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UT freshmen have been busy reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel as part of the Life of the Mind common reading program administered by First-Year Studies.

Now the whole community is getting involved.

Station Eleven artUT’s First-Year Studies is partnering with the Knox County Public Library to encourage people throughout the area to read Station Eleven during this year’s National Endowment of the Arts Big Read program.

The Big Read kicks off at noon Wednesday, October 4, at the stage on Market Square.

The kickoff event will feature remarks by UT Director of First-Year Studies Jason Mastrogiovanni, Knox County Chief of Staff Dean Rice, and Library Director Myretta Black. In keeping with the book’s theme, the event will also feature music by a string quartet from the UT School of Music, a scene from King Lear by the Tennessee Stage Company, and a display of artwork by UT students who have read the book.

From October 4 through November 13, there will be a variety of Big Read events, including book discussions, board games, movie screenings, and a visit from the author.

Station ElevenSt. John Mandel will speak at 5:30 p.m. Monday, November 13, in Cox Auditorium in UT’s Alumni Memorial Building. First-year students are urged to go. The event is free and open to the public; reservations are required because space is limited. Reserve a seat online.

For a detailed schedule of local Big Read events, visit the Knox County Public Library website.

“Partnering with Knox County Public Library allows us to extend our programming options around the Life of the Mind,” said Mastrogiovanni. “Through discussions and events in Knox, Sevier, and Blount Counties, Life of the Mind moves beyond the boundaries of campus and welcomes first-year students not only to academic life at UT but also to the greater Knoxville community.”

Mastrogiovanni said the art display at the kickoff will highlight what UT’s first-year students were asked to do as their first college assignment.

“Each year, first-year students are asked to provide a creative expression related to the common read book,” he said. “This year exceptional student work based on Station Eleven will be showcased on Market Square during the Big Read program launch. We want Knoxville to see some of the work being done by the exceptional students we have at UT. We also want our students to know they have chosen a university that values community involvement and thoughtful dialogue.”

The Knox County Public Library will give out 100 free copies of Station Eleven on a first-come, first-served basis. Additional books will be available to organizations upon request while supplies last.

An award-winning international best seller, Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic novel published in 2014. It tells the story of a small band of actors and musicians 20 years after a flu pandemic has wiped out 99 percent 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 in both the present and the future and of the power of art and relationships to fulfill us, sustain us, and nurture us back to our best selves.

Knox County is one of 75 communities nationwide participating in the NEA Big Read between now and June 2018.


Heather Davis, UT First Year Studies, (865-974-3523, 

Mary Pom Claiborne, Knox County Library (865-215-8767,