Have you ever momentarily surfaced from a great book you’ve been reading in a park, bus, airport, or cafe, only to notice another person reading the same book? There’s an instant connection — despite any perceived difference in age, race, nationality, or sports team allegiance, you know that, at least on some psychic plane, you and this other person are inhabiting the same world. This kind of shared literary experience can lead to a knowing look, a good conversation, a friendship, even a marriage. It’s powerful stuff!
This month, Pittsburghers are going to be much more likely to make these public literary connections. Thanks to the Community College of Allegheny County, our town is participating in the National Endowment of the Arts’ Big Read Campaign.
The basic idea behind the Big Read is simple — the community that reads together stays together, and if you can get as many people as possible to read the same book, you’ll spark great discussions, convene people around important ideas, and support literary reading which is, after all, very good for your brain, a great stress reliever, and can even increase your productivity at work.
The selection for the Big Read in Pittsburgh is perfect: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a classic celebration of the power of reading and its importance to society.
Here’s the description from the Big Read website:
When did science fiction first cross over from genre writing to the mainstream of American literature? Almost certainly it happened on October 19, 1953, when a young Californian named 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.
Now, I’m aware, Eleventh Stack reader, that I am preaching to the choir when I talk about the power of reading. And you may be thinking “Whatever, Dan, my whole life is made up a series of month long celebrations of reading.” All the more reason to participate! Here are two great reasons to participate in the festivities:
- You can bring along people in your life who aren’t as jazzed about reading as you are. We need literary leaders in the community to champion the virtues of reading!
- If you love to read, you probably love to talk about books. And, boy, will you ever have a chance to do that this month.
There’s a great slate of events coming up this month. To get things started, tomorrow night from 6:30-9pm at the Lecture Hall (around the back of the Main Library in Oakland) we’ll be hosting the Big Read Kickoff. Check out this incredible lineup:
- Keynote speech from Dr. Jonathan R. Eller, Director of the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Center for Ray Bradbury Studies.
- Words from Dr. Curtiss Porter from the Mayor’s Office and leaders from CCAC and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
- CCAC dance student performance
- Music from Urban Pathway’s Sounds of Steel
- Spoken word performance by Ezra Smith
It is the Big Read, after all, so we had no choice but to go big. Following the kickoff, there will be a number of events in libraries across the city:
- A Big Read reading at CLP-South Side on from 5-8pm on October 8.
- The West End Book Ends book club will be discussing Fahrenheit 451 from 6:30-7:30 on October 8.
- On October 9 at 6:30, you can attend a discussion at CLP-Squirrel Hill or tune in remotely on CLP’s twitter account @clp_tweets.
- On Tuesday, October 21, you can check out the film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 at the Downtown and Business branch at 12:15.
- On Wednesday, October 22, you can join in the book discussion at CLP-Mount Washington starting at 6pm.
- You can catch an evening screening and discussion of the film adaptation at CLP-Hazelwood on Thursday, October 23, starting at 6pm.
- You’ll have one last chance to participate in a book discussion on October 25 at CLP-Sheraden, notably the only location that explicitly promises not to burn any books.
All of these events are free.
And that’s only the list of events that CLP is hosting! Check out the full calendar courtesy of CCAC here (PDF),
Need a copy of the book? We have you covered. It’s available for check out in a variety of formats:
- Large print
- eBook (I guess nobody in the park will know you’re reading it…)
- Audio (CD)
- Film adaptation
Let’s read big, Pittsburgh! I’ll be on the lookout for all of you on the bus reading Farenheit 451 this October!
-Dan, who is especially looking forward to this as he has somehow managed, despite being a lifelong casual reader of science fiction, to make it a long way into adulthood without having read Fahrenheit 451.