NEA Announces New Additions to the Big Read Library

By Kelly Coyle-Crivelli | November 1 2018 | Community Reads


NEA Announces New Additions to the Big Read Library


The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Arts Midwest have announced six new additions to the 2019 NEA Big Read, a nationwide community reading initiative. With programs centered around a single book, communities come together to share the experience of reading and deepen their understanding of the world.

NEA Director of Literature Amy Stolls said, “We are always looking to expand the NEA Big Read library with a range of new genres, perspectives, and experiences. Communities can choose to explore, for example, the story behind Moby-Dick with In the Heart of the Sea, or get immersed in rural Australia and World War II history with The Paperbark Shoe, or dive into one of the books of poetry, a genre we know from NEA research is growing in popularity, particularly among younger readers.”

Among the six new additions to the Big Read Library are Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick.

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, Lab Girl is an illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science. The Times Literary Supplement wrote, “Jahren has dedicated her life’s work to the study of trees with extraordinary single-mindedness and insight. Lab Girl is both an engaging account of her maturity as a scientist and a heartfelt paean to plants. They emerge from her memoir as much more than a bundle of biological processes, but beings with strange, secret lives, supported by astonishingly elegant machinery.”

Philbrick’s critically acclaimed maritime history In the Heart of the Sea tells the riveting story of the wreck of the 19th century whaleship Essex–an event that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby-DickThe New York Times Book Review said, “Philbrick has created an eerie thriller from a centuries old tale,” adding, it is “scrupulously researched and eloquently written.”

For more information about NEA’s Big Read program, including book and author information, videos, podcasts, and community stories from past grantees, visit the NEA’s Big Read website.




In the Heart of the Sea
The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (National Book Award Winner)
From the author of Mayflower, Valiant Ambition, and In the Hurricane's Eye--the riveting bestseller tells the story of the true events that inspired Melville's Moby-Dick.  Winner of the National Book Award, Nathaniel Philbrick's book is a fantastic saga of survival and adventure, steeped in the lore of whaling, with deep resonance in American literature and history. In 1820, the whaleship Essex was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale, leaving the desperate crew to drift for more than ninety days in three tiny boats. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents and vivid details about the Nantucket whaling tradition to reveal the chilling facts of this infamous maritime disaster. In the Heart of the Sea, recently adapted into a major feature film starring Chris Hemsworth, is a book for the ages.