Posted Thursday 7 March 2019
This year's shortlisted books for Kingston University's award-winning shared reading initiative the Big Read has been revealed, boasting the most diverse range of titles so far, including a thriller by international bestselling author Robert Harris and debuts from staff and students.
Now in its fifth year, the Big Read scheme is proving more popular than ever with more than 400 books having been submitted by staff and students from across the whole University - as well as our collaborating partners. These titles have been narrowed down, with the panel dedicating their time to reviewing and reading each of the books put forward.
The project - which won the Times Higher Education Award for Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative of the Year 2017 - involves the entire University community and prides itself on helping new students feel truly welcomed at their new institution.
As part of the annual University-wide shared reading scheme, a specially-printed edition of one of the books is sent to every undergraduate and postgraduate student ahead of arriving at the institution. This helps to welcome them to their new life on campus, with students saying that they felt comforted when they got the book during the summer break of 2018.
The six shortlisted books for this year's scheme - in alphabetical order by author - are:
This year's chosen book will join Gail Honeyman's heart-warming Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, About a Boy by Kingston University alumnus Nick Hornby, The Humans by Matt Haig and My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal. All of whom have gained entry to the Kingston University Big Read‘s honour roll.
The University invites the local community to participate in the project, having been shared with two shelters for the homeless, one for refugees - and a range of wider community groups. Big Read Director and Associate Professor, Alison Baverstock said the shared reading project has really dug deep into the Kingston community and now feels a truly integral part of our wider coordinated plans whilst welcoming new students in a really personal way. "This helps to bring the entire cohort together through a shared experience," she said.
The 2019 shortlist is a really eclectic mix; a fascinating blend of debut novelists and established writers as well as large and very small publishers. "The subject of the books is equally varied, from fast-paced thriller to dark comedy, from dystopian fiction to a gentle narrative about a long journey on foot. Any one of which would make a great shared read." Dr Baverstock added.
Robert Harris has written twelve novels with Conclave making the Sunday Times bestseller list. Alexander author Mark Carew is Associate Professor in Physiology and Pharmacology whilst author Oyinkan Braithwaite is also rooted within the University community as a recent graduate of the BA(Hons) Creative Writing course.
The Big Read has been shared with other universities who are similarly keen to widen participation alongside holding an appreciation for the ethics of the scheme. For the past two years, Kingston has worked with the University of Wolverhampton, and 2018 saw the introduction of a partnership with Edge Hill and University of the West of Scotland. These institutions have all been sent a full set of the six chosen titles and will be sending a representation to the two meetings where the final book will be decided.
Looking back at the previous year's winner, Gail Honeyman, Dr Baverstock said "This year will be a tough choice to follow, as the unusual heroine, Eleanor Oliphant was the most enjoyed book out of all of the titles chosen so far."
Once the winning book has been chosen, the Big Read team will then work with the selected publisher to produce a bespoke Kingston University edition. This will then be posted out to all new students whilst current staff and students can take advantage of the copies available at receptions and libraries dotted around the various University campuses.
People are encouraged to share their thoughts on the shortlisted titles across social media using the hashtag #KingstonUniBigRead. The winner of this year's Kingston University Big Read will be selected by a panel of University staff and students from across the institution in April.