Previous Big Reads
2012 – Walking Across Egypt, by Clyde Edgerton
She has as much business keeping a stray dog as she would walking across Egypt–which not so incidentally is the title of her favorite hymn. She’s Mattie Rigsbee, an independent, strong-minded senior citizen who, at seventy-eight, might be slowing down just a bit. When teenage delinquent Wesley Benfield drops in on her life, he is even less likely a companion than the stray dog. But, of course, the dog never tasted her mouth-watering pound cake. Wise and witty, down-home and real, Walking Across Egypt is a book for everyone.
2011 - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers
It is hard to believe that The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter was the first book of twenty-three-year-old Carson McCullers (who had started the novel at nineteen!). Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940) is set in a small Georgia mill town in the late 1930s. At the center is John Singer, who rents a room in the Kelly house after his fellow deaf companion, Spiros Antonapoulos, is sent away to an asylum. The amiable Singer is a confidant for four of the town’s misfits—Mick Kelly, a teenage girl who dreams of becoming a trained musician; Benedict Mady Copeland, the town’s black doctor; Jake Blount, an alcoholic socialist; and Biff Brannon, the owner of the local café.
2010 – Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
On October 19, 1953, Ray Bradbury published a novel with the odd title of Fahrenheit 451. In a gripping story at once disturbing and poetic, Bradbury takes the materials of pulp fiction and transforms them into a visionary parable of a society gone awry, in which firemen burn books and the state suppresses learning. Meanwhile, the citizenry sits by in a drug-induced and media-saturated indifference. More relevant than ever a half-century later, Fahrenheit 451 has achieved the rare distinction of being both a literary classic and a perennial bestseller.
2009 – The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
Dashiell Hammett’s third novel, The Maltese Falcon (1930), set the standard by which all subsequent detective fiction would be judged. Hammett’s clean prose and sharp ear for dialogue produced an exceedingly readable novel with enough twists to keep the reader turning the pages in search of clues. It is a detective novel—one of the best ever written. It’s also a brilliant literary work, as well as a thriller, a love story, and a dark, dry comedy.
2008 – To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird is the rare American novel that can be discovered with excitement in adolescence and reread into adulthood without fear of disappointment. Lee tells two deftly paired stories set in a small Southern town: one focused on lawyer Atticus Finch’s defense of an unjustly accused man, the other on his bright daughter’s gradual discovery of her own goodness. Along with its twin plot lines, To Kill a Mockingbird has two broad themes: tolerance and justice. Tying the stories together is a simple but profound piece of advice Atticus gives Scout: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”