Big Red Book Club

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A new common reading program puts campus on the same page.

The UW campus is about to be Pollan-ated. From the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to Letters and Science, from a Kohl Center lecture to grad-school seminars, everyone will be talking about Michael Pollan and his book In Defense of Food.

The award-winning volume is the centerpiece of Go Big Read, a new common reading program. The plan aims to get people all over campus and around Madison reading and talking about ideas prompted by the same book. Organized by the UW-Madison Libraries, Go Big Read hopes to engage the entire campus community both inside and outside the classroom in a vigorous, interdisciplinary intellectual discussion.

In Defense of Food is an examination of food and eating in modern America. According to Sara Guyer, director of the Center for the Humanities and a member of the Go Big Read steering committee, the book will find its way onto many class reading lists, from horticulture and consumer science to psychology and French 101.

“The book offers a critique of our everyday lives,” she says. “It encourages students — all of us, really — to think about what we eat and how we live.”

Guyer says that the program’s keynote event will be a lecture by Pollan at the Kohl Center on September 24. But other events related to the book are scheduled throughout the year, including garden and vegetable tours and a resource-themed film festival.

The plan was initiated by Chancellor Biddy Martin PhD’85 and is based on similar projects at other universities, including one at Cornell, where she was provost before coming to UW-Madison in 2008.

Although this is Go Big Read’s first year, Guyer says that interest is strong across the university. “We received hundreds of suggestions,” she says, “and Michael Pollan received more recommendations than anyone else.”

Published in the Fall 2009 issue

Tags: Health and medicine, Public service, Teaching and learning

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