Few authors have ever, or will ever, write greater fiction than Leo Tolstoy. The Death of Ivan Ilyich—a stark, challenging, and concise book—deals, quite literally, with matters of life and death. This startling novella imparts a sense of awe and wonder at how profoundly Tolstoy reveals the heights and depths of our common humanity.
The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literary reading in American popular culture. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 NEA report, identified a critical decline in reading for pleasure among American adults. The Big Read addresses this issue by bringing communities together to read, discuss, and celebrate books and writers from American and world literature.
A great book combines enlightenment with enchantment. It awakens our imagination and enlarges our humanity. It can even offer harrowing insights that somehow console and comfort us. Whether you're a regular reader already or making up for lost time, thank you for joining The Big Read.
Leo Tolstoy, 1854 (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis)
Tolstoy's family home (Photo courtesy Andrew D. Kaufman)