The Kingston University Big Read

Join the KU Big Read

The Kingston University Big Read is our award-winning shared-reading scheme. If you are a new student starting Kingston University in September 2023, you will receive a free copy of this year's Big Read title.

To take part in the Big Read, just read the book over the summer and join in the discussions and events that take place online over the summer. Arrive ready to talk about your experiences when you reach University in September. Current students and staff will read the same book so you will have plenty to talk about when you meet. You might also like to share the book with your family and friends – finding out how different people read the same book can be fun and interesting.

When you get to Kingston University there will be lots of opportunities to share your thoughts – as well as the chance to meet the author and have your book signed. For now, bear in mind that all the students coming to Kingston, as well as the staff and students already here, are having the same experience.

If you are a new student starting Kingston University in September 2023, you will receive a free copy of this year's chosen Big Read title Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine, by Hannah Fry.

A neat stack of Big Read books.

The Big Read 2023

We are proud to announce that this year's Big Read winner is:

  • Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine by Hannah Fry.

The Big Read 2023

Hello World is a collection of real-life short stories about how we've slowly handed over control to computers. It shows how there are algorithms and artificial intelligence hiding behind almost every aspect of our modern lives – and what that means for our society. Dr Hannah Fry takes us on a tour of the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of the many algorithms that surround us – and of which most of us are unaware.

Dr Hannah Fry is a British mathematician, author, radio, and television presenter. She is currently Professor in the Mathematics of Cities in the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) in the Faculty of the Built Environment at University College London (UCL). Her studies include complex social and economic systems at various cases, from the individual to the urban, regional, and global, and particularly those with a spatial element.

Check out this special message from the author, Dr Hannah Fry.

Book cover of Hello World by Hannah Fry

Kingston University Big Read Book Club Events

This autumn we will be hosting our fifth annual Kingston University Big Read Book Club. During these unique online and in-person events, we will hear from a wide variety of Kingston staff members and alumni, who relate their fields of expertise to specific chapters from Hello World

The full line-up of events is listed in the blue expandable boxes below. You can also register here. All events are free to attend.

Week 1: Power & Justice

Date: 23 August 2023

Time: 1–2 pm (BST)

Venue: Online on Teams (meeting link in registration page)

In the first and third chapters of the book, Fry takes us through real-world instances where inconsistencies in human judgement have led to certain demise and unforeseen circumstances. Should we place complete trust in algorithms and statistics to make decisions for us? Or should we prioritise our own judgement, making decisions for ourselves even though these decisions could prove to be less than favourable. ‘There will be times when we have to hand over controls to the unknown, even while knowing that the algorithm is capable of making mistakes.' (p. 21)

Sign up to The KU Big Read: Power & Justice.

Missed this event? Don't worry! You can view the recording here.

Week 2: Data

Date: 30 August 2023

Time: 5–6 pm (BST)

Venue: Online on Teams (meeting link in registration page)

In the second chapter, the author offers multiple accounts of individuals' data being freely surrendered to benefit big companies to increase sales and profits. Fry unravels the intended use for the data and the unintended consequences that come with it. Are we letting these companies know our most private details without us knowing?

Sign up to The KU Big Read: Data

If you've missed this event, don't worry. You can watch the recording.

Week 3: Medicine

Date: 6 September 2023

Time: 1–2 pm (BST)

Venue: Online on Teams (meeting link in registration page)

In an industry where accuracy decides life or death, algorithms can provide the necessary efficiency with the highest rate of accuracy. This chapter explores how pattern recognition with the help of algorithms can help practitioners achieve a higher success rate.

Sign up to The KU Big Read: Medicine

If you've missed this event, don't worry. You can watch the recording.

Week 4: Crime

Date: 13 September 2023

Time: 5–6 pm (BST)

Venue: Online on Teams (meeting link in registration page)

In this chapter, we learn from real-world crime cases how algorithms have helped track down perpetrators through processing data relevant to the crimes committed. Using statistics, algorithms have been created that provide valuable insight to investigators and police, helping them intervene on crimes before they take place.

Sign up to The KU Big Read: Crime

Week 5: Cars & Technology

Date: 20 September 2023

Time: 1–2 pm (BST)

Venue: Online on Teams (meeting link in registration page)

As electric cars become more widespread, and the technology used in cars is becoming more advanced, algorithms have shaped the way for autonomous driving. Most programs in technology have also adapted to automatically deciding for us, thanks to advanced Artificial Intelligence and algorithms. However, no matter the benefits of going ‘handsfree', there are dangerous consequences for unmanned vehicles and technology, no matter how great the algorithm.

Sign up to The KU Big Read: Cars & Technology

If you've missed this event, don't worry. You can watch the recording.

Week 6: Art & Music

Date: 27 September 2023

Time: 5–6pm (BST)

Venue: Town House Auditorium/Courtyard, Penrhyn Road Campus, Kingston University

Humans are complex beings with sensory emotions and intelligence. Art and music are among the many inventions and discoveries of human beings. Can algorithms and AI create art and music without the aspect of emotion or sensation? Or will it just resort to recreating music and art from the past?

Sign up to The KU Big Read: Art & Music

What are the origins of the KU Big Read?

Kingston University has a really strong sense of community. Since 2015/16 we have been building this through the development of our award-winning Kingston University Big Read.

First offered in 2015, the Kingston University Big Read aims to make those coming to the University feel welcome before they arrive, and to create links between them and the staff and students already here.

On meeting their offer, each new student (undergraduate and postgraduate) will receive a free copy of that year's special edition Kingston University Big Read title. Current students and staff will be invited to help themselves to a free copy from one of the many locations across the University's campuses. Available early in July, copies can be taken away on holiday and discussed with wider family and friends.

The scheme is based on similar projects in the USA, which have shown that creating a community through shared reading before students arrive helps them feel welcome, settle in quickly and adjust to their new life as a student. Whereas a few universities in the UK have experimented with reading schemes linked to specific types of books (e.g. prize winners) within particular faculties, Kingston University is the first UK university to establish a scheme on such a wide scale, and to involve both the full University and the local community.

What are the origins of the KU Big Read?
Colleagues from Kingston University attending the prestigious Times Higher Education's Annual awards where the project secured 'Widening Participation/Outreach of the Year' in November 2017
How the Big Read developed

How the Big Read developed

The potential relevance of the project was explored through questionnaires given to first year students in 2015. After a very positive response, we trialled the scheme for those joining the University in autumn 2015. Students loved it, and talked of their excitement at receiving a 'gift' from their University – as well as feeling 'expected' and 'welcomed'. One of the most interesting findings, however, was the impact the project had within Kingston University staff. Many were more eager to participate than had been anticipated. The title chosen for the first Kingston University Big Read was Nick Hornby's About a Boy.

Since 2016, the process for choosing the book has been much more complex. The starting point is suggestions made by staff and students. All suggestions are carefully analysed according to a number of criteria considered important, in order to find a book that all can read with interest. The information is loaded into a database so that comparisons can be made. The result is an algorithm, which produces a shortlist of six titles. A panel of volunteers spends two months reading and deliberating, before coming to its final decision: the chosen Kingston University Big Read.

Previous winning titles

Here is a list of our previous winning titles since the beginning of the project in 2015:

  • 2015: About a Boy by Nick Hornby
  • 2016: The Humans by Matt Haig
  • 2017: My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal
  • 2018: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  • 2019: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
  • 2020: Airhead: The Imperfect Art of Making News by Emily Maitlis
  • 2021: The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu 
  • 2022: The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

In 2016/17 we shared our Big Read with Edinburgh Napier, to explore how pre-arrival shared-reading worked across two universities committed to widening participation. In 2017/18 we worked with Wolverhampton University and in 2018/19 with Wolverhampton, Edge Hill University and the University of the West of Scotland. In both 2020/21 and 2021/22 we worked with Edge Hill University and St. George's, University of London. In both 2022/23 and 2023/24, we are working with St. George's, University of London and Royal Holloway, University of London.

Spines of the books that won previous years of the Kingston University Big Read.

Big Read partners

We work with many partners to bring you the Kingston University Big Read. These include publishers, authors, Kingston Borough, and the Higher Education sector. All the universities we have worked with are institutions committed to widening participation. If you would like to know more, or consider becoming a partner too, please contact us at


We have been pleased to work with the following publishers:

The Pigeonhole

In 2016 Kingston University teamed up with the global book club and digital reading platform, The Pigeonhole, to digitally serialise the year's Kingston University Big Read choice, Matt Haig's The Humans.

The partnership with The Pigeonhole allowed a further 10,000 members of staff and existing students to join the scheme and receive a free digital version of the book via an app and web-reader which they used to interact with each other before and after arriving at the University.

Local community

Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames

Working closely with our local community, the Big Read joined forces with the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, specifically working closely with local libraries in the area. We have spoken at a meeting of Kingston Council and collaborated with colleagues in various departments.

Joel Community Services

Joel Community Services is a local night shelter community based on mutual respect, support and co-operation. In 2016 the Big Read gave a number of our special edition copies of The Humans to guests and volunteers at Joel Community Services. Author Matt Haig was keen to join them for a meal and discussion, both about the book and his work as an author. We have remained in touch ever since.

Contact us

If you would like more information regarding the Kingston University Big Read, to suggest a title, or to volunteer to be part of an upcoming selection committee, please contact us at:

Alternatively, for press information, please contact the Kingston University Communications team.