My Name is Leon chosen as this year’s KU Big Read for new students

Kingston University has chosen My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal as this year’s choice for their annual shared reading scheme which encourages all new students to settle into campus life by reading the same book before arriving.

Launched in 2015, The Kingston University Big Read sees all new undergraduate and postgraduate students receive a special edition of a carefully selected title to welcome them to the University and help bring the entire cohort together through a shared experience.

More than 20,000 copies of last year’s book, The Humans, by Matt Haig, were given out last summer, as well as a further 8,000 copies shared with students and staff at Edinburgh Napier University.

This year, over 140 titles were suggested by staff and students, which were whittled down to a shortlist of six by a specially written algorithm. Months of reading, discussions and deliberations followed before a Selection Committee of staff, students and a representative from Kingston Library voted for the winning title this week.

Announcing the selection of My Name is Leon as this year’s book, Associate Professor Alison Baverstock, Director of The KU Big Read, said:

Kit de Waal is a Kingston type of writer. Her work is accessible to all sorts of people, and I know will be read with real interest and enthusiasm by the wide spread of ethnicities within our community. Her book was a clear favourite with the KU Big Read Selection Panel from the outset – everyone involved was affected by Leon’s story, although interestingly people homed in on very different things. We look forward to welcoming her to Kingston; to introducing her to students and staff – and to hearing her speak. The KU Big Read, now in its third year, has played a big part in joining up our community – and we hope she will feel as home here as we all do with her book.

Meanwhile, author Kit de Waal also spoke of her delight at being associated with The KU Big Read.

It’s overwhelming and most unexpected to be chosen. My Name is Leon is a little story about a little boy and to be recognised by the Big Read is massive for me – and for Leon … I feel there will be many young people who will be able to identify with his journey of identity and belonging. It’s great for people to read in general, but especially to read books together that represent parts of their lives, where they can see themselves on the page or as the author. That kind of experience embraces the widest spectrum of society possible. – Kit de Waal, author