One of the things I miss most about my undergrad English classes is having people to sit down and talk about a book with. Blogging is great, but sometimes I just miss talking with a group of people. I might be in luck, however, because this year UW is trying a new campus common reading program called Go Big Read.
The book selected for the program is Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. I’m not thrilled with the choice — I tried to read the book a year and a half a go (maybe?) and didn’t find it that engaging. I’m hoping my impressions will be different now because I’m excited about the overall idea of Go Big Read.
And actually, I just remembered Pollan’s other book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, is assigned reading for one of my classes — I guess you can expect lots of Michael Pollan discussion here in the next few months.
Anyway, I’ve always been involved with freshman orientation and trying to help new students adjust to college experiences. Studies show that, especially for first-year students, having a common reading experience can help build community across a group. I’m not sure how well it will work for a campus of about 42,000 people, but it’s worth a shot.
Over the year, there will be a bunch of events to help promote the book and the program. Coming up in September, Pollan will be in Madison for a free public presentation and informal Q&A with the campus community — that should be cool!
I volunteered to be a small group discussion leader for the program, and I have training in a few weeks. I’m supposed to have read In Defense of Food by then, so that’s part of what I’ll be doing over the weekend. That, and trying to finish Infinite Jest, start working on self-hosting my blog, and getting a ton of sleep. I can’t wait, TGIF!
Have you ever participated in a common reading program? How did it work? Would you want to do something like this? What do you think about the choice for a book?