The Big Book Review is going on tour!  If you’d like to know more about the project and what we’ve learned, why not catch us at a festival near you soon.  All our events are free to attend – but register early to reserve your place!

Upcoming events

The Big Book Review at the Hay Festival

26 May-5 June 2022

How do you decide what book to pick up next? Does the cover catch your eye, is it a novel recommended by a friend – or is it a classic you feel you ought to read?

This year the Novel Perceptions team will be travelling to Hay-on-Wye to talk to you about what your reading preferences are and why, share some of our research at our stall, and to invite festivalgoers to tell us about the books they like (and the books they think they should like) as part of our Big Book Review survey.

This will be a drop-in event at the main festival site – come and say hello, find out more about our work with libraries, prisons and literature festivals, and confide your most controversial book-related opinions to the Literary Confessions Box.

Belfast Crime Writing symposium

20 May 2022

Details coming soon.

Aye Write, Glasgow

7 May 2022

Details coming soon.

Past events

The Black Country, Belfast and the Big Book Review

Wolverhampton Literature Festival, 6 February 2022, 2:30-3:30pm

Online event

How do stories we tell about places affect the way we – and others – see them? How do people in different parts of the UK respond to novels set in ‘peripheral’ literary regions? And what role do local writing and reading communities play in this?

As part of the Big Book Review, join writer Dr Lisa Blower (University of Wolverhampton, Common People Collective) and Belfast-based novelist Jan Carson (The Fire Starters) in conversation with Professor Sebastian Groes (University of Wolverhampton, Novel Perceptions project) as they explore the relationship between writing and place, regional identity, and the way both writers explore these questions in their fiction.

Lisa Blower’s most recent novel Pondweed takes two childhood sweethearts on a road trip from Stoke-on-Trent to Wales, while Jan Carson’s new novel about community and conflict in small-town Ulster, The Raptures, is published in January 2022.

Sebastian Groes will also reveal the reading habits of book-lovers in the Black Country and Northern Ireland, as indicated by the Novel Perceptions project’s research so far, and invite you to take part in our Big Book Review to tell us what you think really makes a good book.

Crime Writing and Quality

Wolverhampton Literature Festival, 5 February 2022, 7:30-8:30pm

Online event

Crime writing is immensely popular with the public, yet is often considered lowbrow genre fiction without any merit, certainly not literary. But does the way it’s written actually bear this out?

As part of the Big Book Review, join Dr Aidan Byrne (University of Wolverhampton) in conversation with a panel of contemporary crime writers as they delve into the reputation of the whodunnit. Alongside psychological suspense novelist Holly Seddon (The Hit List) and thriller writer Mark Edwards (The Hollows), he’ll explore the real value of genre fiction, and investigate the booming Northern Irish crime writing scene with Sharon Dempsey (Who Took Eden Mulligan?) and Brian McGilloway (Blood Ties): why is Northern Ireland such a fruitful place for crime fiction?

Byrne will also draw on the Big Book Review’s psychological and computational research to examine ways in which cultural stereotyping results in unconscious biases, arguing that genre fiction often has the same stylistic qualities as so-called ‘pure literature’, and challenging readers to change their reading habits and be mindful of their prejudices.

The Big Book Review: The Exeter Chapter

Being Human Festival, Sunday 14 November 2021, 2-5pm

Exeter Library, Castle Street, Exeter, EX4 3PQ

Which Exeter sites are most associated with books and writers? And what should the city’s new Exeter Book be?

As part of the Big Book Review and the Being Human festival, we invite you to join an interactive literary ramble across UNESCO’s City of Literature, Exeter, where we’ll visit places of literary significance, from Exeter Cathedral – home to the 10th-century Exeter Book – to the birthplace of Penguin Books.

After the walk, we’ll convene at Exeter Library to discuss the importance of place and regional writing for our wellbeing and identity with writer Virginia Baily (Africa Junction), Dr Aidan Byrne (University of Wolverhampton) and Professor Laura Salisbury (University of Exeter), while Dr Tom Mercer (University of Wolverhampton) from the Novel Perceptions project will analyse regional variations in literary tastes.

You’ll also have the chance to discuss your own literary favourites – confide your guilty book pleasures in the Literary Confessions Booth, share your thoughts on recent novels for our Big Book Review, and let us know your candidates for the new Exeter Book.

Walk:

Meet outside Exeter Library (1.45pm for 2pm start). The walk will take approximately one hour.

Talk:

3.15pm start at Exeter Library

Free to attend but booking is required – reserve your space here

Image by Kane Reinholdtsen via unsplash.

The Big Book Review: Perspectives from Prison

Being Human Festival, Thursday 11 November 2021, 6-7pm

Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU

How do prison communities make use of libraries? What fiction is most popular, and how do education and gender play a role within the curation of prison book collections?

As part of the Big Book Review – the largest ever survey of opinions about what fiction is really valued by readers across Britain – and the Being Human festival, Professor Sebastian Groes (University of Wolverhampton) speaks to prison librarians from across the UK to understand how prisoners make use of libraries.

Evidence suggests that participation in prison education reduces reoffending and increases employment. How does reading fit in with HM Prison & Probation Service’s policy to support upskilling, improve literacy, and stimulate effective resettlement? What can those outside of prisons learn from HMPPS’s aim to promote reading as a source of pleasure and opportunity for wider cultural engagement? How can we ensure that conversations about the books we value as a society include all voices? Join us for this unique insight into the world of reading in prisons.

Free to attend but booking is required – reserve your space here.

The Big Book Review: The Belfast Chapter

Friday 22 October and Saturday 23 October 2021

The Crescent, 2-4 University Road, Belfast, BT7 1NH

What novels have you read recently? How do you decide what to read next? And what would you recommend to someone else?

On 22 and 23 October the Novel Perceptions team will be setting up stall in the Crescent to talk about what we read and why, share some of our research, and to invite visitors to share their thoughts about the books they like (and the books they think they ought to like) as part of our Big Book Review survey.

This will be a drop-in event during opening hours – come and say hello, find out more about our work with libraries, prisons and literature festivals, and confide your guiltiest reading pleasures to the Literary Confessions Box.

The Novels That Shaped Our World: The Big Reveal

Birmingham Literature Festival, Saturday 9 October 2021, 6-7pm

Bramall Music Building, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT

In the 300 years since Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe, which books have we valued the most as a society? And are these the same as the ones we truly enjoy?

The year-long BBC Arts project The Novels That Shaped Our World has celebrated English language fiction with a 100-strong list of novels designed to spark debates about the fiction that has had the largest impact on Britain.

As the project comes to an end, Professor Sebastian Groes and Dr Tom Mercer (University of Wolverhampton) of the AHRC-funded Big Book Review reveal how the public responded to these 100 novels with results from psychological research and computational analyses.

They will be joined in conversation with writer Novels That Shaped Our World panel member Kit de Waal (My Name is Leon, Common People), who will reflect on responses to the project in conversation with Dr Elizabeth Dearnley (University of Wolverhampton).

Free to attend but booking is required – reserve your space here.