First-Year Book Club to facilitate community of big ideas

21 February 2011

Kate Grenville's The Secret River is the inaugural selection for the First-Year Book Club.
Kate Grenville's The Secret River is the inaugural selection for the First-Year Book Club.

The acclaimed Australian novel by Kate Grenville, The Secret River, has been chosen as the inaugural selection for the University of Sydney's First-Year Book Club. Nine and a half thousand free copies will be handed out to all incoming first-year undergraduate students before the commencement of semester.

The initiative is a collaboration between the University of Sydney and the Man Booker Prize Foundation. The book was selected from a list of all books shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

The goals of the common-book program are to promote discussion and engagement around "big ideas", across all student disciplines. The program will facilitate cross-discipline discussion for commencing undergraduate students and will enhance students' sense of belonging in the academic community.

The First-Year Book Club will also encourage students to participate in special events such as talks, competitions and debates and will culminate with a talk by the author Kate Grenville.

There will be weekly student updates, competitions and prizes for student participation. The University of Sydney Union (USU) Michael Kirby Plain Speaking Competition will take key themes from the book for the competition. Senior level students and first-year coordinator staff will be encouraged to read the book and discuss themes with incoming students.

Students will be invited to participate in public speaking and confidence-building seminars, to facilitate their confidence and participation in First-Year Book Club, public speaking competitions, and academic tutorial activities.

Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney said of the common-book project, "When you enrol as a student at the University of Sydney, you're joining a community of scholars - people who read and think critically, who debate big issues. Membership in our First-Year Book Club will show how rewarding life as a member of an academic community can be."

Similar initiatives have been conducted in the UK at the University of St Andrews, and in the US at Cornell University, University of Maryland and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Have you got your book?

If you are a first-year undergraduate student who hasn't yet received a copy of the book, please visit the Eastern Avenue Complex Foyer, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus on Thursday 24 February from 9am to 5pm.

Semester one event details

Talk by the author Kate Grenville

When: 12 to 2pm, Tuesday 12 April

Where: Great Hall, Quadrangle, Camperdown Campus

USU Michael Kirby Plain Speaking Competition

When: Heats will be held from 10am on 27, 28, 29 April and 4, 5, 6 May

Where: Reading Room and Common Room, Holme Building, Darlington Campus

Media enquiries: Jacqueline Chowns, 9036 5404, 0434 605 018,