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The Big Read is here to spark joy around literature for everyone on the BYU-Idaho campus with the first meeting or “Chat” on Feb. 7, at 2 p.m. in the Gordon B. Hinckley Chapel and an open writing contest.

The Big Read is one big book club where all of campus is invited. A new body of work is selected every semester to read. This semester’s theme for the Big Read is Young Goodman Brown and Other Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

“When we read something because we have to read it, it kills that joy a little bit,” said Jason Williams, English Department faculty member. “A book group is a nice combination between reading for pleasure and reading for class. We’re reading something together but there is no grade so there is no pressure, we can just enjoy the book and talk about it. The Big Read is an effort to replicate that on a University level.”

Jason Williams, English department faculty member, will be at the first Chat on Feb. 7, titled “Monstrous Offspring.”

The value of studying literature is not the only reward from the Big Read. An essay contest at the end of each Big Read, open to all students, offers the winner a $100 reward. Submissions are due by March 1, and the winner will be announced March 14 at 2 p.m. in the Hinckley Chapel.

Dan Pearce, an English Department faculty member, has been leading the Big Read from the beginning. Sponsored by the College of Language and Letters, it started in 2017 with Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen and has grown each semester. They have covered classic works such as The Odyssey, All Quiet on the Western Front and Hard Times in a fresh and inclusive way.

“The thing I like the most is the variety of speakers,” said Lauren Cornwell, a sophomore studying English and a participant. “A lot of the time it is faculty, and they can talk about anything they want regarding the book.”

Williams will be doing just that at the first Chat by leading the discussion titled “Monstrous Offspring: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Original Sin, and the Making of American Literature.” This will focus on Young Goodman Brown and Other Tales, the book for this winter and spring semesters.

Portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Williams said there is something for everyone in Hawthorne’s work. “We are all interested in things like growing up, learning to distinguish between good ideas and bad ideas, these are some universal themes that are present in any of these texts.”

With monthly meetings, refreshments, reading at your own pace and open dialogue, the Big Read has something for everyone. “If you’ve ever had the experience of reading a novel because you were assigned to read it or reading a novel just because you wanted to, the experiences are usually very different,” Williams said.

It is that difference that brings students from various majors and interests together to express an appreciation for literature.

Meeting times and full book titles can be found on the school website.

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