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York St John University’s Big Summer Read rolls out internationally

Published: 31 May 2024

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Two students reading books in the Creative Centre

The York St John Big Summer Read returns this year - and for the first time, everyone is invited to read along with us. 

Book lovers from around the world are encouraged to take part in this year’s event, with this year’s novel being Babel: Or The Necessity of Violence, An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by Rebecca F. Kuang. 

Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts on the book, their exotic summer reading locations or favourite quotations on social media. There is even a suggested reading schedule to follow, but if you’d prefer to read at your own pace, that’s totally fine, we still look forward to hearing your thoughts. 

All you need to join the York St John Big Summer Read is a copy of Babel, the New York Times bestseller, set in an alternative-reality 1830s England in which global economic and colonial supremacy are fueled by the use of magical silver bars. 

Launched in 2017, the Big Summer Read was initially set up to engage York St John English Literature students over the summer holidays. The idea of staff and students reading the same book was so positively received that it has grown over the years to encompass the entire university. 

Dr Adam James Smith, Associate Professor in English Literature at York St John University and Course Lead for the YSJ undergraduate degree in English Literature, said Babel was an excellent choice for the Big Summer Read as not only is it a fast-paced thriller, it also explores many of the themes that underpin York St John’s English Literature degree – questions about power, agency, social justice and identity. 

“In the past, the Big Summer Read has always been a wonderful opportunity to bring students and colleagues from across York St John University together to share in the experience of reading the same book at the same time,” said Dr Smith. 

“It’s always extraordinary to see the responses the books have generated, and the conversations that this shared experience has sparked, creating connections we never would have predicted. That is why this year we want to do the biggest Big Summer Read yet and scale it up to go beyond the walls of York St John University.  

“This time, for the first time, anyone can join in the Big Summer Read, and read R. F. Kuang’s remarkable, thrilling and provocative novel alongside our wonderful students and our brilliant staff. 

“If you’re looking to get back into reading, looking for something fun to read having just finished your GCSE or A-Level exams, or just want to read a brilliant book alongside lots of enthusiastic and engaged readers, then we’d absolutely love to read Babel with you this summer.” 

The Big Summer Read runs between June and September and more information is available on the Words Matter blog, where you can also access the suggested reading schedule. Then just post your thoughts and responses on X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram or TikTok using #YSJBigSummerRead.  
Live updates will be shared on the Big Summer Read Instagram account. There is also a #YSJBigSummerRead playlist on Spotify to enjoy while reading Babel.  
If you would like to submit an article on your reading experiences to the Big Summer Read blog, please send it to the Words Matter Chief Editors, Dr Saffron Vickers Walkling and Dr Jo Waugh, for consideration via 
Find out more about our English Literature BA (Hons) course at York St John. 


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