Common Reading Experience - Previous Selections

Previous Common Reading Experience selections

2016 - 2017

Apocalyptic Planet
by Craig Childs

"Ruminating on our distant past and present changes, [Childs] blends climate science, natural history, literary references, and personal reflections to create an immensely evocative sense of time and place. From Greenland’s glaciers to a blistering hot Iowa cornfield (a place Childs characterizes as suffering from "genetic exhaustion"), he immerses himself in parts of our world that scientists endlessly study but we willfully ignore. He consults great minds, cajoles friends into sharing his adventures (with often hilarious results), and brings his mother along in an attempt to gather clues and form conclusions about the end of the world as we know it. Surprisingly, this is not a work of darkest sorrow but rather an engaging exploration of the land beneath us and the sixth mass extinction that scientists agree is underway." – Booklist

book cover Thinking in Pictures2015 - 2016

Thinking in Pictures
Temple Grandin, Ph.D.

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is a gifted animal scientist who has designed one third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the United States. She also lectures widely on autism–because Temple Grandin is autistic, a woman who thinks, feels, and experiences the world in ways that are incomprehensible to many of the rest of us. Here, in Temple Grandin’s own words, is the story of what it is like to live with autism, to be among the few people who have broken through many of the neurological impairments associated with autism. Throughout her life, she has developed unique coping strategies, including her famous “squeeze machine,” which she modeled after seeing the calming effect of squeeze chutes on cattle. She describes her painful isolation growing up “different” and her discovery of visual symbols to interpret the “ways of the natives.” 

Dead Man Walking book cover2014 - 2015

Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty that Sparked a National Debate
by Sister Helen Prejean

For the Fall 2014 semester, the Common Reading Experience book selection is Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty that Sparked a National Debate, by Sister Helen Prejean.

In her book, Sr. Helen, a Roman Catholic nun, describes what it looks and feels like to walk a man on Death Row to his execution. As spiritual advisor to several men convicted of vicious crimes, Sr. Helen comes to know them well. She is horrified by their crimes; she is horrified that they themselves will be killed. But she accompanies these men to their death so they will not be alone. Equally important for Sr. Helen, is to be sure the victims’ families are not alone. She founded SURVIVE a support group to help each family survive its unimaginable grief.

Full Body Burden bookcover2013 - 2014

Full Body Burden
by Kristen Iversen

"Full Body Burden is a haunting work of narrative nonfiction about a young woman, Kristen Iversen, growing up in a small Colorado town close to Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant once designated “the most contaminated site in America.” It’s the story of a childhood and adolescence in the shadow of the Cold War, in a landscape at once startlingly beautiful and—unknown to those who lived there—tainted with invisible yet deadly particles of plutonium."

Enrique2010 - 2011

Enrique's Journey
Sonia Nazario

In this astonishing true story, award-winning journalist Sonia Nazario recounts the unforgettable odyssey of a Honduran boy who braves unimaginable hardship and peril to reach his mother in the United States.

The Beast in the Garden bookcover2009 - 2010

The Beast in the Garden: The True Story of a Predator's Deadly Return to Suburban America
by David Baron

When residents of Boulder, Colorado, suddenly began to see mountain lions in their backyards, it became clear that the cats had returned after decades of bounty hunting had driven them far from human settlement. In a riveting environmental tale that has received huge national attention, journalist David Baron traces the history of the mountain lion and chronicles one town's tragic effort to coexist with its new neighbors. As thought-provoking as it is harrowing, The Beast in the Garden is a tale of nature corrupted, the clash between civilization and wildness, and the artificiality of the modern American landscape. It is, ultimately, a book about the future of our nation, where suburban sprawl and wildlife-protection laws are pushing people and wild animals into uncomfortable, sometimes deadly proximity.

Three Cups of Tea bookcover2008 - 2009

Three Cups of Tea: One man's mission to promote peace -- one school at a time
by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

In THREE CUPS OF TEA: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time, Greg Mortenson, and acclaimed journalist David Oliver Relin, recount the unlikely journey that led Mortenson from a failed attempt to climb Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain, to successfully building schools in some of the most remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.