Asbury Students and Faculty Celebrate “The Great Asbury Read”
November 20, 2018
By Leah Bowshier ‘19
“One hundred books, one winner!” declared the posters. After over a month of voting, “The Great Asbury Read” came to a close on October 23 when the top 10 winners were announced with “The Lord of the Rings” coming in at the No. 1 spot.
Asbury University’s on-campus event was held in conjunction with “The Great American Read,” a PBS special that highlighted America’s 100 favorite books. The Final Tally Celebration took place in Kinlaw Library, with the Board Room full of Asbury book-lovers in attendance.
When English professor Devin Brown first heard about “The Great American Read,” he approached Head of Archives & Special Collections Suzanne Gehring, who was also serving as interim director of the library at the time, about adapting the event for Asbury. A team met over the summer to work out the specifics of the voting process and to plan the final event.
Brown said he was drawn to “The Great American Read” because of the way it promoted good books without becoming overly academic. He appreciated that the purpose was not to find the most literary book, but to find the public’s favorite book, something everyone could relate to.
“The list of the 100 favorites certainly had some typical literary books, like ‘Moby-Dick,’” Brown said. “It also had books like ‘Charlotte’s Web’ that touch people’s hearts for a long time.”
For Brown, the event represented how English major classes are not just for English majors but for anyone who likes to read, think and feel.
The planning committee also involved library student workers, including English major Kayla Beebout ‘20. Beebout was involved in planning from the start and was put in charge of secretly tallying the 631 votes that were cast.
“I think it is really important to talk about books that mean a lot to people and not necessarily just the kinds of books that you read in class,” Beebout said. “I loved the fact that there were all kinds of genres and all kinds of levels represented. I just really wanted to help bring that to campus as well.”
Beebout explained that she values reading for pleasure, even when it is difficult in a college-setting.
“Books can allow you to experience things you never would otherwise, and they open up opportunities to talk about humanity,” Beebout said.
Jared Porter entered the planning for the event this semester when he was hired as the Director of Library Services. He explained that the library staff was excited to partner with the English Department for an event that focused on books, reading and literacy. He saw the event as an opportunity to connect with students as well.
“If we can promote ourselves on campus as a place of scholarship and learning and as a hospitable environment, I think it would be beneficial for students to know that this is a place that they can come hunker down and study and have resources available,” Porter said.
The following were the Top 10 Winners of “The Great Asbury Read”:
- “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien
- “Harry Potter” (series) by J.K. Rowling
- “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon
- “The Hunger Games” (series) by Suzanne Collins
- “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
- “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes
- “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
- “Love Medicine” by Louise Erdrich
- “The Chronicles of Narnia” (series) by C.S. Lewis
- “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston
An abridged version of this essay appeared in The Asbury Collegian.