March 1: Free Dramatic interpretation kicks off The Big Read in Columbus

It's another year of the whole community being encouraged to read one book at the same time.

This year, The Big Read in the Columbus area will be "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien, a semi-autobiographical account of the Vietnam War.

The Big Read's events start Friday at 7 p.m. in the Columbus Public Library's auditorium, where the American Place Theatre will present a dramatic interpretation of O'Brien's book.

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literary reading in American popular culture. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 NEA report, identified a critical decline in reading for pleasure among American adults. The Big Read addresses this issue by bringing communities together to read, discuss and celebrate books and writers from American and world literature.

The Columbus area is among the 78 communities nationwide participating in this edition of The Big Read from September 2012 to June 2013.

The NEA provides a list of books communities may choose for The Big Read. Linda Hyles, marketing and fund development coordinator for Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, explained why O'Brien's book was chosen.

"With our relationship with Fort Benning, we thought it would be a great read," she said.

The Big Read's local partners are Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, Columbus State University and Muscogee County Friends of Libraries. WLTZ-38 and Sunny 100 are media sponsors.

The previous books in The Big Read's local history since 2007 are "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain, "The Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neal Hurston and the works of Edgar Allan Poe (2011).

The NEA awarded the Muscogee County Friends of Libraries a $17,100 grant to help finance this year's local edition of The Big Read.

LEARN MORE: For more information about The Big Read, click here. A reader's guide, teacher's guide and audio guide are here.


Friday, 7 p.m., Columbus Public Library auditorium: American Place presentation of "The Things They Carried."

March 7, 7 p.m., Columbus Public Library auditorium: Aaron Sanders, a Columbus State University assistant professor of English, discusses "Tim O'Brien's Autobiographical Metafiction in 'The Things They Carried.'"

March 21, 7 p.m., Columbus Public Library auditorium: Gary Sprayberry, department chairman and associate professor of history and geography at Columbus State University, discusses "Tim O'Brien's War: 'The Things They Carried.'"

March 29, 7:30 p.m., Springer Opera House: The Big Read keynote speaker Tim O'Brien, author of "The Things They Carried."

April 4-7, Columbus Public Library: Visit from The Wall That Heals, touring half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with museum. Visit will start with a 9 a.m. memorial service April 4.


The Big Read also will include free screenings of four films showing different viewpoints of the Vietnam War. Each film will be at 7 p.m. in the Columbus Public Library auditorium.

March 5: "The Quiet American" (2002, Rated R)

March 12: "We Were Soldiers" (2002, Rated R)

March 19: "Full Metal Jacket" (1987, Rated R)

March 26: "The Fog of War" (2003, Rated PG-13)


The public is invited to discuss "The Things They Carried" with three groups:

March 9, 1 p.m., Page Turners Book Club, Mildred L. Terry Public Library.

March 13, 11:30 a.m., Fort Benning Book Discussion, Maneuver Center of Excellence Donovan Research Library.

March 28, 6:30 p.m., Random Thoughts Book Club, North Columbus Public Library.