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St George's community invites you to read and share a good book!

The SGUL Big Read logo.

The Big Read aims to create a sense of belonging among students and staff alike through shared reading - one book that gathers together St George's community to share ideas about thought-provoking topics or experiences of getting lost in spellbinding narratives. In particular, the Big Read aims to help incoming students feel welcome and settle into the university environment.  See our upcoming events here

To find out first about upcoming Big Read events, register to the Big Read mailing list here.

This year, the book is Airhead by award-winning broadcast journalist Emily Maitlis - a collection of thoughtful accounts of meeting some of the world's most influential people, from the Dalai Lama to Donald Trump. 

Read - how to get your free ebook

As a new student at St George’s you receive your free ebook copy of Airhead when you enrol. Staff and existing students can also receive a copy of Airhead to join in the reading and participate in events so all can discover St George’s community anew. If you are a member of St George’s staff or an existing student, email Alina Apostu, Student Experience Officer, at to find out how to access your copy of the ebook.

... and share - how to join events

A number of events, such as book club meetings and themed discussions, will offer you the opportunity to meet other people, discuss themes from the book, and engage in thought-provoking conversations. Discover and register for upcoming events!

All are invited to join The Big Read Microsoft Teams site to connect with fellow students and staff, learn about events, and share your experiences!

Airhead by Emily Maitlis

The cover for Emily Maitlis's book Airhead.

From Prince Andrew to David Attenborough, Donald Trump and Emma Thompson, Maitlis has met some of the most influential people in politics and entertainment. Her book dives into the challenges of producing nuanced, contextualised coverage in an ever-accelerating news cycle. Her accounts range from profound experiences reporting on tragedies, to more surreal and humorous interactions with familiar faces.

About Emily Maitlis

Emily Maitlis was born in Ontario, Canada and grew up in Sheffield., the youngest of three sisters. She graduated from Cambridge and began her journalism career on a radio news programme in Hong Kong. She joined the BBC in 2001 and last year became the lead anchor of Newsnight's first-ever all-female team. Her reporting has resonated with viewers, with more than 265,000 followers on Twitter. In 2017 she was named Broadcast Journalist of the Year at the London Press Club Awards. At the RTS Television Journalism Awards she won Network Presenter of the Year in both 2019 and 2020. 

Message to students from this year’s Big Read author, Emily Maitlis

Food for Thought weekly competition

Every Monday we’ll be posting a quote from Emily Maitlis’s Airhead (our St George’s Big Read book for this year) on Instagram and posing a question to you as food for thought. 

All you have to do is comment on the post with an answer to our question and the hashtag #StGeorgesBigReadQuote and you go into the running to win a £20 Waterstones voucher.

Find out more: Big Read Food for Thought competition

Big Read events

Live interview with Emily Maitlis

  • Monday, 25 January 2021, 3:30-4:30pm

This year’s Big Read author, Emily Maitlis, Broadcast Journalist of the Year at the London Press Club Awards (2017), will be joining us for an interview about her book Airhead, her experience meeting some of the world’s most influential people, travelling to all corners the world, and seeking to capture and share meaningful stories. Emily has kindly agreed to be interviewed live online to an audience of St George’s University students and staff. The competition for choosing two student interviewers for the event ended on 17 January.

*Participants are advised that, due to the nature of Emily Maitlis’ profession, changes to the event may occur at the last moment.  

Watch the full event here

Book club sessions


Logo - Book club


These meetings are run by the Library and will delve into specific chapters of the book. Join us for an in-depth exploration of the themes of the book and express your thoughts in a friendly and lively group.


Session dates: 

Themed Discussions

Big Read Logo - Themed Dis


These sessions will feature invited guests drawing on their experiences and their reading of chapters dealing with themes such as the environment (December 2020), grief (February 2021), meditation (March 2021). The sessions will consist of a short talk by the speaker and plenty of time for Q&A and discussion. 

Keep an eye out for communications about other exciting events underway in the Student Newsletter,  Staff Newsletter, St George's social media channels. 

For any questions, email Alina Apostu, Student Experience Officer, at


St George's Big Read 2020 past events

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Themed discussions

Suffering, conflict, and peace: can mindful approaches offer practical solutions? What expectations do we have around what being 'mindful' means?

  • Wednesday, 10 March 2021, 4:00-5:30pm

Speaker and meditation lead: Amy Spatz

Join us for a Big Read workshop facilitated by clinical communication and mindfulness scholar Amy Spatz.  In this session we will consider the chapter ‘An Airport Hotel with the Dalai Lama.’  We’ll discuss the expectations we hold of this man and the ancient practices he teaches.  We’ll consider both light-hearted and deeper subtleties of a Buddhist approach.  There will be an opportunity to meditate briefly together and share perspectives. 

Encountering grief in teaching and practice

  • Wednesday, 3 February 2021, 4:30-6:00pm

Speaker: Dr Marcus Jackson

The presenter is Associate Professor Marcus Jackson, Professional Lead for  Radiography and an Associate Dean of Student Experience at St George’s University of London.  Dr Jackson will discuss the ways in which we confront and cope with the hardest moments of our lives. His presentation looks at bereavement through the lens of the Sheryl Sandberg chapter and his own experiences as a health care professional; this will be followed by Q & A.

Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and author of Option B, a bestseller offering Sandberg’s personal perspective on bereavement. You can see Emily Maitlis’ interview of Sandberg, which is discussed in the chapter here.

Reflections on environmental challenges: experts, consumers, and climate change

  • Thursday, 17 December 2020, 4:30-6:00pm

Speakers:  Prof  Peter Whincup (Co-Chair of the SGUL Environmental Working Group), Marta Delfino and Mahima Turakhia  (St George’s SU Ethics and Environment Officers)

Peter Whincup, Marta Delfino, and Mahima Turakhia explored issues about climate change, starting from the chapter in 'Airhead' in which Emily Maitlis interviews David Attenborough, the biologist and broadcaster responsible for a remarkable series of television programmes about the natural world, most recently including `David Attenborough: a life on our planet'. 

Book club sessions
  • Thursday, 19 November 2020, 1.00-2:00pm. We discussed chapters 1 to 12 of Airhead
  • Wednesday, 10 February 2021, 12.00-1.00pm. We discussed chapters 13 to 24 of Airhead.


Creative Writing Workshop

Creative Writing Workshop - Five ways in which you can start and keep a writing practice going – and five reasons why you should bother

  • Tuesday, 6 October, 4.30pm 

Speaker: Prof Alison Baverstock, Kingston University, the author of ‘Is there a book in you?’ and ‘Marketing your book, an author’s guide’ – both published by Bloomsbury – and jointly established Kingston’s MA Publishing at Kingston (now the top such course in London).

This practical and informative workshop explored how and why it’s worth building a writing practice – even though your life is already packed. Prof Alison Baverstock covered both the benefits and the practical stages involved, and the workshop was peppered with opportunities for practical involvement and plenty of opportunities for questions.

Welcome to St George's Big Read 2020
  • 30 September, 12:00
  • Hosts: Dr Marcus Jackson, Associate Dead for Student Experience, Anne Binsfeld, Liaison Support Librarian, Dr Alina Apostu, Student Experience Officer
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