Art Works Blog

Your Dream Big Read Book

Next year’s Big Read grantees—whom we’ll announce next Tuesday—had the option to focus their programming around two new books: The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and When the Emperor Was Divine. While we wait to see which grantees chose what, we started to think about what your dream book would be to read as a community. So we asked our Facebook and Twitter followers what book they would add to the Big Read library and why. Here’s what you had to say:

Sandra W.: Winnie the Pooh (the original stories). Creativity, productivity, and life happens in Pooh's world, with acceptance.

James M.: Brideshead Revisited, the novel by the English writer Evelyn Waugh, about the English upper class, was an elegiac account of an elegant but dysfunctional family converting from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism, the Marchmains, as seen through the eyes of Captain Charles Ryder, a son of the middle class. He is befriended by the youngest son, Sebastian, at Oxford in the early 1920s and is drawn into—and mesmerized by—the 20-year drama of a family struggling with faith and grace, rebirth and death, innocence lived and innocence lost, and love both sacred and profane.

Hope O.: Where the Wild Things Are. It did more to teach me about real life child-raising than any number of parenting manuals—and for years my older son insisted on being called Max. Choosing a children's book with multigenerational appeal would get families reading together; this particular book would create wonderful opportunities for cross-marketing with art, theater, and even the opera.

@rockymtnsparro: I would add a book that focused only on women artists because they have been chiefly overlooked in most art history books.

Meredith W.: Ordinary People by Judith Guest. It reveals the fragility of human beings and how we each respond differently to traumatic events while providing a basis for future hope and the ability to empathize with other individuals.

@KayhanIrani2: Telling Stories to Change the World because it's full of highlights, from around the world, on the power of story to make change!

Sarah O.: For children I'd add Under the Hawthorn Tree. For adults I'm overwhelmed with good choices, maybe The Woman Who Walked into Doors.

Shireen C.: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. His words touch the soul and give me guidance. His artwork is breathtaking. When I die, I have already requested that his poetry be read at my service and my headstone will be engraved with a poem from Kahlil Gibran.

Beth G.: Please consider including the poetry and prose of Herman Melville. Many may be familiar with Moby Dick, but The Big Read could draw more readers to that huge and haunting story. More important, The Big Read could raise awareness of the full body of his work. Lapsed or reluctant readers may be intrigued by some of his poetry or short stories, for example. An American prophet, an American conscience.

Donna S.: The Time Machine...greatest sci-fi novel ever!

Matthew C.: From this CondenseryLorine Niedecker...her work deserves a wider readership.

James M.: Water for Elephants is a historical novel by Sara Gruen, written as part of National Novel Writing Month. Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's 90-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell. Lively with historical detail and unexpected turns, Water for Elephants is a rich surprise, a delightful gem springing from a fascinating footnote to history that absolutely deserved to be mined.


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