NEA Big Read Nacogdoches


Your Nacogdoches Public Library is a recipient of a grant of $13,000 to host the NEA Big Read in our community! The NEA Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. This program broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.

The NEA Big Read in Nacogdoches will focus on Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and finalist for the National Book Award and PEN/Faulkner Award. Free copies of the book are currently available at the library and a wide variety of activities will take place in October.

“Survival is insufficient” is a central theme of the novel, in which survivors of a deadly pandemic form a traveling symphony and theatrical group in an attempt to preserve and disseminate art and culture in otherwise dire circumstances. The characters cling to their memories of both high and popular culture as cornerstones of their lost society and selves, while endeavoring to forge new stories in a tender new civilization. Station Eleven is both timely and original, examining what remains of humanity when we are tested to the most extreme lengths. Mandel offers a fresh take on a familiar genre, and the story follows disparate characters as they struggle to find meaning and purpose.

Last year the library kicked off a community-wide reading program–"One Book, One City"–that strongly resembled this program. In fact, our library staff researched programs around the country and modeled our inaugural year on NEA’s Big Read in the hopes that someday we would be able to join those ranks! In 2017, we read True Grit and explored and celebrated the themes and issues in the novel with community partners across the city. The success of that initiative encouraged us to swing for the fences and expand the program this year with the help of the NEA and Arts Midwest. We are overjoyed to have received this award on our first attempt, and we plan to continue the annual program as a means of connecting our community through reading.

The Nacogdoches Public Library is excited to offer programs for the whole family. From conventional book discussions to exhibits, demonstrations, film screenings, parties, and more, we aim to find unique ways to engage our community.  We will also provide related reading suitable for younger readers, as well as teaching materials for teachers and book club leaders! Our goal is to reach a diverse readership, generate excitement about reading and community, and inspire new and different ways to experience and understand literature.

As always, your suggestions for programs or materials are welcome. If you or your organization would like to participate in the NEA Big Read, please contact or call 936-559-2970. Stop by and pick up your copy today!

For more information check out these links:

Read about Station Eleven on the NEA Big Read website.

Read about the author Emily St. John Mandel, along with other reader and educator resources.

“NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.”



1. What is the NEA Big Read? 

A national initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Showcasing a diverse range of contemporary titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation and discovery. The main feature of the initiative is a grants program, managed by Arts Midwest, which annually supports approximately 75 dynamic community reading programs, each designed around a single NEA Big Read selection.

2. How was Nacogdoches selected to participate in the NEA Big Read?

Eligible organizations apply to Arts Midwest for NEA Big Read grants and the applications are reviewed by a panel of outside experts on the basis of artistic excellence and merit. Competitive applications demonstrate strong literary programming, experience in building effective local partnerships, reaching and engaging new and diverse audiences, working with educators, involving local and state public officials, and working with media. More information on the application and guidelines are available on Arts Midwest’s website.

3. Which organizations in our community are participating in the NEA Big Read?

Nacogdoches Public Library is the lead organization for the NEA Big Read in Nacogdoches. Our NEA Big Read partners include Nac Historic Sites, Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, the Stone Fort Museum, SFA Steen Library, Nacogdoches ISD, Nacogdoches Parks and Recreation, SFA Theater Department, Nacogdoches Farmers Market, the Bosslight Bookstore, Gamer's Hollow, and others.

4. Why did our community choose to read Station Eleven?

Station 11 presents a number of contemporary themes from the reliance on technology to the changing family unit to disease. It is also a marked departure from our last community read, True Grit. We aim to explore disparate works through this program and will vary topics and approaches from year to year. Station 11 appeals to different ages and backgrounds, including the students of our partners, SFA State University and Nacogdoches ISD. Contemplating the loss of technology is a useful way to bridge generation gaps and encourage dialogue between those who remember a world before today’s technologies and those who do not. The universal themes of love and loss and the myriad ways humans connect and form attachments are starting points for conversations on building community and bridging divides. Literature, journalism, and storytelling in multiple forms are also at the forefront of the novel’s concerns, creating opportunities to interrogate current and related works along with the central text.

5. When will the NEA Big Read in Nacogdoches take place?

The NEA Big Read in Nacogdoches will take place in October 2018. A full calendar of events is coming soon.

6. What types of events will take place during the NEA Big Read in Nacogdoches?

The NEA Big Read Nacogdoches will kick off the first weekend in October with a theatrical and musical celebration in the 18-acre Festival Park in downtown Nacogdoches. The large entertainment pavilion will serve as a stage for Shakespeare performances, musical groups, as other performers such as jugglers, stilt walkers, and fire dancers circulate among attendees. A wagon festooned with the slogan, “survival is insufficient”, will serve as the backdrop for a variety of activities and photo opportunities for all ages, along with booths detailing the coming events. Attendees will be able to sign up for events, see samples of crafts and workshop contents, and talk to program presenters. Other major events include: Lost Arts & Forgotten Skills Fair at the Durst-Taylor Historic House and Museum in which partners will demonstrate and teach primitive technologies, grass house building, native foods and medicines, and more. A Dystopian Dinner in partnership with local farmers and chefs will be held at Eugenia Sterne Park and will feature an al fresco meal of foraged fare and open-fire cooking appropriate to the offerings available to characters in the novel.

Professors from the English and other departments will lead a keynote panel discussion early in the month to introduce and contextualize the novel and the works discussed therein. Students will lead discussions at the SFASU Steen Library and at the Nacogdoches High School Library to give readers a chance to direct their own study of the novel, in addition to other discussions to be held throughout the month. The public library’s Book to Action Book Club will read Station 11 as part of their quarterly program and will develop a community impact project based on it. We will also curate a Museum of Civilization with a call for community contributions. The display will travel to various locations during the month. The Stone Fort Museum will present an exhibit and opening event called Everyday Carry, which will depict analyses of what people have carried on their persons throughout history. A feature of the exhibit will spotlight Station 11 characters, what they carried with them in the novel, and how that develops the characters and reveals the priorities of the times in which they lived. Thematically-related film screenings at the library will provide launching points for additional discussion of Station 11 motifs. The library will also host iterations of two popular programs, an Escape Room with a pandemic theme and a Shakespearean-themed Murder Mystery Dinner. Library staff will present a graphic novel book talk at the high school library and for any interested classes. A Nerf Battlepocalypse will be staged at Pecan Acres Park with times for families, teens, and adults.

Workshops will include Seed Saving and Saving the World at Durst-Taylor House and Museum, Environmental Impacts with Keep Nacogdoches Beautiful and the Native Plant Center, Wilderness Survival, Disaster Preparedness, Theatrical Costume Making, Comic Drawing, Found Art Sculpture Making, Preserving Personal Documents, Paracord Bracelets, and our Makerspace will feature a series on building a DIY Bicycle-powered Charging Station. We will share the Makerspace plans with other organizations to encourage community-wide participation in building renewable energy sources.

Local businesses will participate as well. The Bosslight Bookstore will host a book discussion, Gamer’s Hollow Game Store will host a Pandemic Game Night, and other venues will offer books discussions, dinner opera, and theatrical readings. We will also participate in the Farmers Market Fall Fling Festival, providing a booth and entertainment at the biannual event.

7. How are books selected for the NEA Big Read library?

Suggestions for new titles are collected from a variety of sources, including the public, NEA Big Read grantees, and past Big Read panelists. The National Endowment for the Arts narrows the list of suggestions based on criteria including diversity of genre, diversity and stature of authors, a focus on living authors and contemporary work, the universal appeal of themes, capacity to incite lively and deep discussion, and a focus on expanding the range of voices and stories currently represented in the NEA Big Read library. A committee of outside readers representing a range of voices (including librarians, students, teachers, writers, booksellers, and publishers) review the books and make the final recommendations. You can suggest a new NEA Big Read title at