The pages finally open on the Big Read NRV

Alex Vernon, The Big Read keynote speaker

The Big Read NRV, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, encourages community members to read a common book and attend events based on it.

The featured book, Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," explores the combat experiences of Vietnam veterans, but continues to resonate today.

"It's incredibly encouraging to know that there are this many people, reading the book, thinking about the book and thinking about that particular war," said Alex Vernon, the kickoff event's keynote speaker.

Vernon, an O'Brien scholar and professor of English at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, centered his presentation, "Field Notes on The Things They Carried," on the development of the text and its relation to the author's other works and personal experiences.

He also offered his thoughts on why "The Things They Carried" has remained an important touchstone in creating relationships among civilians and the veteran community.

"I've had veterans tell me they worry that Vietnam is passing out of memory, so books and events like this are important to keep it alive, especially given how much it resonates with the situation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans coming home," Vernon said.

Organizers of the Big Read NRV agree.

"We selected this title to provide opportunities to create dialogue around critical social and historical issues linked to our country being at war, both past and present," said Lisa Vassady, Big Read organizer and research help desk coordinator and instruction librarian at Radford University's McConnell Library.

McConnell Library is joined by several community partners in sponsoring The Big Read: New River Community College, Glencoe Museum, Montgomery County Public Schools, Radford Public Library and Virginia Tech's Center for the Study of Rhetoric in Society.

Free copies of "The Things They Carried" are available at many partner locations.

The New River Valley is one of only 75 communities around the country selected to host this year's Big Read. The $15,000 grant secured for the project is one of the largest ones in the country.

For more information and a full calendar of events, please visit The Big Read website.

Oct 6, 2015