Big Read Lakeshore

reading on the lakeshore

Reading can be solitary, but on the lakeshore, every fall it blossoms into community 

By Ann Smith


In September and October, folks from Muskegon south to Douglas and Allegan will be turning the pages of the 2019 bestseller “Circe” to get ready for the Nov. 1 kickoff of Big Read Lakeshore.

Each fall since 2014, the weeks-long series of events has brought West Michiganders together to hear authors speak and to discuss the featured book in library-sponsored gatherings. Many towns’ schools have related programs for preschoolers through teenagers, with age-appropriate books.

“Circe,” a novel by Madeline Miller, reimagines the ancient tale of Homer’s “Odyssey” and brings a female character to center stage. The books selected for children and teens are inspired by “The Odyssey,” too, and each one gives it a unique, modern twist.

“When we imagine things from a different perspective, it gives us new insight into a well-known story,” said Deb Van Duinen, the Hope College professor who directs Big Read Lakeshore.

This year’s “Little Read” book for youngest readers, “Last Stop on Market Street,” recasts Homer’s epic poem as a little boy’s crosstown bus trip to a food pantry with his grandmother.

Last stop on Market Street
Last stop on Market Street

“It’s playing off the idea of who is a hero, and the hero’s journey, which Odysseus made famous,” Van Duinen said. “What does it mean to be a hero in our own community?”

Muskegon is participating for the first time, with library programs plus a daylong visit to schools there by Matt de la Peña, author of “Last Stop on Market Street.” On Nov. 9, he and Madeline Miller will speak on the Hope campus in Holland.

Want to get your hands on a copy of “Circe”? It should be easy: some 1,500 copies purchased with Big Read grant funds are reaching libraries and schools in early September, and you can buy it at a discount at three lakeshore bookstores: The Bookman in Grand Haven, and Reader’s World and the Hope College Bookstore in Holland. Participating libraries will host book giveaways in early October.

Big Read Lakeshore is part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ nationwide Big Read program. Partial funding comes from grants by the NEA, Arts Midwest and Michigan Humanities, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2021, roughly 13,000 readers of all ages participated in Big Read Lakeshore events — and Michigan Humanities honored Big Read Lakeshore as the state’s Community Impact Partner of the Year.