One Book, One College : Common Reading Programs 

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). 

For a state-by-state listing of what communities are reading, as well as programs in the UK, Australia, and Canada, see the "One Book" page at the Library of Congress's Center for the Book. 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 (and the previous year's list) is based on information gained from Web searches and from queries to the Summer Reading, ILI-L and COLLIB-L discussion lists. 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. You may also be interesting in joining a Summer Reading Listserv group maintained at Appalachian State University. 

In the news: articles 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.  

Special thanks to Erik Johnson who helped update this list.

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?


Adler School of Professional Psychology (IL) - The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2013)

Agnes Scott Collge - The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont (2013)

Amarillo College (TX) - Wine to Water by Doc Hendley (2013)

Appalachian State University - American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar (2013)

Armstrong Atlantic State University (GA) - College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be by Andrew Delbanco (2013)

Ball State University - Little Princes by Conor Grennan (2013)

Bates (ME) - When We Were the Kennedys by Monica Wood (2013)

Baylor University Honors Program (TX) - The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. (2013)

Belmont University (TN) - Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes by Daniel Everett (2013)

Bentley University (MA) - Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell (2013)

Berry College (MA) - Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (2013)

Bowling Green State University (KY)- Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall (2013)

California State University, Chico -The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (2013)

California State University, Northridge - Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes (2013)

California State University, Sacramento -Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen (2013)

Case Western Reserve University - Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (2013)


Chaffey College (CA) - The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (2013)

Clemson University - The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone (2013)

Coastal Carolina University (SC) - Start Something that Matters by Blake Mycoskie (2013)

Colgate University (NY) - Tenth of December by George Saunders (2013)

College of Charleston - Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (2013)

The College of New Jersey -The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster by Jonathan M. Katz (2013)

College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University - Fup by Jim Dodge (2013)

College of Wooster (OH) - Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with his Mother, by Sonia Nazario (2013)

Community College of Baltimore County - The Working Poor by David K. Shipler (2013)

Cornell University - When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka (2013)

Corning Community College (NY) - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (2013)

Cosumnes Community College (CA) - The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan (2013)

Davidson (NC)The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2013)

Drexel University - Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan (2013) 

Duke University - Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (2013)

Earlham College (IN) - Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (2013)

Eastern Illinois University - The Submission by Amy Waldman (2013)

Eastern Kentucky University - Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Dr. Hal Herzog (2013)

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

Goucher College - Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (2013)

Gustavus Adolphus College (MN) -  A Pearl in the Storm by Tori Murden McClure (2013)


Hampshire College
 (MA) -  Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes (2013)


Hollins University (VA) - Wild Girls by Mary Stewart Atwell (2013)

Humboldt State University - Fup by Jim Dodge (2013)

Illinois Wesleyan University - Outcasts United by Warren St. John (2013)

Indiana University, South Bend - Various Shakespeare, as part of "One Sonnet, One Campus" (2013)

Ithaca College (NY) - Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (2013)

Kalamazoo College - In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner (2013)

Kansas State University - Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2013)

Lackawanna College
 (PA) - No Turning Back by Bryan Anderson (2013)


Luther College (IA) - The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar (2013)

Macalester College (MN) - Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (2013)

Methodist University (NC) - Ethics and College Student Life by Kenneth Strike and Pamela Moss (2013)

Miami University (OH) - Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal (2013)

Michigan State University - The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (2013)

Michigan Tech - Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by by Kristen Iversen (2013)

Montana State University - Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2013)

Moncalm Community College
 (MI) - The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (2013)


Murray State University - Sum by David Eagleman (2013)

North Carolina Agricultural and Technological State University - Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss (2013)

Occidental College (CA) - The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman (2013)

Okahoma City University - Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway (2013)
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Owensboro Community and Technical College (KY) - The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (2013)

Paine College (GA) - The Bond by Sampson Davis, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt (2013)

Parkland College (IL) - The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2013)

Pennsylvania State University, Berks - Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times by Eyal Press (2013)

Philadelphia University - Start Something that Matters by Blake Mycoskie (2012)

Purdue University - No Impact Man by Colin Beavan (2013)

Ramapo College of New Jersey - Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us by Andrew Keen (2013)

Rhode Island College - PYM by Mat Johnson (2013)

Rice University (TX) - Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (2013)

Rutgers University, School of Arts and Science Honors Program - The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon (2013)

St. John's College (MD and NM) - Iliad, Homer (2013)

St. Michael's College (VT) - The Book of Job from The Bible (2013)

San Jose State University - Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden (2013)

Shepherd University (WV) - Strange as this Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake (2013)

Smith College - My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor (2013)

Spokane Falls Community College - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2013)

SUNY Brockport - Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy by John Wood (2013)

Susquehanna University - a collection of readings on the university's theme for the year, "Technology in our lives" (2013)

Triton College (IL) - College Rules! How to Study, Survive, and Succeed in College by Sherrie Nist-Olejnik and Jodi Patrick Holschuh (2013)

Tufts University (MA) - Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude M. Steele (2013)

University at Buffalo, SUNY - The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell (2013)

University of Alabama, Birmingham - Media package related to 150th anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation and 50th anniversary of Civil Rights events in Birmingham.  Includes Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr., and the "Students" section of Mahatma Gandhi's Constructive Program (2013)

University of Arizona - No Impact Man by Colin Beavan (2012)

University of Arizona Honors Program- Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking. 17 Years of Silence by John Francis (2013)

University of Arkansas - Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness by Pete Earley (2013)

University of California, Davis
 - Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (2013)


University of Florida - A School for My Village by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri (2013)

University of Houston - Victoria (TX) - Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden (2013)

University of Kentucky - Where Am I Wearing? by Kelsey Timmerman (2013)

University of Louisville -This I Believe:The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman (2013)

University of Maine - The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (2013)

University of Maryland (College Park) - The Signal and the Noise: why so many predictions fail — but some don’t by Nate Silver (2013)

University of Maryland - Baltimore County - Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years by Mark Hertsgaard (2013)

University of Massachussetts, Amherst -  No Impact Man by Colin Beavan (2013)

University of Mississippi - The Unforgiving Minute by Craig Mullaney (2013)

University of Montana - Missoula - Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (2013)

University of North Carolina at Charlotte - Wine to Water by Doc Hendley (2013)

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Home by Toni Morrison (2013)

University of North Carolina, Wilmington - The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey. (2013)

University of South Carolina, Aiken - Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (2013)

University of Tennessee, Knoxville  - Eaarth by Bill McKibben (2013)

University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science - The Shallows: what the internet is doing to our brains by Nicholas Carr (2013)

University of Washington - Respect: An Exploration by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot (2012)

University of Wisconsin, Madison - A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (2013)

University of Wisconsin, Parkside -  Great Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe (2013)

Utah State University - The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, By William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (2013)

Vanderbilt University - College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be by Andrew Delbanco (2013)

Ventura College (CA) - Packing for Mars by Mary Roach (2013)

Virginia Commonweath University -  Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss (2013)

Wartburg College (IA) -The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2013)

Washington State University - Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz (2013)

Washington University (MO) - Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss (2013)

Whitman College (WA) - Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude Steele (2013)

Wingate University (NC) - Wine to Water by Doc Hendley (2013)

Xavier University of Louisiana
 -The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2013)