Arts and Entertainment

The Big Read

If there was one book everyone (or at least the entirety of Kitsap County) should read, Cindy Harrison thinks that selection would be Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

There’s a whole host of classics out there that are both beautifully penned but also incredibly poignant. But the reason she chose Bradbury’s book is because, scarily similar to how it’s laid out in the 1950s novel, the literary medium is in peril in today’s society.

That same sentiment is what prompted the National Endowment for the Arts to sponsor The Big Read — a national initiative (est. 2006) to restore reading to the center of American culture by rallying communities around a particular book, invoking fellowship, discussion and ideally a love for reading.

“That’s the mission,” said Harrison, former manager of the Kitsap Regional Library Bainbridge branch. “And the idea is that you do this one community at a time.”

Thanks to Harrison’s efforts in applying for an NEA grant and getting involved in the program, the Bainbridge Island and greater Kitsap community will be joining the fight this year.

And with a month full of both ongoing and one-night-only programs and events, “The Big Read” seems like more than just a moniker here.

It all kicks off with an afternoon with Seattle-based science fiction/fantasy writer Terry Brooks at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Bainbridge Library. Later in the month, Bainbridge groups and programs like the Great Decisions Series, the Island Theatre readers and the Bainbridge High School debate team will host science fiction/“Fahrenheit 451” centered events.

It all culminate with a special showing of the 1966 film version of “Fahrenheit 451” and ensuing discussion with Seattle Science Fiction museum curator Brooks Peck Feb. 26 at the Lynwood Theatre.

“The feedback I’ve received on this book has been, ‘I can’t believe this was written in the 1950s,’” Harrison said. “This is a book for today.”

The story is set in an unspecified future where American society has become blatantly ignorant enough to declare a ban on all books, with the minimum penalty for owning them being confinement in a mental hospital.

Citizens are entertained by an interactive form of television and in-ear radio devices. Readers have been cast out by society and are living like vagabonds in the woods, while the truth held in literature is going up in smoke.

Though we don’t yet have any fireman, like “Fahrenheit 451’s” protagonist Guy Montag, tasked with burning all books and the houses that hold them, parallels between Bradbury’s imagined literary-less future and today’s society are unsettlingly apparent.

The Big Read Events on Bainbridge:

• 4 p.m., Feb. 3 — “An afternoon with Terry Brooks” at the Bainbridge Library, 1270 Madison Ave. N. The Seattle-based author will discuss his new graphic novel and the role of science fiction and fantasy in American literature and culture.

• 1:30 p.m. Feb. 6 — “Capturing the Imagination with speculative fiction” at the Bainbridge Library, 1270 Madison Ave. N. Martha Bailey will talk about the history, trends and titles of the genre.

• 6 p.m. Feb. 6 — Mayor Darlene Kordonowy launches The Big Read at city hall, 280 Madison Ave. N.

• 9:30 a.m. Feb. 9 — “Talking to our Enemies, Civic Engagement on a Global Scale” at the Bainbridge Library. The Great Decisions Group will explore “Fahrenheit 451’s” theme of civic engagement.

• 7 p.m., Feb. 12 — Public Forum at Bainbridge Island High School LGI classroom, 9330 High School Road. The BIHS debate team will initiate a public discussion on the impact of TV and other media on American reading habits.

• 1 p.m., Feb. 14 — The Second Thursday Book Group will discuss “Fahrenheit 451” at the Bainbridge Library.

• 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 and 17 — Island Theatre Play Reading at the Bainbridge Library. Island Theatre presents a staged reading of A.R. Gurney’s play “The Fourth Wall” in honor of The Big Read.

• 7 p.m. Feb. 19 — Field’s End Writers’ Roundtable at the Bainbridge Library. Paul Hanson, manager of Eagle Harbor Book Company will facilitate the discussion: “How necessary are truth and reality in speculative fiction?”

• 1 p.m. Feb. 20 — “Preserving books through treasured memories” at the Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center, 370 Brien Dr. Share memories of the authors and writings you treasure through dramatic readings of favorite poems and stories.

• 7 p.m. Feb. 26 — “Fahrenheit 451” at the Lynwood Theatre, 4569 Lynwood Center Road. Members of the Bainbridge Science Fiction Book Club and Brooks Peck, curator for Seattle’s Science Fiction Museum will lead a discussion following a special screening of the 1966 film version of Bradbury’s classic.

The Big Read on Bainbridge will also include student essay and art competitions and an online blog soon to come for online discussion at krl451.blogspot.com. Info: Contact the Bainbridge branch of the Kitsap Regional Library at (206) 842-4162 or www.krl.org.

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