Big Read Meet turns one

Big Read Meet turns one
Ms Wendy Chua-Sullivan (front row, third from left) raising a chuckle with a point she was making at The Straits Times’ first Big Read Meet at the National Library Board (NLB) headquarters in Victoria Street on 17 July 2013.

About 40 readers from all walks of life joined The Straits Times senior writer Cheong Suk-Wai in celebrating the first anniversary of The Big Read Meet at the Central Public Library on Wednesday evening.

That was after their lively and thoughtful discussion on, ironically, the stigma of failure, as explored in the Meet's book of the month, The Rise, by Sarah Lewis.

The Straits Times, in partnership with the National Library Board, had launched the Meet on July 17 last year as a way to engage even more deeply with readers.Since then, an average of 45 readers have gathered monthly to discuss ideas from new non-fiction books, with Ms Cheong, 44, as their moderator. She anchors the fortnightly Saturday book review column, The Big Read, on which the Meet is based.

The books they have looked at in the past year include Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, David And Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, and The Leader, The Teacher And You by former Civil Service chief Lim Siong Guan and his daughter Joanne. The Lims' session on April 30 this year drew a total of 160 readers, the highest number of participants to date.

As with previous Meets, new members were welcomed yesterday, namely student Henry Lim, retiree Ruth Chew and lawyer Lavinia Thanapathy.

Ms Thanapathy, who is 43 and a mother of five, says: "About five years ago, I joined a book club made up of women professionals in their 30s and 40s. So we had a lot in common and it was all international, cordial and social, and everyone had a wine glass in hand. "But the people at the Meet are so dramatically different in age, and their experiences and opinions so varied, that I really enjoyed what all of them had to say."

Bookworm Julie Haw, 42, who is managing director of food and beverage company Frosts, has been a regular since the Meet's launch.

She says: "I'm always intrigued by the Meet's dynamics. It is really a mini debating ground for life's issues. It's interesting how a bunch of strangers can talk so deeply about life. I always get something out of it."

Ms Haw's husband, Mr Leow Tze Wen, 42, had also taken part in a recent Meet.

Engineer Tan Suan Hwee, 34, another regular, adds: "Many among us give very good critiques and feedback on the subjects discussed. I may think of something in a certain way, but others think and talk about it in other ways at the Meet. That has widened and clarified my perspective on many things."

This article was published on Aug 1 in The Straits Times.

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