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A copy of Pride and Prejudice, Big Red Readers’ March book of the month, rests on a table on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. Big Red Readers is a UNL book club that meets monthly to discuss literature.

Two years ago, junior finance major Ellie Anderson wanted a space to talk about books, so she created Big Red Readers. As a recognized student organization, Big Red Readers aims to cultivate an environment for people who enjoy reading but find it hard to set aside time for it.

Big Red Readers has featured a variety of books, ranging from classics such as “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen to TikTok famous novels like “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller.

For Anderson, the goal of Big Red Readers is to give students the opportunity to rekindle their love of reading that they may have lost in college and share that love with other students as well.

“It creates an environment where [students] can kind of commit to reading a book without having there be too much pressure and stress because it is a very laid back club,” Anderson said. “If you don't finish a book, you're not going to get kicked out of the club. You don't have to come to every meeting."

Freshman criminology major Anna Synya said she enjoys the relaxed environment of Big Red Readers. She described the RSO as a “no-stress club,” and said being a member does not involve paying dues or attending a certain number of meetings to maintain membership. Synya enjoyed this positive atmosphere so much that she took on the role of running the club’s Instagram account.

“I want [students] to know that it's not a very serious club,” Synya said. “You're always free to join, and it's a nice open space.”

Anderson said the process to pick the club’s next book is democratic. The first 15 minutes of meetings are devoted to members sharing what books they would like to read for the next meeting. Then they vote to narrow down which book will be read.

“My friend Audrey suggested ‘A Man Called Ove’ for six or seven meetings in a row, and it didn't get chosen,” Anderson said. “But then it did get chosen, so if there's a book that you want to read, you can definitely make it heard and convince people to vote for it.”

The books chosen often become favorites for the members. Synya said that Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” has been her favorite book that the RSO has read this year.

Anderson’s favorite novel was “Pride and Prejudice” and she hadn’t always liked classics because she associates them with school. However, when she picked the book up for Big Red Readers, she finished it in two days. Anderson said that she finds herself pleasantly challenged by the books chosen, and that is one of the reasons she loves the organization.

Following the pick of a new book club read, the group takes time to discuss overall reactions of the novel. Anderson said the group might explore certain themes or get into a more specific conversation.

“If people want to talk about other things, or if there's something that people are particularly involved in, they can,” Anderson said. “It's not a class, I'm not going to say no. We want people to talk about what interests them, not about overanalyzing the book.”

In addition to meetings, the group will have social activities depending on the book they are reading. After the group read “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman, the club had a movie night and watched the film adaptation of the novel.

Anderson said that Big Red Readers is even having a John Green throwback night. The goal is for members to read or reread one John Green book throughout the semester that they liked in their early teen years. Then there will be a celebration with prizes, games, discussions and snacks, and members can discuss how John Green impacted them as teenage readers.

“We will get to reminisce on all of the feelings that you associate with reading [John Green] when you're an early teen,” Anderson said.

Anderson said she wants students to know that Big Red Readers is open for anyone to join who has a love of reading.

“Even if you join [Big Red Readers], it doesn't mean that you have to come to every single meeting,” Anderson said. “If there is a book that really just doesn't interest you, you're not required to read it. However, I also would challenge students to maybe try to read books outside of their comfort zone because, when I've done that in the past, it has actually led to me gaining a few favorites that I wouldn't think that I would like.”

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