NEA Big Read

Frequently Asked Questions

May I apply for an NEA Big Read grant as an individual?

No, only nonprofit organizations may apply for a grant, but there are many ways individuals can participate in, and/or benefit from, the NEA Big Read. You may:

  • Get some ideas for books to read and recommend to friends by visiting our Books section. We feature author bios, book descriptions, podcasts, discussion questions, and more.
  • Start a book club, discuss one of the books in the NEA Big Read library, and let us know how it goes by emailing us at or posting on Twitter (#NEABigRead).
  • Visit our Big Read map to see where programming may be happening near you.
  • Follow NEA Big Read on Twitter and Pinterest. Use #NEABigRead to share your experiences about the program and see how others are participating around the country.

How are organizations selected to participate in the NEA Big Read?

The application and guidelines for the NEA Big Read, developed by the National Endowment for the Arts and Arts Midwest, are available on our website and distributed nationwide to arts, cultural, literary, and civic organizations, such as libraries, museums, and local arts agencies. Organizations chosen to receive an NEA Big Read grant are selected by a panel of outside experts who review the proposed projects for artistic excellence and merit. Competitive applications demonstrate strong literary programming, experience in building effective local partnerships, reaching and engaging new and diverse audiences, working with educators, involving local and state public officials, and working with media.

What do organizations receive if they are selected to participate in the NEA Big Read?

Selected organizations receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 to support their NEA Big Read projects. In addition, the NEA offers online content for each reading selection, such as reader’s resources and audio interviews with the authors.

Prior to starting their projects, NEA Big Read grant recipients participate in a series of online activities to prepare them to host and promote the NEA Big Read in their communities. Online presentations include grant award management, strategies for hosting effective book discussions, and question-and-answer sessions featuring past NEA Big Read grantees and experts on a wide variety of topics.

NEA Big Read grantees also have access to a comprehensive website, which includes a virtual organizer's guide for running a successful NEA Big Read program and downloadable public relations templates and design elements. Grant recipients also receive publicity materials such as banners and bookmarks.

How are books selected for the NEA Big Read library?

Suggestions for new titles are collected from a variety of sources, including the public, NEA Big Read grantees, and past Big Read panelists. The National Endowment for the Arts narrows the list of suggestions based on criteria including the capacity to incite lively and deep discussion; the capacity to expand the range of voices, stories, and genres currently represented in our Big Read library; the capacity to interest lapsed and reluctant readers and/or to challenge avid readers and introduce them to new voices; and the capacity to inspire innovative programming for communities. A committee of outside readers representing a range of voices (including librarians, students, teachers, writers, booksellers, and publishers) review the books and make the final recommendations.

The complete catalogue of NEA Big Read titles, past and present, is available on the Books page.

To suggest a book for addition to the NEA Big Read list, fill out the form below:

The Big Read

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