Character, determination, adversity, leadership, diversity, enormity and survival – all are themes explored in Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea, a National Book Award winner for nonfiction and the basis for the 2015 movie directed by Ron Howard.

Using journals written by Owen Chase, first mate, and Thomas Nickerson, cabin boy, both crewmembers on the Essex’s fateful 1819 journey to the South Pacific in search of the prized sperm whale, as the starting point for this book, Philbrick, a trained journalist, researched further to explore the larger story of the men, the industry and the whaling culture of the time.

In the days before petroleum became the favored fuel, whale oil inspired a worldwide industry beginning in colonial times and ending in the early 20th century with the dominance of petroleum.  Massachusetts, with its favored ports of Nantucket and New Bedford, was at the forefront of this venture. In this year’s NEA Big Read: Attleboro, we will be exploring the themes and the history surrounding the tragic voyage of the whaleship Essex.

Our launch on September 7 will feature Nile, a 40 foot inflatable whale that visitors can enter to learn more about this magnificent creature. The Attleboro Arts Museum has partnered with students from Wheaton College to present Enormity, an exhibition exploring concepts of size and conflict. Acclaimed actor Stephen Collins will be offering a one man performance of Herman Melville’s life in Sailing Towards My Father. James Russell, Executive Director of the Nantucket Historical Association, will provide a lecture on the impact of the whaling industry on Nantucket. On October 3, author Nathaniel Philbrick, will be hosted by Bishop Feehan High School.  These are just a few highlights from our calendar of thought-provoking, educational and entertaining programs and book discussions being offered to enable you to share in the experience of this year’s NEA Big Read title In the Heart of the Sea.

Come aboard with us as we embark on our 13th Annual Community Read organized by Attleboro’s 1 ABC Committee! Thank you to the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest for awarding our community with its 12th NEA Big Read grant. Thanks also to our local funding partners, Bristol County Savings Bank Foundation, Attleboro Cultural Council, Friends of Attleboro Public Library, Trustees of Attleboro Public Library and the Rotary Club of Attleboro, without whose support we could not offer the rich calendar of events and opportunities for community discussion of a great book.

Oreste D’Arconte, Christine Johnson, Joan Pilkington-Smyth
NEA Big Read: Attleboro’s Co-Chairs