2019 Community Read

As part of the Center for American Literary Studies's commitment to public reading, CALS proudly partners with the Centre County Library system to sponsor a joint CALS/Centre County Reads community read annually. Information about each year's book choice and events can be found in the links below.

Shared texts constitute a key form of community building. Whether readers agree or disagree about the interpretation of a given text, the act of discussing a text, offering cogent arguments about a text, and negotiating what a text might mean brings them together.

2019 Community Read

For 2019, Centre County Reads/CALS Community Read partnered with Creative Writing at Penn State to celebrate PSU alumna Katie Fallon, author of Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird. Our programming this year explored questions related to nature, migration, and the nonhuman, and included a roundtable discussion and a writing contest before we welcomed Fallon herself back to campus on April 4. Details for these and other events are posted below.

Read CALS undergraduate intern Emily Morrison's review of Fallon's book in the Centre Daily Times, or listen to it on WPSU's BookMark!


Kickoff of "Writing the Nonhuman" Writing Contest | All entries due to cals@psu.edu by March 11, 2019

As birds that travel far from their native North American habitat, turkey vultures venture across many different kinds of borders, including in the ways that they are perceived in different cultures or geographic areas. Inspired by this bird and its journey, contestants entered their best example of writing—7,500 words or less—from the point of view of the nonhuman—from the perspective of an animal, vegetable, or any other object—in one of the following categories: Best Short Fiction, Best Nonfiction, Best Poetry, and Best Entry for a writer under 18.

Winners received a $200 grand prize. Winning entries were displayed at Schlow Centre Region Library and on the CALS website.

Congratulations to all of our winners! Read the prize-winning writing contest entries here.

Film Night at the Library (State College) | Tuesday, January 29, 6:00-8:00 PM | Schlow Library

Centre County Reads was in the Downsbrough Community Room of Schlow Library to watch and discuss Winged Migration (G, 90min). This family-friendly documentary (2003) focuses on the migratory patterns of birds, shot over the course of three years on all seven continents.

Winged Migration (2001) movie poster


Film Night at the Library (Bellefonte) | Friday, February 1, 1:00-4:00 PM | Centre County Library and Historical Society

Centre County Library and Historical Museum watched and discussed Winged Migration (G, 90min). This family-friendly documentary (2003) focuses on the migratory patterns of birds, shot over the course of three years on all seven continents.

Winter Bird Walk | Saturday, February 23, 2:00-3:00 PM | Millbrook Marsh Nature Center

CALS and Centre County Libraries were at Millbrook Marsh while we met some of our feathered friends that call the marsh their home during the winter months. The walk, open to all ages with any level of experience, was held at a moderate pace and focused on bird survival techniques.


"The Changing Nature of Nature Writing" Roundtable Discussion | Tuesday, March 12, 3:30-5:00 PM | Mann Assembly Room, Paterno Library

In Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird, author Katie Fallon illustrates a wide variety of possibilities, ranging from the scientific to the literary, for representing “nature” in writing. Inspired by Vulture’s diverse approach to nature writing, this roundtable invited three panelists to think together about how writers and researchers from different backgrounds interact with the natural spaces around us.

Panelists included:

  • McKay Jenkins, Cornelius Tilghman Professor of English, Journalism and Environmental Humanities at the University of Delaware, whose articles and books on people and the natural world include (most recently) Food Fight: GMOs and the Future of the American Diet; ContamiNation: My Quest to Survive in a Toxic World; and Bloody Falls of the Coppermine: Madness and Murder in the Arctic Barren Lands;
  • Talley Kayser, director of the Adventure Literature program in the Penn State English department, whose work includes both scholarly and creative writing about place, space, gender, and materiality;
  • and Elizabeth Hajek, Associate Professor of Geosciences, whose research and writing about Earth's stratigraphic record crosses disciplinary and geographic boundaries.
Following the panelists’ opening statements there was ample time for question and answer with the audience.

Meet the Creek | Sunday, March 31, 2:30-4:00 PM | Shaver's Creek Environmental Center

Centre County Reads was at Shaver’s Creek to bring back the center’s weekend animal program in the raptor center. Inspired by Katie Fallon’s Vulture: the Private Life of an Unloved Bird, we celebrated these fascinating ecosystem cleaners. We met the Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center’s resident Turkey and Black Vultures, as well as other avian scavengers, such as Bald and Golden Eagles.


Evening with Katie Fallon | Thursday, April 4, 7:30-9:00 PM | Assembly Room, Nittany Lion Inn

CALS, Centre County Reads, and Creative Writing were at Penn State for the culmination of the annual one book, one community read. Katie Fallon visited the Centre Region to discuss and read from Vulture: the Private Life of an Unloved Bird. A book signing followed.