Go Big Read is still fairly new to UW Madison, but community reads, book clubs, and book groups have been popular across the globe for centuries.
Here’s just a few examples of how book groups and community reads- like Go Big Read- have become popular in America:
Ben Franklin first started an organized literary society in the United States as early as 1715. In the 1920s, many Americans lacked access to bookstores, and the “Book of the Month Club” was started to fill this gap. For an annual fee, members received one book a month in the mail. This made books much more accessible to the general public, and at the same time giving a symbolic “badge of intelligence” to members.
The Association of Book Group Reacers and Leaders founder, Rachel Jacobsohn, estimates that there may be 250,000 reading groups in America today. These usually fall into one of three categories: leadered groups, which are led by an individual or organization, bookstore or library groups, and “living room groups.”
With so many options, it’s no wonder that despite technological change, community reads are as popular as ever- in the public as well as in universities. Most Americans have heard of Oprah’s Book Club, which hugely affected the reading habits of many Americans (Check out this video for more!) . Just look at Go Big Read- in the last year 40,000 copies of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks were dispersed on campus!
Thanks for being a part of UW Madison’s community read program and helping to support Go Big Read!