The Big Read 2018

THE BIG READ BOOK FOR 2018: The Underdogs by Melissa Fay Greene

Miami Valley readers have cast their votes and chosen the next book for the Big Read community reading project. The winner is The Underdogs: Children, Dogs and the Power of Unconditional Love, by Melissa Fay Greene. This nonfiction book tells the story of the founding of 4 Paws For Ability, a nonprofit organization based in Xenia, Ohio, that trains and places service dogs internationally. 

The Underdogs will be the subject of book discussions and programs taking place at area libraries, schools, and other venues during the Big Read in March and April 2018. 

“Everyone on the committee is very excited to have The Underdogs as the 2018 Big Read selection,” said Ben Murphy, co-chair of The Big Read. “This is a great opportunity to showcase a nationally recognized organization that is based right here in the Miami Valley, and we’re looking forward to all the excellent book discussions and other programs related to the book and its themes.”

The Underdogs tells the story of Karen Shirk who, as a 24-year-old suffering from an immobilizing neuromuscular disease, raised her own service dog – a German shepherd named Ben. Today, Shirk’s service dog academy, 4 Paws for Ability, is the largest organization whose primary mission is to place service dogs with children and has no minimum age requirement. 4 Paws also work with veterans who have lost the use of limbs or their hearing while in active combat.

A two-time National Book Award nominee, Melissa Fay Greene weaves the latest scientific discoveries with Karen’s story and the stories of children with disabilities and their families. The book explores our attachment to dogs, what constitutes a productive life, and what can be accomplished with unconditional love.

Greene is the author of six nonfiction books, including Praying for Sheetrock (1991) and There is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Her Country’s Children (2006). She is a childhood resident of Dayton, Ohio, and a graduate of Oberlin College. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and children.  

For more information on the Big Read, visit or call (937) 339-0502 ext. 117.