The Big Read comes to Scotland

All new students to get a specially produced novel

Date posted

2 June 2016


EDINBURGH Napier University is launching a Big Read initiative which will see all new students receive a copy of a specially produced popular novel.

The University is joining forces with Kingston University to develop a scheme the London-based institution pioneered south of the border as a way of helping students settle in to campus life and fostering a sense of belonging.

All new Edinburgh Napier and Kingston University undergraduate and postgraduate entrants will be sent a special-edition copy of The Humans by Matt Haig - published by Edinburgh-based Canongate Books – over the summer, prior to taking up their place.


The Big Read scheme aims to bring together new students through the shared experience of reading the book, which explores what it is to be human from the perspective of an alien new to Earth.

The project seeks to enhance the sense of community across the whole University and to provoke discussion about the book among students and staff. 

Both institutions have large numbers of students who are the first in their family to go to university, and substantial numbers who live at home, and they will collaborate on research into students’ responses to the scheme.

Dr Sandra Cairncross, Assistant Principal Student Experience at Edinburgh Napier, said: “I’m really excited about the opportunity the Big Read gives us to promote the importance of reading. It’s a great way to welcome our new students and start building relationships by encouraging discussions between both students and staff.

“I’m also delighted with the choice of The Humans, as it deals with relevant themes such as coping with transition and settling into a new community.”

The Big Read was launched in the United Kingdom last year by Kingston University following the success of similar schemes in the United States. More than 13,000 copies of Nick Hornby’s novel About a Boy were given to students and staff, and a talk by the author at the university was booked out.

The Humans was selected by a cross-university committee that included four representatives from Edinburgh Napier from a shortlist of six titles narrowed down from more than 100 suggested books. 

Publishing expert Dr Alison Baverstock, who is the director of Kingston University’s Big Read project, said it was fitting that the scheme was strengthening the links between Kingston University and Edinburgh Napier, when the overarching aim of the project was to bring people together. 

She said: “It’s wonderful to be able to share the scheme and its benefits across the border with a similar institution and encourage all students to enjoy reading, not just those who already have an interest in literature.

"The Humans is a beautiful novel exploring love and what it is to be human, from the perspective of an alien new to Earth. It is funny, quirky and immensely clever.”

The Humans, first published by Canongate Books in 2014, was written by Haig after he recovered from an anxiety disorder. Change and adjustment are key themes in the novel. 

Jamie Byng, chief executive with the Edinburgh-based publisher, said: “Matt Haig’s The Humans is one of the most memorable and enjoyable books we have published in recent years. 

“To have it selected as Kingston University’s Big Read and for that initiative to be extended to Edinburgh Napier University is tremendously exciting, not least because Canongate has its head offices in Edinburgh and has always had a close and excellent relationship with Edinburgh Napier and those who run its highly regarded publishing course.”