2015 Common Reading author Emily St. John Mandel to speak at SMU Wednesday, Sept. 9

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, North American coverEmily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven, the 2015 SMU Common Reading selection, will present a free lecture at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, at McFarlin Auditorium. The entire community is invited to attend.

Station Eleven is set 20 years after a virus has killed almost all humanity. The main characters are a traveling troupe of actors and musicians who bring performances of Shakespeare to the small and struggling human settlements that remain. The novel tells the story of the global disaster in real time and of its survivors 20 years later.

Community members, alumni, book lovers and book clubs are invited to join SMU Reads, a program that encourages reading and supports literacy in the Dallas community. SMU Reads participants can take part in other events planned by the University’s SMU Reads partner, the Dallas Public Library.

By registering to take part in SMU Reads, you will receive regular e-mails informing you about special events and gatherings. In addition, you also will qualify to purchase Station Eleven at a 10 percent discount through the SMU Barnes & Noble bookstore.

Upcoming events include survivalist training at REI, urban emergency preparedness from Dallas County health leaders at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library and a pop-up performance of King Lear performed by Shakespeare Dallas.

Partners in SMU Reads include Big D Reads, Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, Dallas Public Library, Dallas Social Venture Partners, Deep Vellum, Friends of the SMU Libraries, Highland Hotel, Highland Park Library, Highland Park Literary Festival, Richardson Public Library, Shakespeare Dallas, SMU Alumni Relations, the SMU Barnes and Noble Bookstore, University Park Public Library, Well Read Women of Dallas, and Wild Detectives.

For more details about events and to preregister for Mandel’s lecture visit smu.edu/smureads.

Written by Nancy George

> Visit the SMU Common Reading website

SMU’s 2015 Common Reading explores the end, and beginning, of civilization with Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, North American coverSMU’s incoming class of 2019 will read and discuss the first work of speculative fiction chosen for the University’s Common Reading program – Emily St. John Mandel’s acclaimed fourth novel, Station Eleven.

Mandel’s book explores a post-apocalyptic America in which a deadly strain of influenza has wiped out 99 percent of the world’s population, mere days after A-list actor Arthur Leander has died of a heart attack during a performance of King Lear. Leander’s fellow cast members who survive the pandemic band together as the Traveling Symphony, bringing music and theatre to the small and struggling human settlements that remain. The novel tells the story both of the global disaster in real time and of its survivors 20 years later.

A New York Times best-seller and 2014 National Book Award finalist, Station Eleven received the Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel of the year in May 2015. George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and FireGame of Thrones) chose it as his favorite book of 2014, calling it “beautifully written, and wonderfully elegiac.”

“This is a book not as much about apocalypse as it is about our human society, particularly the objects and technology we live with but take for granted on an everyday basis,” said Associate Provost Harold Stanley in an e-mail to faculty and staff members dated Thursday, April 16, 2015. “…[T]he book enables readers to consider how art can create meaning and value in the most constrained of human circumstances.”

Station Eleven is the third work of fiction chosen for the University’s Common Reading since the program began in 2004. The first, How to Be Good by Nick Hornby, was the Common Reading book in 2007; We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulaweyo ’07 was the 2014 selection.

Past SMU Common Reading books also include Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman (2004), Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (2005), The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (2006), The Devil’s Highway by Luís Alberto Urrea (2008), Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama (2009), Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (2010), The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2011), The Big Short by Michael Lewis (2012), and The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2013).

The Common Reading Selection Committee is now seeking leaders for the pre-Convocation reading discussion on Sunday, Aug. 23. Discussion leaders will receive a free copy of the book. Active and emeritus professors from all SMU schools are invited to take part, as well as University staff members.

In addition, St. John Mandel will give a public lecture for the entire community at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, in McFarlin Auditorium.

To volunteer as a discussion leader, or for more information on this year’s selection, contact David Doyle.

> Watch for more information at SMU’s Common Reading homepage: smu.edu/commonreading