Beartown chosen as ACU Book of the Year

A novel that encourages readers to consider the trade-off between ethics and economics has been chosen as the ACU Book of the Year.

Beartown by Frederik Backman tells the story of a small town forced to make tough decisions when its chance at revival through its star junior hockey team is threatened by a rape on the eve of the big game.

A copy of the book will be given to every first-year student at ACU in 2021, an initiative which ensures the sale of 7,500 additional copies for the author, Swedish writer Frederik Backman, and publisher Penguin.

Judges Emeritus Professor Margot Hillel OAM, Professor Dermot Nestor and Fides Datu Law chose Beartown for the way it addressed the theme of generosity, its relevance to young people, and its strong exploration of ethical issues.

“It’s set in a tiny remote town in Sweden but really it’s a microcosm which explores human motivations, feelings and interactions,” Professor Hillel said. “It will encourage our students to think about what it means to be a good person, about courage versus fear, truth versus lies, and how one takes an ethical stand.”

She said a particularly relevant theme in the book was the way people were forced to choose between the economic opportunities of the hockey-led revival for the struggling town and the ethical issues resulting from the rape.

“The pressure for business to over-ride ethical considerations is very topical and the book makes readers think about the courage needed to stand up against that.”

The Book of the Year is an innovative ACU program which harnesses the power of reading fiction to encourage students to think about the ethical context of their lives.

All students, whatever they are studying, receive the book free of charge and are asked to think about its themes as part of ACU’s compulsory core curriculum.

The program engages fiction to develop empathy, encourage students to engage with the world, and forge community.

Professor Hillel said, “Reading fiction gives you an idea of the way other people think. It broadens your horizons and makes you aware of the individual worth of every person, which is very much aligned with ACU’s mission.”

Students are also encouraged to read other books on the Book of the Year shortlist, which this year also contained:

  • The Bookshop of the Broken-Hearted by Robert Hillman
  • Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
  • The Storied Life of A.K. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.


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