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Announcing the NIH Big Read 2019

The NIH Library and the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES) are pleased to present the NIH Big Read 2019 ( which aims to foster collaboration and community across NIH through discussing a book over several months, culminating in an author event held at NIH.

The 2019 NIH Big Read book is “Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through the World's Strangest Brains” by Helen Thomson. Take a fascinating journey through the human mind, by way of nine extraordinary people with rare neurological disorders. By examining these stories, interwoven with explanations on how the brain works, we can explore and gain insights into the complexities and possibilities of all of our brains.

Read or Listen to the Book Through OverDrive (NIH STAFF ONLY) Unlimited access to the eBook and the audiobook is available via the NIH Library’s OverDrive platform (NIH staff only) through June 14. The link to access OverDrive is available on the NIH Big Read page:

Book Discussions and Book Discussion Training Sessions: register at

Join the NIH Library for a thought-provoking discussion of the book. Hosted by NIH librarians, these stand-alone, one-hour discussions explore the themes in the book and the reading experience. Questions raised by participants during these sessions will be shared with the author and NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins as possible themes for their discussion in Masur Auditorium on June 7 (see below for details).

  • Tuesday, April 23, 11:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, May 16, 12:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 21, 1:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, June 4, 1:00 p.m.

Get tips on holding an NIH Big Read book discussion of your own. Presented by NIH librarians, these stand-alone, one-hour sessions are focused specifically on the 2019 NIH Big Read book. Both in-person and webinar options are available.

  • Thursday, May 2, 10:00 a.m.
  • Tuesday, May 7, 2:00 p.m.

NIH Big Read Author Event: Friday, June 7, 1:00 p.m.

Helen Thomson in Conversation with NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins Author and science journalist Helen Thomson visits NIH to discuss her book, “Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through the World's Strangest Brains,” with Dr. Collins in an informal conversation on Friday, June 7, 1:00–2:00 p.m. The event will be held in Masur Auditorium (Building 10) and via live videocast ( The videocast session will also be archived for later viewing. Afterwards, all are invited to a meet and greet and reception with the author on the FAES Terrace (Building 10), 2:00–3:00 p.m.

Individuals with disabilities who need Sign Language Interpreters and/or reasonable accommodation to participate in these events should contact the NIH Library Information Desk at 301-496-1080 five business days in advance, and/or the Federal Relay (1-800-877-8339).

For questions about the NIH Big Read, contact Kathleen McGlaughlin,