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.

This month-long community-wide reading program takes place every November.

Check out our Little Read Lakeshore program for children in elementary and middle schools 

2019 Book

For our middle grade readers, we've chosen Before We Were Free as a complementary text to In the Time of the Butterflies.

“A novel is not, after all, a historical document, but a way to travel through the human heart.” —In the Time of the Butterflies postscript

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

2018 – 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.
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

Recent blog posts

  1. A big Little Read thank you

    Posted by Noelle Gortsema

    The end of November brings another year of NEA Big Read Lakeshore and Little Read Lakeshore festivit...

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  2. Little Read Lakeshore from a Little Reader’s Perspective

    Posted by Eliza Rowe and Adrian Stroop

    Here at the Big Read and Little Read Lakeshore, we are busy preparing for a month full of amazing pr...

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  3. Coming Soon: A Broader Big Read

    Posted by Rebecca Durán

    When I first heard that Julia Alvarez’s novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, was the book select...

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  4. Repent Nothing

    Posted by Annika Gidley

    “I repent nothing.” This is a phrase that is repeated constantly by Miranda in Station Eleven by...

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  5. “For All the Children to Whom We Entrust the Future”

    Posted by Annika Gidley

    “What happens to the children?” Dr. Jesus Montaño asked this question as part of the opening to...

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  6. “Survival is Insufficient”

    Posted by Annika Gidley

    The morning of November 1st was cold and brisk on Hope College’s campus; remnants of Halloween sti...

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