California Reads

California Reads

War Comes Home

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How do we come together to talk about things that matter to us all? California Reads provides a springboard to think about and discuss ideas that are critical to life in our state using a diverse set of five thought-provoking books.


California Reads invites Californians from all walks of life throughout our state to participate in reading and discussion programs and related activities hosted by libraries, schools, colleges, bookstores and other community institutions. In 2012 we engaged hundreds of thousands of people in book-based programs as part of the Searching for Democracy project. Click HERE to see descriptions of all the California Reads library projects.

To coincide with our next thematic initiative, our next statewide read, to take place in 2014, will focus on the veteran experience, aiming to increase public understanding and empathy for those who have served, as well as to spark a public conversation on how best we can support the process of reincorporating  our veterans into the fabric of civilian life.

To anchor the read, on the recommendation of an advisory group of librarians, scholars, book professionals, journalists, and veterans advocates, we have selected Karl Marlantes' What It Is Like to Go to War. Marlantes is a Vietnam veteran, a Rhodes Scholar, and the author of the New York Times best-selling novel Matterhorn. His newest book has received much reader and critical acclaim since publication in 2011, and has frequently been cited by veterans as the work that best expresses their experience. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it “ought to be mandatory reading by potential infantry recruits and by residents of any nation that sends its kids—Marlantes’s word—into combat.”

Over the next year, we will be developing programs and resources in collaboration with the California Center for the Book and the California State Library, as well as others, to assist libraries, schools, colleges and universities, booksellers, and other community-based partners to conduct programming in 2014. The big idea? To stimulate a thoughtful reflection of, and lively discussion among, friends and neighbors, families and strangers about a matter of pressing importance to our communities.


Cal Humanities and partners have developed resources to support participation by libraries, schools, colleges and universities, museums, booksellers, and community organizations and government agencies, along with interested individuals. Discussion guides for each book provide an overview of the book and author, a series of discussion questions to begin conversations, a brief author interview, bibliographies, and other supplemental resources for interested readers. A K-12 curriculum guide for each book is also available (see below) to further support classroom activities. All of these materials, along with additional resources and information about War Comes Home and California Reads public programs and activities at libraries and other community venues, can be found here on our website. Check our calendar for upcoming events in your area.

Discussion Guide

Interested in hosting your own book discussion? Download and share our California Reads discussion guide.

What It Is Like to Go to War Discussion Guide

Curriculum Guide

Interested in California Reads book-related resources for your classroom? Download and share our California Reads curriculum guide.

What It Is Like to Go to War Curriculum Guide

Additional Resources

War Comes Home Partner Resources (logos, images, etc.)

List of CA Reads Grants

Map of 2014 CAR Libraries

California Reads is a program of Cal Humanities in partnership with the California Center for the Book. It is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.

We thank the California Center for the Book and initiative partners for working closely with us on this round of California Reads.

For more information about this grant and resource program, please contact Senior Program Officer Felicia Kelley.

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