The first National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read program at the Washington Public Library went off without a hitch Monday.

About 21 guests showed up for the “Fire, Pestilence and Death” presentation.

“It was great,” said Nelson Appell, interim library director.

The Big Read grant was awarded to Scenic Regional Library, which is partnering with the city library, East Central College, East Central Area Literacy Council and the Scenic Regional Library Foundation.

The $15,000 grant is geared toward getting the community to read the same book. The book chosen is “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel.

The 2014 book is set in the Great Lakes region after a flu pandemic has devastated the world, killing most of the population.

Monday night’s presentation tied the Great Fire of 1849 in St. Louis in with the pandemic in the book.

Appell said two-thirds of the guests were not regular attendees of library events.

“Over half of the attendees found out about the event through the Scenic Regional brochure,” he said. The brochure can be found at https://scenicregional.org/bigread/.

The presentation will be offered again in Pacific Thursday, Oct. 3, Warrenton Tuesday, Oct. 8, and Hermann Tuesday, Oct. 29.

The next Big Read program at the Washington library will take place Tuesday, Oct. 15, from 6-8 p.m. and will feature a survival escape room themed around the book.

Appell said they are asking people to register for that event. 

Big Read

The Big Read program is part of the NEA in partnership with Arts Midwest. The novel chosen for the program won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for the best science fiction novel in 2015. 

The programming, centered around the book, will continue through Tuesday, Nov. 5. Mandel will visit the John Edson Anglin Performing Arts Center at ECC that day.  

Throughout the six-week period, 77 free programs will be offered throughout Gasconade, Franklin and Warren counties.

Area high schools also are taking part of the program by incorporating the book into their senior English classes curriculum.

Scenic Regional Friends of the Library groups in Union, St. Clair, Warrenton, Pacific and Owensville purchased 750 copies for those classes.

A book giveaway for the public took place at all Scenic Regional Library branches and the city library in September. More than 1,800 copies had been purchased for this area.