2015 Community Read

The 2015 Centre County Reads/CALS Community Read of Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins features an exciting schedule of events, including a CALS-sponsored writing contest, a roundtable discussion, and an opportunity to hear from the featured author.  Please find details for these events below.  And make sure to check out the website of our partner, Centre County Reads, for a complete rundown of the community read events! All events are free and open to the public.


cleopatra_1963_manifesto_ischia.jpgRed Carpet Kick-Off: Cleopatra at the State Theatre
February 16 | 6:30 p.m.
State Theater (130 W. College Avenue, State College)

Centre County Reads has rolled out the red carpet for its twelfth annual celebration of community activities and discussion centered around a single book. Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins, this year’s selection, tells the story of an almost-love affair that begins during the making of the 1963 film Cleopatra in Italy and is rekindled fifty years later in Hollywood.

This year’s events commence on Monday, February 16 with an "Old Hollywood" themed movie gala at the historic State Theater featuring a viewing of the 1963 feature classic Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  Dress in your “Oscars best” and have your photo taken in our paparazzi booth before the show. The red carpet walk begins at 6:30pm with the film showing at 7pm.

This event is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit the Centre County Reads website.


“Beautiful Ruins” Writing Contest
Deadline, March 2, 2015

This contest is a part of the 2015 Centre Country Reads/CALS Community Read of New York Times bestselling author Jess Walter’s novel Beautiful Ruins. Beautiful Ruins interweaves many stories—an Italian romance, an Old Hollywood miracle, and the struggles of a young filmmaker—in which “beautiful ruins” are embodied in the characters, their memories, and the novel’s multiple settings.

Enter your best writing—7,500 words or less—on what you perceive to be a “beautiful ruin,” whether a person, place, object, or memory, in one of the following categories:

  • Best Short Fiction
  • Best Nonfiction
  • Best Poetry
  • Best Short Film or Video
  • Best Entry for a Writer Under 18

$200 grand prize and additional prizes for winners in each category

Send your entry to cals@psu.edu. Be sure to include a cover letter with your name, address, contact information, and a brief biography. Video entries should be posted to Youtube with the URL included in your email (Please do not email media files to CALS). Winning entries to be displayed at Schlow Centre Region Library.

Click here to read the winning entries!

Hollywood_Poster_Small.jpg Hollywood: A Roundtable Discussion
March 5, 2015 | 3:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
Mann Assembly Room, Penn State Pattee-Paterno Library

In Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter explores the global impact of Hollywood on twentieth-century thought, culture, and aesthetics. In this roundtable discussion, panelists will discuss the influence of Golden Age Hollywood on American history, including its effects on literary fiction, celebrity culture, the modern studio system, and contemporary entertainment. The discussion will feature three panelists—Marsha Gordon, Associate Professor of Film Studies at North Carolina State and the author of Hollywood Ambitions; Penn State’s James L. W. West III, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English; and Penn State’s Kevin Hagopian, Senior Lecturer, Media Studies. Following their opening statements, the panelists will invite questions from the audience.

An Evening with Jess Walter
March 17, 2015 | 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Penn State HUB Robeson Auditorium

Book signing to follow . Visitor Parking: HUB Parking Deck (next to the HUB on Shortlidge Road)

Join us for a “beautiful” night of literary conversation with bestselling author Jess Walter, whom The Philadelphia Inquirer has called “a genius of the modern American moment.” Walter will speak about the development of Beautiful Ruins and then respond to questions from the audience about his work.

Jess Walter is the author of eight books, including the New York Times bestsellers Beautiful Ruins and The Financial Lives of the Poets. In addition, The Zero was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award and Citizen Vince won the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe award. His most recent book, the short story collection We Live in Water, was long-listed for the Story Prize and the Frank O’Connor International Story Prize. His books have been published in 30 languages and his short fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Harpers, McSweeney's, and Esquire, and he is the recipient of numerous awards. He is the 2015 Steven Fisher Writer-in-Residence at Penn State.

Reading by Jess Walter (2014/2015 Steven Fisher Writer-in-Residence)
March 19 | 7:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m.

Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library

Jess Walter—the 2014-2015 Steven Fisher Writer-in-Residence at Penn State—will read from his published work and work-in-progress at Foster Auditorium. Jess Walter is the author of eight books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller  Beautiful Ruins. He was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award and won the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award. His short fiction has appeared in  Best American Short Stories, Harper’s, Esquire, McSweeney's and many other publications.

This reading is part of the Mary E. Rolling Reading Series. For more information, please visit the Creative Writing at Penn State website.


Centre County Reads is sponsored by CALS, Centre County Library and Historical Museum, the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, and Schlow Centre Region Library. We also offer special thanks to our 2015 partners: the State Theater, WPSU, The Centre Daily Times, Barnes & Noble, and Penn State Creative Writing.