For the past decade, the Pioneer Library System has made its PLS Big Read and NEA Big Read a tradition in the springtime each year. And the 11th edition of the event is bringing literature into the 11 communities served by the library system with programs slated throughout March.
This year marks the first time the book has been a nonfiction selection and also the first time it's come from outside the NEA's list. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, focuses on a difficult topic – the end of life. The author, a practicing surgeon, looks into the way medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.
The PLS Big Read is presented this year in a collaboration between PLS and the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.
Two separate programs throughout the PLS service area during the PLS Big Read will focus on the book:
Each PLS Hometown library will host a scholar-moderated community book discussion of Being Mortal. Those discussions will be:
Blanchard, 5:30 p.m. Feb. 28;
Shawnee, 7 p.m. March 2;
Norman Central, 2 p.m. March 5;
McLoud, 6 p.m. March 7;
Newcastle, 6 p.m. March 7;
Noble, 1 p.m. March 9;
Purcell, 6 p.m. March 9;
Southwest Oklahoma City, 6:30 p.m. March 9;
Tecumseh, 6:30 p.m. March 9;
Norman West, 7 p.m. March 13;
Moore, 5:30 p.m. March 20
Also, each library will host a screening for the FRONTLINE film "Being Mortal," followed by a panel discussion of local authorities. The 60-minute film was produced by the WGBH Educational Foundation in Boston.
Dates for this presentation are:
Norman Central, 6 p.m. March 9;
Tecumseh, 6:30 p.m. March 14;
McLoud, 6 p.m. March 21;
Moore, 6 p.m. March 21;
Newcastle, 6 p.m. March 21;
Shawnee, 7 p.m. March 21;
Blanchard, 5:30 p.m. March 23;
Noble, 5:30 p.m. March 23;
Norman West, 2 p.m. March 25;
Purcell, 2 p.m. March 26;
Southwest Oklahoma City, 6:30 p.m. March 29
PLS has an experienced group of scholars who will share duties facilitating the programs during the PLS Big Read:
Carolyn Ann Barry Cole, Crouch-Mathis Professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University from 1987 to 2012. She received a Ph. D in English from the University of Louisiana in 1984 and conducted dissertation and research on English medieval and renaissance literature and Latin American literature.
Bob French, an attorney with Monnet, Hayes, Bullis, Thompson & Edwards PLLC in Oklahoma City and musician. He has participated in past PLS Big Reads as a scholar in book discussions and other Big Read presentations.
Katheleen R. Guzman, MAPCO/Williams Presidential Professor in the OU College of Law. She works on an Oklahoma wills and trusts treatise and has written a variety of articles on the intersection between property, culture and law.
Rebecca Huskey, Associate Professor of Classic and Letters at OU. She has a background in 19th and 20th Century European though with a concentration in ethics and theology. Her scholarship includes a book on Paul Ricoeur's concept of hope and presentations on religious imagery in poetry and fiction and the intersections of religion and literature.
Annette H. Prince, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, OU Health Sciences Center. She has been a national lecturer on health law and ethics for Professional Educational Systems, Inc., in more than a dozen states, and was Oklahoma Social Worker of the Year in 2011.
Robert C. Salinas, Associate Professor in the OU College of Medicine. Dr. Salinas is board-certified in family medicine and holds a certificate of advanced qualifications in geriatric medicine and hospice and palliative medicine. He serves as Director of Community Medicine for the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine.
Cynthia Thomas, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Assistant Professor in the OU Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, where she educates physicians and social work students on behavioral health and community medicine topics.
In addition to previously featuring fiction works, Pioneer's Big Read events also have tended to feature older classics, like True Grit, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Grapes of Wrath. But this year's title was published less than three years ago, in late 2014, through Henry Holt and Company, Inc., with an international edition released in 2015 through Picador.
Being Mortal was the 2015 Indies Choice Book Award winner in the Adult Non-Fiction category. The author also is the recipient of the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science and two national magazine awards.
Sponsors for this year's PLS Big Read are the Pioneer Library System Foundation and the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation.