Every strong writer belongs to a book club, or two. Lively discussion of well-written novels, and even some not-so-well-written, trigger creativity, boost  imagination and inspire writers.

The ladies in my book club are no different. Each month, the 10 of us discuss, critique and discover new worlds through the words of a writer.

For our June meeting, we’re reading “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien.  His book is one of many listed as suggested reading as part of the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read.

The Big Read provides readers with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities. It includes innovative reading programs in selected cities and towns, comprehensive resources for discussing classic literature .

In 2004, a report by the NEA, Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, revealed that not only is literary reading in America declining rapidly among all groups, but that the rate of decline has accelerated, especially among the young.

“A great book combines enlightenment with enchantment. It awakens our imagination and enlarges our humanity. It can even offer harrowing insights that somehow console and comfort us.” — NEA Big Read

The NEA started The Big Read as a pilot project in 2006 with ten communities featuring four books. It has expanded to include more communities and additional books. Their library is expansive, including: “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, “A Farewell to Arms” by Enest Hemingway, “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan and one of my favorites, “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett. For a complete list visit www.NEABigRead.org.

Click to learn more about “The Things They Carried.”