The Big Read 2020

The 2020 shortlist was a collection of endearing, complex, humorous, supernatural and factual stories which made selecting just one title a difficult task. 

The winning title was Airhead by Emily Maitlis. Although any one of the shortlist books would have made an excellent winner, Emily Maitlis provided a relevant and revealing take on what it's like to be behind the scenes for journalists when covering global issues. 

Her unique and captivating storytelling abilities were what convinced the Selection Committee that this book would be really enjoyed by students and staff alike.

Big Read 2020 winner

Big Read 2020 winner

Airhead by Emily Maitlis

From Prince Andrew to David Attenborough, Donald Trump and Emma Thompson, Maitlis has met some of the most influential people in politics and entertainment. Her book dives into the challenges of producing nuanced, contextualised coverage in an ever-accelerating news cycle. Her accounts range from profound experiences reporting on tragedies, to more surreal and humorous interactions with familiar faces.

Shortlisted books

Tomorrow by Damian Dibben

A heartfelt, sweeping look at humanity from the eyes of a dog who has witnessed centuries of our history. Our unnamed canine narrator and his alchemist master have used their gift of immortality to travel the world. They've attended royal courts and provided aid on battlefields. But when they become separated in Venice, they must rely on their loyalty and survival skills to find their way back to each other, as the centuries turn and war breaks out across the world.

Shortlisted books

The Making of Mr Hai's Daughter by Yasmin Hai

Yasmin Hai uses both humour and earnest reflection to bring us into the world of her childhood-the Muslim community of North London in the 1970s. Her story is made all the more complex and fascinating by her father, who fled political persecution in Pakistan, and was determined to raise his children in a quintessentially British fashion. From Shakespeare and Milly-Molly-Mandy haircuts (but a conspicuous lack of football and popular films) she documents the successes and failures of this approach, and the consequences of being distanced from her family's heritage.

Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession

The title characters of this tale are best friends who are content with their gentle, somewhat quirky lives. But Leonard is facing a pack of simultaneous changes. He's lost his mother, and might just have gained a girlfriend. Hungry Paul on the other hand seems as static as ever. As grief and new romance rearrange his life, Leonard struggles to find the place where his friend fits in.

Step by Step by Simon Reeve

As a television presenter, Reeve has sought out locations that are ‘extreme', whether for their beauty, remoteness, danger or other qualities. His memoir is a behind-the-scenes look at his travels, including a near-death brush with malaria. He traces his path from a troubled adolescence with hardly any experience of travel. His upbringing and subsequent journeys have shaped his philosophy of engaging with the global community with constant curiosity, empathy and optimism.

Bitter Sixteen by Stefan Mohamed

An energetic, wise-cracking story about a boy figuring out who he is and what's important to him, told through the fantastical lens of superpowers. Stanly Bird may be best friends with a talking Beagle named Daryl, and he may have mysteriously gained the ability to fly on his sixteenth birthday, but he's an otherwise normal teenager. He's not exactly sure how to find superhero opportunities in his small Welsh town, or if he wants them. Unfortunately his cousin knows more than he's letting on, and Stanly might not have a choice in keeping his quiet, anonymous lifestyle.

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