Big Read Lakeshore logoNEA Big Read Lakeshore creates and fosters a culture where reading matters.


We bring our community together around one book and use this shared experience of reading, discussing and exploring the themes of the book as a springboard to learn from and listen to each other.

We are excited to announce that our 2020 program in November is virtual! Please go to for more information.

Check out our Little Read Lakeshore program for children in elementary school (grades P–5) 

“How much of assumed national and personal character comes from the fact that we have never truly known need to the point of having our character tested?”
—from In the Heart of the Sea

2020 Book

Middle Grade

Big Read eventOur programming draws diverse participation within our community, generating conversations and discussion groups across generational, cultural, racial and socioeconomic divides and experiences. These events take place in a variety of spaces and locations. We also work with area elementary, middle and high schools to engage area students in the larger conversations of our community.

Our main events are planned to approach a book and its topics from a variety of perspectives, experiences and angles, organizing events that include interesting lectures by great speakers as well as using film, food, music and art to explore and celebrate the topics under discussion.

NEA Big Read Lakeshore is a collaborative effort with support from many community partners.

Previous books

2019 – In the Time of the ButterfliesMiddle Grade: Before We Were Free

In the Time of the Butterflies
It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas—“The Butterflies.” In this novel, the voices of all four sisters—Minerva, Patria, María Teresa, and the survivor, Dedé—speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from hair ribbons to prison torture, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule. Through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez’s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in this novel of courage and love, and the human cost of political oppression.

Before We Were Free
Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom living in the Dominican Republic. But by her twelfth birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have immigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared without a trace, and the government’s secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition to Trujillo’s iron-fisted rule. Using the strength and courage of her family, Anita must overcome her fears and fly to freedom, leaving all that she once knew behind.

Julia Alvarez delivers the 2019 Big Read keynote address

2018 – Station ElevenMiddle Grade: The Giver

Station Eleven
Set in the Great Lakes region 20 years after a flu pandemic wiped out 99 percent of the world’s population, “Station Eleven” centers on a traveling troupe that performs Shakespeare’s plays to the communities that have arisen in North America in the event’s aftermath. The narrative visits both the story’s post-apocalyptic present and the world before the pandemic, not only exploring the collapse of society and its aftermath but emphasizing the connections between people and the efforts of those seeking to do more than merely exist.

The Giver
This 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.

Students participating in the 2018 Little Read

2017 – When the Emperor Was Divine

“When the Emperor Was Divine” follows one Japanese family uprooted from its Berkeley home after the start of World War II. After being delivered to a racetrack in Utah, they are forcibly relocated to an internment camp. They spend two harrowing years there before returning to a home far less welcoming than it was before the war. Using five distinct but intertwined perspectives, Otsuka's graceful prose evokes the family's range of responses to internment. Culminating in a final brief and bitter chapter, Otsuka's novel serves as a requiem for moral and civic decency in times of strife and fragmentation.

When the Emperor Was Divine project

2016 – Brother, I'm Dying

In 2016, we took on the challenge of memoir with a wonderful yet different life story of Edwidge Danticat entitled, Brother, I’m Dying. Our programming included an author visit, a Haitian food event, Haitian drumming and dancing, a documentary, lectures on immigration in our community, and a student exhibition of learning that featured the artwork of 800 middle, high school and college students who created art in response to the book. Our community impact was 10,000 participants.

Edwidge Danticat reading at the Big Read

2015 – The Things They Carried

In our second year, we read, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. More than 7,000 people attended 10 main events and took part in 49 public and private book discussion groups. We increased our school participation to 10 schools and 16 teachers, and we enjoyed the author as a guest speaker for a student event and for a standing-room-only event for the general public.

Tim O'Brien at the Big Read

2014 – To Kill a Mockingbird

Our first year, we read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Over 3,000 people participated in the seven main events and the 38 public and private book discussion groups. In that first year six schools, and eight teachers also took part.

Big Read 2014 event

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