The Big Read Holland Area creates and fosters a culture where reading matters.

Big Read Holland logoWe 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.

2017 Book

When the Emperor was Divine

When the Emperor was Divine

Julie Otsuka 
Alfred A. Knop , 2002

“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.

Our 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 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.

The Big Read Holland Area is a collaborative effort with support from many community partners.

Previous books

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. The Big Preview 2017

    Posted by Lindsay Kooy

    Gold-tinged leaves glowing on maple trees, flannel-donned students filling Hope’s campus, and cide...

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  2. 2017 Book Announced!

    Posted by Deborah Van Duinen

    The Big Read Holland Area will return this fall, supported for the fourth consecutive year by an awa...

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  3. Student Art Exhibition of Learning

    Posted by Molly Phillipi

    The final Big Read Event for Edwidge Danticat’s memoir “Brother, I’m Dying” took place on No...

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  4. Poverty, Inc. Screening

    Posted by Molly Phillipi

    At 7pm on November 10th, students, faculty, and Holland community members filled almost every seat o...

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  5. Coffee and Conversation

    Posted by Molly Phillipi

     The fourth Big Read Holland Area book discussion this year took place on November 8th at Biggby Co...

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  6. La Belle Vie: The Good Life

    Posted by Molly Phillipi

    “It’s in each of us. It’s our own interpretation.”  On Monday, November 7 at 7:00pm, a scre...

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