NEA book program to feature newer works

NEW YORK — The NEA Big Read, a book group project launched a decade ago by the National Endowment for the Arts, is getting an update.

The NEA announced Wednesday that the Big Read, for which communities throughout the country have been assigned a single work to discuss, will focus on contemporary works of literature and offer a more diverse range of voices and styles. Starting in the fall of 2017, featured titles will range from Emily St. John Mandel’s dystopian novel “Station Eleven” to Kevin Young’s poetry collection “Blue Laws: Selected and Uncollected Poems, 1995-2015” to Claudia Rankine’s hybrid of poetry and other art forms “Citizen: An American Lyric.”

“We hope that this new direction will inspire folks to discover new books and enjoy talking about them with family and friends, neighbors and peers, and especially people they have yet to meet,” the NEA’s director of literature, Amy Stolls, said in a statement.

NEA recommendations will include 28 books, 13 of them new to the list and all published since the endowment was founded in 1965. The Big Read has 34 titles, several released before 1965, including Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and poetry by Emily Dickinson are among other older works to be dropped.

The public is encouraged to suggest books by emailing neabigread@artsmidwest.org.