Big Read FAQs

What is the Big Read?

The Kingston University Big Read is a shared reading scheme aimed at promoting a sense of community for our new students before they even arrive at the university.

Based on similar schemes running in the USA, the scheme offers all new students something that they have in common with all other new students and staff right from the beginning. It helps conversation get started, groups to be formed and gives ample opportunity to meet and talk to those students and staff who are already at Kingston.

Each year, a new, carefully-selected title is chosen and copies are sent to all our new students along with a letter from the author. The copies include special content, such as a letter from our Kingston University's Vice Chancellor and discussion questions about the book. There are also various online opportunities to participate over the summer via Twitter, such as our 'Extreme Reading' competition.

Where can I get my copy of the book (students)?

If you are a new student (undergraduate or postgraduate) who has accepted an offer to attend Kingston University then a book will be sent to you directly in the post at the address you listed during the enrolment process.

If for any reason you did not receive a copy of the book (i.e. you came to university early, accepted your offer late after clearing or if there were issues with the post) then there books are available on each of our campuses at various locations.

Key places you can find books:

  • Reception desks on each campus
  • Libraries on each campus
  • The Welcome Centre at our Penrhyn Road campus
  • The Student Wellbeing Centre at Penrhyn Road
  • Freshers' Fayre

As well as these locations, various teams that you will come into contact with during your induction and orientation weeks will also have copies of the book to hand.

If for any reason you still haven't been able to get your copy of the book then please email;

Where can I get my copy of the book (staff)?

Books for staff can be collected from many of the same spaces as with the students (reception, libraries, etc) and some may even be offered a copy of the book at various events.

If for any reason you still haven't been able to get your copy of the book then please email;

I'm an alumnus, can I participate?

Yes! After several alumni contacted us expressing a desire to take part in the Big Read, we launched the Alumni Chapter. Becoming a member of the Alumni Chapter gives you access to this year's title as well as previous titles, and members are invited to attend regular Big Read events on campus. After postage costs, the entirety of your membership fee is split evenly between keeping the Big Read programme free for Kingston students and supporting students who have left care here at the University.

To find out more, please visit the Alumni Chapter membership page.

Can I get a digital copy of the book?

The physicality of receiving the book is a key factor for the project. However; we know that there are some staff and students who may require digital copies for various reasons.

It has been a little harder to make alternative versions available due to licences but as a student, if you are registered 'FA' with the University, then there will be a digital version of the book available to you through your iCat account.

For any staff who have trouble reading a physical edition, please get in touch with us directly at as necessary.

Alternatively, we work closely with the public library service in Kingston who have digital copies available for library members to borrow (staff and students as well as locals) and are striving to provide audio versions as well.

Who else is involved?

In 2016, we partnered with Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. In 2017, we partnered with the University of Wolverhampton as well as some international universities such as Malmo University in Sweden along with more local groups in and around Kingston. We have purposefully opened up the scheme to include more members of the wider community because this will soon be your community and we wish to provide every opportunity for you to feel a part of it and for residents to get to know you.

How can I get involved with the Kingston University Big Read?

There are a number of ways in which you can get involved with The Kingston University Big Read - from reading the book, to taking part in our Twitter competitions and attending the various events once you get here. You might even be inspired to start your own book club, take the book further into the community by using it in volunteering or in any other number of ways.

All suggestions for future titles are submitted into our algorithm so if there is a book that you think would make a great Big Read title you can send all suggestions to You never know, your favourite book may very well be next year's title - read by thousands of students and staff.

Our selection committee is made up of Kingston volunteers. We want a full range of voices to be a part of this process so if you would like to be a part of the final selection process please email No matter what you study, what year you're in, whether you are academic staff, a new student or one of our support staff, we want you to help us select next year's book. As a student, being a part of the selection committee has the added bonus of contributing to your Kingston Award points.

Can I tell you what I thought of the book?

This project is in part a research project and your feedback is extremely important to us. Last year's feedback directly affected how we went about selecting this year's book so it really does make a difference.

We send out a ten-minute questionnaire to participants' University email addresses a little later in the year. We would appreciate it if you take the time to fill this in.

If you just want to drop us a line then please email us at

What happens to the leftover books?

There really haven't been any leftover books to date (in fact, more often than not we have had to reprint in order to keep up with demand) but we do have measures in place as part of our ethical report that ensure that in the case of any leftover books, these will be taken to various charities.

What events are there to do with the Big Read?

We offer a range of events, the biggest probably being our author events. The ability for the author to be able to join us at the University and meet the students is considered so important that this is a key factor in deciding which book will be our Big Read.

We also host a range of discussion groups for staff and new students during Welcome Week. Those who have read the book over the summer can come together to discuss it, either independently or following the lead of the discussion questions in the back of the book.

An event which has proven popular and is open to all is our Balloon Debate. Several members of staff come together and discuss themes from the book in relation to their position within the University. A whole host of people get involved in this and we even have a waiting list of speakers.

These are our key events but we welcome staff and students to put on or continue with their own events based around the chosen title, or else make suggestions by emailing

How is the shortlist chosen?

Staff and students were asked for their suggestions which produced a list of more than 100 books. "It's not practical to ask people to read 100 titles and to choose just one so we decided to come at this from a completely different viewpoint and use a scientific solution to address the problem," Dr Baverstock said. Working with the University's IT department and local data analyst Jackie Steinitz, who has collaborated with Dr Baverstock on previous research projects, a formula was created that would generate a list of suitable titles which could then be presented to a final book selection committee. Amazon is famous for its use of algorithms to create suggestions for future purchases based on customers' previous buys, and this worked in a similar way.

A group of eight students and two staff members worked with Ms Steinitz to draw up a list of criteria against which each book could be considered. These included the length of book, the cover design and the availability of the author to be involved in specific Big Read activities. To avoid picking a book which had already been studied, novels could also not have been previously set for GCSE or A-level syllabuses.

"Each book was assessed against the criteria drawn up and then, for some of the more critical measures, weightings were added before being fed in to the algorithm," Dr Baverstock said. "The programme then analysed all the information in the database and gave us the six titles on the shortlist." The book selection committee, comprised of students and staff members from across the University, will now read each title before agreeing which should be the Big Read novel for the year. Current staff and students are also being given the opportunity to join in discussions online to help inform the selection committee's final decision. Copies of the chosen novel will be sent out in August with activities being launched in September and October.

Pleasingly the resulting shortlist was a very good outcome. We had a diverse selection of titles, each one of which would be an excellent book choice for the entire community.