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A Novel And Play Take Center Stage In 2017 Big Read

Courtesy of

During the darkest days of winter and often the coldest months of the year, many community members find themselves hunkering down inside with a good book.

This weekend, the Friends of the Homer Public Library are kicking off the 2017 Big Read community reading program. 

“The Big Read is an opportunity for the community to come together and enjoy the experience of reading two good books, said coordinator Mercedes Harness.

This is the third time Homer is doing in the Big Read, which is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Out of 77 communities participating nationwide, Homer is one of only two in Alaska.

Local organizations apply for grants from the Big Read program that range from $5,000 - $20,000. Then, they choose a book from a recommended reading list and hold a series of events to support it.

Four years ago here the book was The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, followed by Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in 2015.

“This year the selection was quite deliberative and we settled on Our Town and The Bridge of San Luis Rey because of the ways we thought they might resonate in our community and for the opportunity to talk about what our town means to us,” said Harness.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey, which is a novel, and Our Town, which is a play, are both by Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Thornton Wilder.

“I think sometimes Our Town is overlooked because it’s so simple and it’s so minimalist, but it really looks at the connections between community members," Harness said. "It looks at what happens when we face loss as a community, when individuals leave us, and also what [it means] to dedicate your life to one place.”

The Big Read begins on Saturday with a staged reading of Our Town by Pier One Theatre at Alice’s Champagne Palace. Book club meetings and discussions will be held throughout the month and into February along with workshops on writing love letters and radio storytelling, a chance to write your own play about Homer, and a stage performance by local students.

The month-long event will wrap up on Feb. 25 with a keynote address by Washington Post book critic Michael Dirda who will talk about living a reading life.

"When I was in school, my favorite classes were always my English classes and the best part of English class is not just reading the books but being able to talk about the books with other people," Harness said. "There’s something really meaningful and community-building when we come together to read good books and to talk about them and to share them together.”

Copies of The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Our Town are available at the Homer Public Library. As part of the event, you can check them out even if you don’t already have a library card. Both books are also available for e-readers and The Bridge of San Luis Rey can be downloaded as an audiobook.