1990) is considered one of the finest books about the Vietnam War. But it's almost less about the war and m...

Bought by WKMS, KMUN, KUER, KPIP-LP, KQED and more


  • Added: Aug 16, 2011
  • Length: 28:59
  • Purchases: 7
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The program features the voices of author, Tobias Wolff, along with a great cast of writers and thinkers: Jonathan Lethem, Lorrie Moore, T.C. Boyle...

Bought by KMUN, KPIP-LP, KQED, WXAV 88.3FM, and KRZA


  • Added: Aug 16, 2011
  • Length: 28:49
  • Purchases: 5
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A radio program featuring author Julia Alvarez along with Neko Case, Edwidge Danticat, and Junot Diaz, among others.

Bought by KMUN, Kansas Public Radio, KPIP-LP, KQED, and KRZA


  • Added: Aug 16, 2011
  • Length: 29:55
  • Purchases: 5
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Ernest J. Gaines poses one of the most universal questions a novel can ask: Knowing we're going to die, how should we live? This program features G...

Bought by KMUN, KPIP-LP, WXAV 88.3FM, and KQED


  • Added: Aug 16, 2011
  • Length: 28:55
  • Purchases: 4
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Hear acclaimed authors including Michael Chabon (Wonderboys), Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game), and Walter Mosley discuss Ursula K. Le Guin's coming...

Bought by KZYX, KMUN, KPIP-LP, KQED, and KRZA


  • Added: Aug 16, 2011
  • Length: 29:08
  • Purchases: 5
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Actor Robert Redford reads passages from Jack London's great American novel. The program also features Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, and many ...

Bought by KMUN, KPIP-LP, KQED, KRZA, and PRX Remix


  • Added: Aug 16, 2011
  • Length: 29:00
  • Purchases: 5
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Welcome to the Jazz Age. This lyrical portrait of The Great Gatsby features readings by actor Sam Waterston and commentary by Robert Redford, among...

Bought by KMUN, KPIP-LP, KQED, KRZA, WXAV 88.3FM and more


  • Added: Aug 16, 2011
  • Length: 29:13
  • Purchases: 6
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“On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” This half-hou...

Bought by KMUN, KPIP-LP, KQED, and KRZA


  • Added: Aug 16, 2011
  • Length: 28:58
  • Purchases: 4
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Today, we dive into the haunting world of Edgar Allan Poe. The show includes writers Daniel Handler (aka, Lemony Snicket) and Laura Lippman, as wel...

Bought by KMUN, KQED, WXAV 88.3FM, and KRZA


  • Added: Aug 17, 2011
  • Length: 27:34
  • Purchases: 4
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“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –,” “Because I could not stop for Death –”, and “I dwell in Possibility –” are some of most memorable opening li...

Bought by KPIP-LP, KQED, WXAV 88.3FM, and KRZA


  • Added: Aug 17, 2011
  • Length: 22:33
  • Purchases: 4
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Longfellow was an immensely versatile poet who excelled at virtually every form and genre from the epic to the sonnet. Find out why.

Bought by KPIP-LP


  • Added: Aug 17, 2011
  • Length: 20:57
  • Purchases: 1
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A great poet of the Western landscape, Jeffers celebrated the heartbreaking beauty of existence and reminded humanity of its responsibility to the ...

Bought by KPIP-LP, KQED, KRZA, WXAV 88.3FM, and KRZA


  • Added: Aug 17, 2011
  • Length: 26:54
  • Purchases: 5
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Today we hear stories by two giants of Mexican literature, Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes. The former is read by actor Tony Plana; the latter by th...

Bought by KUPR low power FM, KPIP-LP, WABE, and KQED


  • Added: Aug 17, 2011
  • Length: 52:59
  • Purchases: 4
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Actor Alfred Molina shines with masterful readings of excerpts from Edith Wharton's masterpiece. The screenwriter of Scorsese's film adaptation, Ja...

Bought by KMUN, KPIP-LP, KQED, KRZA, and PRX Remix


  • Added: Aug 17, 2011
  • Length: 29:03
  • Purchases: 5