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The Folger Spotlight

Words, Words, Words: ‘Station Eleven’ by Emily St. John Mandel

Folger Public Programs is excited to be launching our new virtual book club, Words, Words, Words. Kicking off next Thursday, we will be welcoming friends from all around the world to discuss Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. To get ready for the conversation, we’ve compiled some introductory information on this hopeful exploration of beauty in the wake of a devastating pandemic.

What is Station Eleven about?
From the Knopf edition:
Station Eleven BookOne snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.



Critical Reception

Station Eleven won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Toronto Book Award in 2015 and was a finalist for the  National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

“. . .a surprisingly beautiful story of human relationships amid such devastation.” – Nancy Hightower, The Washington Post (Pick for Top 10 Book of 2014)

“This is not a story of crisis and survival. It’s one of art and family and memory and community and the awful courage it takes to look upon the world with fresh and hopeful eyes. “– Karen Valby, Entertainment Weekly

“Mandel’s vision is not only achingly beautiful but startlingly plausible, exposing the fragile beauty of the world we inhabit.” – Kristine Huntley, Booklist (starred)

About the author: Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel
Photo by Sarah Shatz

Mandel was born in British Columbia, Canada. At 18 she studied contemporary dance at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre before moving to Montreal and eventually settling in New York. Her other writing includes the novels Last Night in MontrealThe Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet – all of which were Indie Next picks – contributions to anthologies such as The Best American Mystery Stories 2013 and Venice Noir, and her work as a staff writer for The Millions.

There are plans to turn her 2020 novel, The Glass Hotel, into a TV series by Lark Productions and HBO is currently working on a mini-series adaptation of Station Eleven starring Mackenzie Davis, Hamish Patel, and Gael García Bernal.

Listen to an interview with Mandel on Station Eleven from NPR.

Meet our Bookshop Partner: East City Bookshop

For our inaugural session, we are pleased to partner with East City Bookshop, an independently run bookstore on Capitol Hill.

East City Bookshop is a women-owned, independent, community-minded bookstore on Capitol Hill.  Order online, by phone (202.290.1636) or email Pickup is available at the shop, or they ship (almost) anywhere!

For up-to-date COVID-19 business operation information, check their website,

Hear passages read by the author

In 2015, Mandel visited the Folger for the PEN/Faulkner Award ceremony and reading, which recognizes the finalists for the annual PEN/Faulkner Award. Click below to hear Mandel read two passages from Station Eleven, with an introduction from Alexander Chee. The evening was moderated by B.J. Novak.

Listen to the readings from the PEN/Faulkner Award ceremony.


The session is currently full, but stay tuned for more materials next week to help you lead your own discussion and/or further explore this wonderful book. Details about our September session will be announced next week.