One Book, One College : Common Reading Programs, 2007 - 2015

A number of colleges and universities having reading in common or summer reading programs. In many cases, libraries participate in choosing and discussing the book. In some cases, the library initiated the program and in others it appears to be either tied to a curriculum initiative (e.g. first year seminars) or to orientation (coming more from Student Affairs than from the academic side). In some cases, books are sent to incoming students; in others students are urged to purchase the book before coming to campus. For a literature review and analysis, see Andrew Twiton's report, "Common Reading Programs in Higher Education" (2007).

Several schools tie the program to a first year experience program or a new student orientation. (A list of summer reading programs like these is also maintained by the National Resource Center for the First Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina.) Some also are used in courses, but this is by no means standard and tends to be something teaching faculty choose to do on their own. Some programs offer public events, most often an author appearance, but most aren't formally tied to a wider community reads program (through, for example, public library and high school cross-programming). 

The Beyond the Book project Website, a UK/Canadian research collaboration, has a lot of useful information related to community reading programs. For an excellent guide for first-year orientation discussion facilitators, see this handout prepared by Rebecca Taylor Fremo, prepared with The Kite Runner in mind. Feel free to adapt it to your needs, but please give Becky credit. 

This list began with information gained from Web searches and from queries to the Summer Reading, ILI-L and COLLIB-L discussion lists and has been updated annually. The year indicates when the book was adopted as a common book. If you'd like your institution added or information updated, please drop me a line.

In the news: articles about common reading programs have been published in The New York Times and U.S. News and World Report. See also an interesting 2006 article by Michael Ferguson in AAC&U's Peer Review. T
he conservative National Association of Scholars has repeatedly criticized these "beach book programs, concluding they promote liberal political agendas and lack intellectual rigor. Carolyn Foster Segal wrote about the difficulties of choosing a common reading and argues for books that are sustained and challenging at Inside Higher Ed. More recently, one successful program was described in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed covered a panel held at the 2012 Modern Languages Association conference. 
In 2014, the South Carolina House of Representatives cut the budget for common reading programs at the University of South Carolina in Spartanburg and the College of Charleston to "send a message" that selecting books about gay sexuality would not be supported by legislators. The College of Charleston announced it would save the program, which had chosen Alison Bechtel's Fun Home as a common book. Later the same month, the president of Purdue University cut their common reading program saying there wasn't sufficient research on its benefits to support the cost, and the money would be used to revise new-student orientation programs. Faculty protested the decision.  
In 2015, Inside Higher Ed surveyed over 100 schools to find out what they were reading, finding books about race and social justice particularly popular choices.

What were we reading in 2007?
What were we reading in 2008?
What were we reading in 2009/10?
What were we reading in 2011?

What were we reading in 2012?
What were we reading in 2013?
What were we reading in 2014?


Appalachian State University - A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (2015)

Armstrong Atlantic State University (GA) - I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb (2015)

Ball State University - Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas (2015)

Berry College (MA) - IGod’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet (2015)

Bowling Green State University (KY) - The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2014)

California State University, Chico - Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (2015)

California State University, Northridge - Every Day by David Levithan (2015)

California State University, Sacramento - Weed Land by Peter Hecht (2015)

Case Western Reserve University - Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude M. Steele (2015)

Chaffey College (CA) - Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 by Anna Deavere Smith (2015)

Clemson University - We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (2015)

Coastal Carolina University (SC) - A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel (2015)

College of Charleston - Freedom Summer by Bruce Watson (2015)

The College of New Jersey -The Nature of College by James J. Farrell (2015)

College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University - The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (2015)

College of Wooster (OH) - Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2015)

Community College of Baltimore County - Prayers For The Stolen by Jennifer Clement (2015)

Cornell University - Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (2015)

Corning Community College (NY) -  Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude M. Steele (2015)

Cosumnes Community College (CA) - Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies by Seth M. Holmes (2015)

Davidson (NC) - Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2015)

Eastern Illinois University - Ties That Bind by Dave Isay (2015)

Eastern Kentucky University - Hamlet's Blackberry by William Powers (2015)

George Mason University (VA) - Fall for the Book - an annual city-wide book festival

Goucher College - The Power of Mindful Learning by Ellen J. Langer (2015)

Gustavus Adolphus College (MN) -  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2015)

Hampshire College (MA) -  The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (2015)

Humboldt State University - The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (2015)

Indiana University, South Bend - The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (2014)

Ithaca College (NY) - The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (2014)

Kalamazoo College - The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison (2015)

Kansas State University - The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2015)

Lackawanna College (PA) - Saddle Up, Charlie by C. Terry Walters and Charlie Wysocki (2014)

Macalester College (MN) - Hope Against Hope by Sarah Carr (2015)

Miami University (OH) - The 46 Rules of Genius by Marty Neumeier (2015)

Michigan State University - Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (2015)

Michigan Tech - Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick (2015)

Montana State University - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2015)

Moncalm Community College (MI) - The Soloist by Steve Lopez (2015)

Occidental College (CA) - The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (2015)

Okahoma City University -Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel  

Owensboro Community and Technical College (KY) - A Companion for Owls by Maurice Manning (2015)

Pennsylvania State University, Berks - What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 by Tina Seelig  (2015)

Ramapo College of New Jersey - Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar (2015)

Rhode Island College The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (2015)

Rutgers University, School of Arts and Science Honors Program - Strength In What Remains by Tracy Kidder (2015)

San Jose State University - The Circle by Dave Eggers (2015)

Shepherd University (WV) - Alone Together by Sherry Turkle (2015)

Smith College - The Collapse of Western Civilization by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway (2015)

SUNY Brockport - Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman  (2015)

Susquehanna University - a collection of readings on the university's theme for the year,"Adventure" (2014).

University at Buffalo, SUNY - Breaking Night by Liz Murray (2015)

University of Alabama, Birmingham - The Chimp and The River by David Quammen (2015)

University of Arizona Honors Program - The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2014)

University of Arkansas - – Outcasts United by Warren St. John (2015)

University of California, Davis - The Divide by Matt Taibbi (2015)

University of Florida - Double Take by Kevin Michael Connolly (2015)

University of Houston - Victoria (TX) - Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (2015)

University of Kentucky - Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton (2015)

University of Louisville -This I Believe edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman (2014)

University of Maine Honor's College - Eaarth by Bill McKibben (2014)

University of Maryland (College Park) - Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney (2015)

University of Massachussetts, Amherst -  The True American  by Anand Giridharadas (2015)

University of Mississippi - The Education Of A Lifetime by Robert Khayat (2015)

University of Montana - Missoula - The Tiger by John Vaillant (2015)

University of North Carolina at Charlotte - The Yellow Bird by Kevin Powers (2014)

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Just mercy by Bryan Stevenson (2015)

University of North Carolina, Wilmington - Chasing Chaos by Jessica Alexander (2015)

University of South Carolina, Aiken - The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez (2015)

University of Tennessee, Knoxville  - Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá  (2014)

University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science - Spare Parts by Joshua Davis (2015)

University of Wisconsin, Madison  Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (2015)

University of Wisconsin, Parkside -  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (2014)

Utah State University - The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko (2015)

Virginia Commonweath University - The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore (2015)

Wartburg College (IA) - The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2015)

Washington State University - Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (2015)

Xavier University of Louisiana - Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (2015)