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 annual 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 issued a critique of reading programs, concluding they promote liberal political agendas and lack intellectual rigor. For coverage and discussion see an Inside Higher Ed article on the report. 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.

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?

Adler School of Professional Psychology (IL) - Left Neglected by Lisa Genova (2012)

Agnes Scott Collge - 
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2012)

Amarillo College (TX) - The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Eagan (2012)

Appalachian State University - Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter (2012)

Armstrong Atlantic State University (GA) - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2011)

Ball State University - Where am I Wearing by Kelsey Timmerman (2012)


Bates (ME) - The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands it and Campaigning Undermines It
by Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson (2012)

Baylor University Honors Program (TX) - The Ghost Map, by Steve Johnson (2012)

Belmont University (TN) - Civility by Stephen L. Carter (2012)

Bentley University (MA) - The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch (2011)

Berry College (MA) - The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Lemmon (2012)


Bowling Green State University (KY)- A Pearl in a Storm by Tori Murden McClure (2012)

California State University, Chico - Unquenchable, by Robert Glennon (2012)


California State University, NorthridgeOne Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni (2012)


California State University, SacramentoOne Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni (2012)


Case Western Reserve University - The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba (2012)

Chaffey College (CA) - The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (2012)

Clemson University - Wading Home by Rosalyn Story (2012)


Coastal Carolina University (SC) - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2012)

Colgate University (NY) - 
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2012)

College of Charleston -
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (2012)

The College of New Jersey - Revolution 2.0
by Wael Ghonim (2012)

College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University - Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (2012)

College of Wooster (OH) - In the Country of Men, by Hisham Matar (2012)


Community College of Baltimore County - No Impact Man by Colin Beavan (2012)

Cornell University - The Life Before Us by Romaine Gary (2012)

Cosumnes Community College (CA) -
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2012)

Davidson (NC) - Vietnamerica by G. B. Tran (2012)


Drexel University - Pig Candy: Taking My Father South, Taking My Father Home by Lise Funderburg (2012)

Duke University - State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (2012)

Earlham College (IN) - 
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2012)

Eastern Illinois University
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2012)

Eastern Kentucky University - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2011)

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

Goucher College - An Enemy of the People by Henrick Ibsen (2012)

Gustavus Adolphus College (MN) -  The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2012)


Hampshire College
(MA) - Sweet Heaven When I Die, by Jeff Sharlet (2012)

Hollins University (VA) - State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (2012)


Humboldt State University
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (2012)

Illinois Wesleyan University - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2012)

Indiana University, South Bend - The Post-American World by Fareed Zarkaria (2011)

Ithaca College (NY) - Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson (2012)

Kalamazoo College - Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell (2012)

Kansas State University
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2012)

Lackawanna College
(PA) - A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron (2011)

Luther College (IA)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2012)

Macalester College (MN) - The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson (2012)

Methodist University (NC) - Scratch Beginnings, by Adam Shepard (2011)

Miami University (OH) - Shade it Black: Death and After in Iraq by Jess Goodell with John Hearn (2012)


Michigan State University - Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (2012)

Michigan Tech - Little Princes by Conor Grennan (2012)

Montana State University - Extraordinary, Ordinary People by Condeleezza Rice (2012)

Moncalm Community College
(MI) - Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison (2011)

Murray State UniversityNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2012)

North Carolina Agricultural and Technological State University - The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2012)

Occidental College (CA) - The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar (2012)

Okahoma City UniversityOutcasts United by Warren St. John (2011)


Owensboro Community and Technical College (KY) - September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond (2011)

Paine College (GA) - The Warmth of Other Sons by Isabel Wilkerson (2012)

Parkland College (IL) - Into the Beautiful North
by Luis Alberto Urrea (2012) 

Pennsylvania State University, Berks - Choosing Civility by P. M. Forni (2011)

Philadelphia University - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2011)

Purdue University - The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (2012)

Ramapo College of New Jersey - Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen (2011)

Rhode Island College - more -
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2012)

Rice University (TX) - Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M. Steele

Rutgers University, School of Arts and Science Honors Program
 - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2012)

St. John's College (MD and NM) - Iliad, Homer (2011)

St. Michael's College (VT) - Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer (2011)

San Jose State University - Little Princes by Conor Grennan (2012)

Shepherd University (WV) - This I Believe, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman (2011)

Smith College
Dreaming in French by Alice Yaeger Kaplan (2012)

Spokane Falls Community College - Saints at the River by Ron Rash (2012)

SUNY Brockport
A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufield (2012)

Susquehanna University - a collection of readings on the university's theme for the year, "Freedom and Responsibility" (2012)

Triton College (IL) - The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (2011)

Tufts University (MA) - Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers (2011)

University at Buffalo, SUNY - Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie (2012)

University of Alabama, BirminghamThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2012)

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

University of ArkansasThe Working Poor by David K. Shipler (2012)


University of California, Davis
- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilerson (2012)

University of Florida - The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (2012)

University of Houston - Victoria (TX) - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2012)

University of Kentucky - The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education by Craig M. Mullaney (2012)

University of Louisville - The Othere Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2011)

University of Maine - What is the What by Dave Eggers (2012)

University of Maryland (College Park) - The Influencing Machine by Josh Neufeld and Brooke Gladstone (2012)

University of Maryland - Baltimore County - Outcasts United, by Warren St. John (2011)

University of Massachussetts, Amherst - Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2012)

University of Mississippi - Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (2012)

University of Montana - Missoula - Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It byMaile Meloy (2012)

University of North Carolina at Charlotte - Oucasts United  by Warren St. John (2012)

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - The Shallows by Nicholas Carr (2012)


University of North Carolina, Wilmington
Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President by Eli Saslow (2012)

University of South Carolina, AikenThe Boy Who Harnessed the  Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (2012)


University of Tennessee, Knoxville  - The Accidental Asian by Eric Liu (2012)


University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science - To Engineer is Human, by Henry Petroski (2012)


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

University of Wisconsin, Madison - Radioactive: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss (2012)

University of Wisconsin, Parkside -  Outcasts United by Warren St. John (2012)

Utah State University - The Beast in the Garden by David Baron (2012)

Vanderbilt University - Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (2012)

Ventura College (CA) - Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (2011)

Virginia Commonweath University -  
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2011)

Wartburg College (IA) - An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina (2012)


Washington State University - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2012)

Washington University (MO) - The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway (2011)

Whitman College (WA) - The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (2012)

Wingate University (NC) - Little Princes by Conor Grennan (2012)

Xavier University of Louisiana
- Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser (2011)

(4/13)