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Let’s start a new chapter together – Join the Big Read community!

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.  

This is the third year of St George's Big Read. This year’s book is The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney, the debut novel of Okechukwu Nzelu, a writer and teacher. This is a novel about the coming of age of a young woman, daughter of a British mother and a Nigerian father, discovering her identity and exploring her Nigerian heritage; the book is written with a compelling balance of humour, sensitivity, and depth. Hear author Okechukwu Nzelu's message to Big Read participants and learn more about the book.



Read - how to get your free copy of the Big Read book

As a new student at St George’s, you receive your free copy of The  Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney when you enrol. 

Staff and returning students can also receive a free copy 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 a returning student, you can get your copy from the Library helpdesk – there is a limited number, so be quick in getting yours!

... and share - how to join events

A programme of events starting in September will draw on the book’s themes such as transitioning to universityfamily relationships(ethnic) identityfashionmental health, and many other questions relevant to people joining university. These events will include an event with the authorthemed discussionscreative workshops, and social media campaigns, will offer you diverse and rich opportunities for you to join, share your experience, listen and learn from others, and contribute to making St George’s community.

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!

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

The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu

BR 21-22 book cover medium 





A book about finding oneself

The book is centred on Nnenna Maloney's transition to adulthood and on her forays into discovering who she is. The narrative flows between tender accounts of Nnenna's relationships with her mother, with her father whom she's never met, her disovery of her Igbo-Nigerian culture, with her boyfriend and school mates. In all these, Nnenna finds herself needing to ask big questions - what is means to be oneself, how to relate to one's unknown heritage, hot to love parents, friends and romantic partners, how to think of the future. 

Nnenna's own story is interwoven with stories of those surrounding her, her mother, her mother's friends, her school, and her local community in Manchester, all searching for big questions of their own - how to accept one's child's independence, how to understand and accept one's sexuality, how to navigate human relationships when following one's religious faith.

About Okechukwu Nzelu

Okechukwu Nzelu is a Manchester-based writer. In 2015 he was the recipient of a Northern Writers' Award from New Writing North. In 2020 his debut novel, The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney   (Dialogue Books/Little,Brown), won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize, and the Polari First Book Prize. In 2021, it was selected for the Kingston University Big Read. He is a regular contributor to Kinfolk magazine. His second novel, Here Again Now, will be published by Dialogue Books/Little,Brown in March 2022. He is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Lancaster University.


St George's Big Read 2020 - Airhead by Emily Maitlis

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The Book
The cover for Emily Maitlis's book Airhead.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. 
Live interview with Emily Maitlis
  • Monday, 25 January 2021, 3:30-4:30pm, MS Teams
The 2020-21 Big Read author, Emily Maitlis, Broadcast Journalist of the Year at the London Press Club Awards (2017), joined 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 kindly agreed to be interviewed live online to an audience of St George’s University students and staff and two of St George's students, Mujgana Hussainy (MBBS) and Jada-Virginia Surpin (BMS), interviewed Emily Maitlis. Read Mujgana's piece about her experience interviewing Emily Maitlis.
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, MS Teams

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, MS Teams

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, MS Teams

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'.

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, MS Teams

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.

Book club sessions
  • Thursday, 19 November 2020, 1.00-2:00pm, MS Teams. We discussed chapters 1 to 12 of Airhead
  • Wednesday, 10 February 2021, 12.00-1.00pm, MS Teams. We discussed chapters 13 to 24 of Airhead.
Welcome to St George's Big Read 2020
  • 30 September, 12:00-1:00, MS Teams
  • Hosts: Dr Marcus Jackson, Associate Dead for Student Experience, Anne Binsfeld, Liaison Support Librarian, Dr Alina Apostu, Student Experience Officer


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