Library to partner with Friends of the Library and UTK’s office of First-Year Studies on a six-week exploration of Station Eleven


Knox County Public Library, in partnership with UT’s office of First-Year Studies, will launch its National Endowment for the Arts Big Read program in celebration of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel at 12:00 p.m. on October 4 on the stage at Market Square. The NEA Big Read in Knox County is made possible by a grant to the Friends of the Knox County Public Library on behalf of KCPL.


The kick-off event will feature remarks by UT First-Year Studies Director Jason Mastrogiovanni, Knox County Chief of Staff Dean Rice, Library Director Myretta Black, and in keeping with the theme of the book,  music by the UT String Ensemble and a scene from “King Lear” by the Tennessee Stage Company. The Library will give out 200 free copies of “Station Eleven” on a first-come, first-served basis. For those who are not able to pick up the book at that time, the Library has multiple copies available to check out.


The post-apocalyptic novel has become an international best seller and was named best book of the year on multiple lists. Published by Knopf in 2014, it tells the story of a small band of actors and musicians 20 years after a flu pandemic has wiped out 99% of the Earth’s population. Like other books in the genre, it highlights the fragility of our existence, our violent nature, and our capacity to survive despite the inevitable hardships of starvation, loneliness, and chaos. But this is where the similarities taper off, for the story Emily St. John Mandel chooses to tell is not one of horror and mayhem that even she admits would befall the survivors in the immediate aftermath of a complete societal collapse. “Station Eleven” describes a world of hope, of people coping with nostalgia and loss, and of the power of art and relationships to fulfill us, sustain us, and nurture us back to our best selves.

During the Big Read, the public is invited to participate in dozens of activities and programs inspired by “Station Eleven,” including:

  • Talk about it: book discussions at locations across three counties
  • Game on: Pandemic, the Board Game
  • Apocalypse WOW: workshops at The Central Collective teaching survival skills
  • Help! SOS! Mayday!: A panel discussion of Knox Area Emergency Management Experts and a tour of the 911 call center and command headquarters
  • The fever that was fatal to so many: a history of outbreaks and epidemics in East Tennessee from the plague to the Spanish flu — presented by Jack Neely
  • What’s art got to do with it?: A panel discussion with community art leaders about the importance of art
  • “Survival is Insufficient” contest: a creative response to the book
For details and a full schedule of events, please visit


Knox County is one of 75 communities nationwide participating in the NEA Big Read from September 2017-June 2018. From October 4 through November 13 our community will celebrate Station Eleven in three counties with a full calendar of events including book discussions, board games, movie screenings and a visit from author, Emily St. John Mandel. For a detailed schedule, please visit or see the attached program.


“We are pleased to work with the Library, UT, and a variety organizations to help our community turn its focus to one book. When we read one book together, we have a common experience that helps us unite and consider different perspectives,” said Maggie Carini, President of the Friends of the Library. “Station Eleven is a particularly powerful novel that can speak to people of all ages, from teens to seniors. It is a highly engaging and hopeful story.”


Knox County Public Library has participated in the NEA Big Read on five other occasions; most recently, KCPL partnered with UT’s Clarence Brown Theatre for an exploration of Ernest Gaines’s classic novel, A Lesson Before Dying. This year’s collaboration with UT’s office of First-Year Studies provides the opportunity to bring both the university and the town together again through a common text.


An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.


For more information on this event, please contact Mary Pom Claiborne at (865) 215-8767 or by email at You also can view a full calendar of events for the NEA Big Read in greater Knoxville at