'Let the Great World Spin' chosen as fifth annual ReadUP book

Order a free copy by Friday

By Sam Cushing | October 31, 2018 9:18pm


Colum McCann's book "Let the Great World Spin" has been chosen for the fifth annual ReadUP. Photo Submitted by Garaventa Center 

On Aug. 7, 1974, French high-wire artist Philippe Petit tightroped between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. “Let the Great World Spin” by Colum McCann tells the fictitious story of 12 strangers in lower Manhattan on that day, who looked up and witnessed a moment that would echo through history for decades to come.

“They’re trying to deal with their own troubled lives, but this eruption of wonder alters their thinking and leads them to new discoveries, new connections,” English professor Lars Larson said. “Above all, it’s a book of connections.”

The deadline for students, faculty and staff to request a free copy of the fifth annual ReadUP book, “Let the Great World Spin,” is Friday, Nov. 2. Books will be available for pickup from hall directors, or Clark Library for those who live off campus, starting on Monday, Nov. 12.

According to Karen Eifler, co-director of the Garaventa Center, ReadUP was formed five years ago and was built off of the model of the Schoenfeldt distinguished writers series. The goal of the program was to unite members of the community through stories from other perspectives and end with group discussions followed by a visit from the author.

McCann will be visiting UP on Feb. 20 for a public lecture and book signing. The other co-director of the Garaventa Center, Fr. Charles Gordon, will be facilitating group discussions in the weeks leading up to McCann’s visit. The dates are Feb. 7, Feb. 13 and Feb. 19 from noon to 1 p.m. in the conference room on the second floor of Clark Library.

“Students, professors and staff on campus were largely splintered into our specialties, for good reasons,” Larson said. “But here’s a chance to rally around one idea-filled text. We do this at sports games, but here’s something where the aim is more than just about winning. It’s about thinking through vital ideas.”

Larson was part of a committee which met about a year ago to select the book for ReadUP. Other members included Assistant Provost John Orr and representatives from the Garaventa Center and Residence Life. According to Larson, the group took months to narrow down a list of about a dozen book options. 

The committee based its criteria for choosing the book on how well the book bridged different departments, like physics or chemistry and English, and if it dealt with issues of faith and spirituality, and holds a deeper message. Some other candidates included “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders, “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi and “American War” by Omar El Akkad.

“Let the Great World Spin” was published in 2009 and won the National Book Award for Fiction that same year. According to Larson, the book is a “social panorama” of those who watched this event. 

“This is a book that gathers the people below who saw (the tightrope-walk), and records how they processed this moment of wonder that they tried to make sense of,” Larson said. 

“Let the Great World Spin” is a book we “need now more than ever,” Larson said. 

“It’s about divisive times that we live in,” Larson said. “People who have no trust in one another, and it’s about learning to re-establish that trust in strangers.”

Sam Cushing is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at cushing20@up.edu.