Thu. May 23rd, 2024

Big books for the Big Read

By Aimee Miller Mar 6, 2020
Kingston University 2020 Big Read shortlist

Flying teenagers, influential journalists, and adventurous travellers.

For their sixth year running, the KU Big Read have announced their 2020 academic year shortlist.

One of these six books will be sent out to incoming students in June and will be available around campuses to current students. So which one should it be?

Airhead: the imperfect art of making news by Emily Maitlis

An autobiographical telling of how news is created through trial and tribulation, this BBC Newsnight presenter takes us behind the scenes of some of her most high profile, and interesting interviews and stories.

Maitlis’ personal anecdotes, deeply intriguing interviews, and relatable language makes for a deeply interesting read, that could make students question how the things they see on TV are actually created.

Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession 

A gentle tale that poses the question: Can nice people change the world? Two nice, live-at-home, 30-year-old men find how being nice in today’s world might not be so bad.

There’s a warm, gentle pace, with a few funny lines thrown throughout, and a peaceful excitement embedded within their ordinary rhythmic lives.

The Making of Mr Hai’s Daughter by Yasmin Hai

The road to assimilation has never been easy, and Yasmin Hai’s account of her family’s move from Pakistan to the UK is an intelligent, humourous and passionate tale.

For today’s post-Brexit society, a book like this is important for all communities to read and discuss.

Bitter Sixteen by Stefan Mohamed 

The only Young Adult (YA) fiction on the list, Bitter Sixteen follows a teenage boy who, on his 16th birthday, discovers he has superpowers.

Written by a KU graduate, the simple language and narrative makes this an easily accessible book. While the age of 16 may seem so far off now, fresh-faced university-goers are a fish swimming upstream, and this book might just bring them back from the deep end.

Step by Step by Simon Reeve

Autobiography, travel guide, and a mini-adventure in a book. Step by Step is TV presenter Simon Reeve’s accounts of his favourite expeditions and journeys, not only through jungles but life.

His inspiring language and ability to lift action from the page, I can only imagine how a discussion with him would be if he were to win.

Tomorrow by Damien Dibben

Dog lovers get ready. Tomorrow explores love, life and loyalty through the eyes of a dog searching for his lost master.

The sensory plays a big role in the book, and students will lose themselves among the pages.

Naturally, I was drawn towards Emily Maitlis’ Airhead. As a journalism student, it’s something I am interested in, and the tone of language used was something really relatable to me.

But what about Bitter Sixteen? Yes, it’s a YA, but when I first entered university I felt as if I was a pigeon the cat had been set upon. I had this expectation that I needed to be more adult, and I think the book will let fresh students know that it’s okay to be a kid still, to ask for help when needed, and to take the pressure of university life off their shoulders. 

However, The Making of Mr Hai’s Daughter might speak more to our students.

Over the years, the Big Read has had a focus on mental health, and I think in today’s time, with Brexit still looming over our shoulders and large numbers of communities feeling out of home with a potential lockdown, Hai’s Daughter, can rebuild those bridges.

With a majority of our students BAME, and with different nationalities, cultures and communities coming to Kingston University, it’s about time we picked this book.

Now, we’ll just need to wait until June to find out. Fingers crossed.

By Aimee Miller

Chief sub-editor at The River writing about all things books, reviews & north-east Asia. Say hi on Twitter or email me!

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