Short Stories Can Be Big Reads

August 17, 2020 | Scottie Campbell
Short Stories Can Be Big Reads

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has encouraged communities across the country to read through their Big Read program. Showcasing a diverse range of books reflecting many different voices, the initiative aims to inspire conversation and broaden our perspective of the world. Since 2006, the NEA Big Read has funded more than 1,600 programs, reaching well over 5.7 million Americans.

This year, Orange County Library System partnered with Valencia College to successfully apply for the grant. Our Big Read will celebrate Kelly Link’s 2010 book Pretty Monsters with virtual programs and events from August 23–September 13. Link herself will kick the project off with a virtual author talk.

Now Massachusetts-based, Link was born in Miami, Florida. From a young age, she enjoyed being scared and she loved to read, both of which are reflected in Pretty Monsters, which is considered a young adult work. The Guardian aptly described the collection of short stories as “mixing fantasy, horror, the gothic and the supernatural, the stories… play host to a menagerie of untrustworthy wizards, talking corpses, vampiric ghosts and undead babysitters.”


"Whether or not this story has a happy ending depends, of course, on who is reading it. Whether you are a wolf or a girl." – Pretty Monsters


Anyone can suggest a title for Big Read, which means they come from a variety of sources including the public, NEA Big Read grantees and past Big Read panelists. The NEA matches the suggestion to a set of criteria, particularly that the book has the “capacity to incite lively and deep discussion,” but the works cover a variety of genres. Pretty Monsters sits in that collection alongside such noted books as Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Carson McCullersThe Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

“I just really love talking to people about stories,” said Link when asked what being a Big Read selection meant to her. “And so the idea that there are community events in which everybody has read the same book and then get together and discuss it with each other is really exciting regardless of whether or not it’s my book. The idea that it might be my book is really thrilling. The idea that people get to ask me questions, or tell me about something that it made them want to do is really, really exciting.”

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment of the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. To learn more about the NEA Big Read, visit For more information on this speaker, visit

For more on our celebration of Pretty Monsters or to receive a free craft pack and copy of the book, visit

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From book recommendations to pop culture discussions, the Orange County Library System wants you to join the conversation with library staff about the world around us.


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