2024 NEA Big Read Program Information and Recordings

The 2024 NEA Big Read has completed, but you can still check below for our program recordings

Through the 2024 NEA Big Read initiative, the Pennington Public Library aims to brought our community together around one book, Circe by Madeline Miller. This program broadened our imaginations and understanding of our world, our neighbors, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. See below for program recordings.

Book Summary

Circe retells the story of the eponymous Greek mythological figure. Although traditionally viewed as a heartless, beautiful witch who turns men into swine, the Circe of Madeline Miller’s imagining has more depth. This Circe is a multidimensional, flawed, and empathetic character struggling to find meaning and worth in her immortal life. Through Miller’s detailed and honest first-person narrative, which takes place over thousands of years, Circe becomes relatable.

Born to Helios, god of the sun and the mightiest of Titans, Circe is strange, not powerful like her father, nor alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts, and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods from whom she is born or the mortals she has come to love.

We have also curated a list of age-appropriate companion titles for our community’s young readers. These books explore traditional stories from cultures around the globe, ranging from the Greek mythology of Circe to Vietnamese legends.

Past Programs & Events

Speaker & Lecture Recordings

Sunday, February 25 @ 3:00 pm via Zoom
Kickoff: Author Daniel Mendelsohn (An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and an Epic) in Conversation with Rev. Dr. Gordon S. Mikoski, Ph.D.)
Recording Available

Thursday, February 29 @ 7:00 pm via Zoom
When a Bit-Part Player Becomes the Protagonist: Examining the Impact of a Retelling
with Storyteller Joanne Epply-Schmidt
Recording Coming Soon

Thursday, March 14 @ 1:00 pm Hybrid In-Person and via Zoom
Nutrition the Mediterranean Way with Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health
Recording Coming Soon

April 2, @ 7:00 pm via Zoom
Author Keynote: Madeline Miller in Conversation with Author/Illustrator George O’Connor.
In partnership with the Hopewell Valley Regional School District and the Miami Book Fair
Recording available

Speakers & Workshops

March – April 2024 Available @ Pennington Public Library & through listed local businesses 
Take Home Craft: God’s Eye Weaving Kits

Sunday, March 3 from 1:00 – 4:30 pm @ Hopewell Valley Central High School
A Little Like Spell Work: Writing About Crafts and Crafting
(A Guided Autobiography Workshop)

Wednesday, March 6 @ 7:00 pm via Zoom
Art Talk: Explore Ancient Greece with the Princeton University Art Museum

Saturday, March 9 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm @ YWCA Princeton
Circe’s Strength: Self Defense for Women, Teens & Adults

Sunday, March 10 @ 3:00 pm @ Pennington Public Library
Cultivating the Herb Garden of the Gods with Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County

Wednesday, March 13 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm @ The Watershed Institute
Circe’s Magic: A Family Exploration of Plants (with a Craft and Tea!)

Saturday, March 16 @ 2:00 – 3:30 pm @ Pennington United Methodist Church
Family-Friendly Art Workshop: Discovering Your Magic
with Jane Zamost and the Hopewell Valley Arts Council

Wednesday, March 20 @ 7 pm @ Pennington Public Library
Circe’s Loom: Hands-on Weaving Presentation with Twist Knitting and Spinning

Saturday, March 23 from 10:00 – 11:30 am @ Pennington Public Library
Family Art Workshop: Daily Life in Ancient Greece & Make Your Own Greek Vase
with the Princeton University Art Museum

Wednesday, March 27 from @ 7 pm via Zoom
Flavors of Greece Cooking Class with Thirsty Radish
Marinated Pork
Feta Dip
Quinoa Salad with Grilled Lemon Dressing

March 28 – April 6, Drop-In @ Pennington Public Library
Make and Take Eclipse Viewers 

Saturday, April 6, @ 1:00 – 2:30 pm @ Pennington Public Library
Wild Edibles: A Foraging Talk & Walk with Author Debbie Naha-Koretzky

Sunday, April 14, @ 3:00 pm @ The Pennington School
A Way with Words: An Afternoon of Multicultural Storytelling
with Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum

Friday, April 26, 8 pm @ Washington Crossing State Park Observatory
“Such a Constellation Was He to Me”: Stargazing
with Amateur Astronomers Association of Princeton

Book Discussions

Thursday, March 7 @ 2:00 pm via Zoom
Companion Book Discussion: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Pennington Library Adult Book Club

Tuesday, March 12 @ 7:30 pm, Pennington Public Library
Companion Book Discussion: Galatea by Madeline Miller
Too Busy for Books Book Club

Thursday, March 28 @ 7:00 pm via Zoom
Book Discussion: Circe by Madeline Miller

Thursday, April 11 @ 7:00 pm, Pennington Public Library
Book Discussion: Circe by Madeline Miller