KU Big Read 2017 shortlist announced

KU Big Read logo e1454187927236

ku big readSince 2015, Kingston University has given a book to every undergraduate and postgraduate student about to join the univeristy as part of the KU Big Read campaign, which promotes student involvement and ensures new arrivals feel welcome before they get there.

After the success of KU Big Read 2016, more than 140 titles were suggested for this year’s reading pleasure, by Kingston University staff and students who took part in last year’s campaign.

The final shortlist for 2017 has been announced:

  • The Power, Naomi Alderman
  • The Elephant and the Bee, Jess de Boer
  • My Name is Leon, Kit de Waal
  • Radio Sunrise, Anietie Isong
  • The Brilliant and Forever, Kevin MacNeil
  • The Penguin Lessons, Tom Michell

The idea behind the KU Big Read campaign was similar projects they had seen in the US, which have shown that pre-arrival shared reading can help create a community, enabling students to feel welcome and settle in quickly. Whereas a few UK universities have experimented with reading schemes linked to specific types of books (e.g. prize winners) and within particular faculties, Kingston University is running the first whole university pre-arrival shared reading research project. They are working with the entire university to monitor effectiveness as well as reaching out into the wider community (last year they worked with Edinburgh Napier University, the Royal Borough of Kingston, their local branch of U3A and two shelters for those experiencing homelessness).

What happens next?

The shortlist will now be read by a Selection Panel drawn from students and staff from across the University. Others can also join in by borrowing the books from each of our campus libraries. The chosen book will then be produced and sent to all those scheduled to join them, with current staff and students invited to help themselves to a free copy from various locations across the five campuses.

Stock will be available in time to be taken away on holiday and discussed with wider family and friends and be mailed to students joining us. A number of related events will be made available from September onwards, including author talks to the students, staff and wider community. Kingston will be continuing to work in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University and are collaborating with them on various research papers and conference presentations.

How do you choose the shortlist?

The organisers began by researching attitudes to such a scheme within the student community, and finding a very positive response went ahead, choosing Nick Hornby’s About a Boy as our first KU Big Read in 2015. The response from students and staff vastly exceeded expectations – the book had to be reprinted twice and was used in many ways we had not anticipated. Last year’s title – The Humans by Matt Haig – was chosen through a carefully developed algorithm (which we again used this year) and provided a shortlist of six titles. These were then read and discussed by the Selection Panel before the final book was chosen. It proved another phenomenal success, with a total print run of 28,000 copies and a great turnout to each of the associated events.

There were several reasons why basing the selection of the shortlist on an algorithm appealed to us. With so many suggestions made, there was insufficient time for a panel to read the entire list before making a choice in April. As a university, they were of course keen to experiment with, and evaluate new methods of working and they collaborated extensively with their students, with the University IT department and a local data analyst and economist Jackie Steinitz to produce an algorithm which takes into consideration all of the factors that their own students and staff consider important in a Big Read.

This methodology is unique amongst other book selection processes and has attracted widespread interest within the university, the publishing industry – and the wider creative economy.

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