Each year, the freshman class studies a common reading focusing on issues of social justice, poverty, diversity, or other topic related to the mission of the university. Frequently, the common reading is linked to the freshman day of service, as well as an academic lecture featuring the author of the book.
Common Reading for Fall 2019
The common reading for Fall 2019 is The Road to Character by David Brooks. In The Road to Character David Brooks focuses on the deeper values that should inform our lives. Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our "résumé virtues" - achieving wealth, fame, and status - and our "eulogy virtues," those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, and faithfulness. Looking to some of the world's greatest thinkers and inspiring leaders, Brooks explores how, through internal struggle and a sense of their own limitations, they have built a strong inner character. Blending psychology, politics, spirituality, and confessional, The Road to Character provides an opportunity for us to rethink our priorities, and strive to build rich inner lives marked by humility and moral depth. All freshmen will attend a lecture presented by David Brooks on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at 5:00 pm in the PEC.
Other common reading selections used in past years include:
- Fall 2018 - Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. This novel is a wartime-era Chinese-Japanese variation on Romeo and Juliet. It explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II, the tribulations of Asian peoples during that time period, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love across racial barriers. This beautifully written book gives readers a glimpse into the damage caused by war and is especially relevant in today's world.
- Fall 2017 - Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra. This is the true story of five siblings who survived an unspeakable childhood on Long Island. In this powerful memoir, Calcaterra reveals how she endured a series of foster homes and intermittent homelessness, and how she rose above her past while fighting to keep her brother and three sisters together.
- Fall 2016 - Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. This book is a call to arms against the oppression of women and female children around the world. Through the stories of extraordinary women, we learn about the savage indictment of gender inequality in the developing world, as well as these women's courage, resilience, and struggle for hope and recovery.
- Fall 2015 - The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore. This book tells the true story of two young men, both named Wes Moore. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow and business leader. The other ended up a convicted murderer and is serving a life sentence. How did this happen?
- Fall 2014 - Scratch Beginnings by Adam Shepard. Shepard left home with the clothes on his back, a sleeping bag, and $25.00 in his pocket. At the end of one year, his goal was to have a job, working automobile, furnished apartment, and $25,000 in the bank.
- Fall 2013 – Acts of Faith by Eboo Patel. Patel’s book is his remarkable account of growing up Muslim in America and his belief in religious pluralism. His story is testament to the power and passion of young people and the potential of an interfaith youth movement. All freshmen had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Eboo Patel in September, 2013.
- Fall 2012 – Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol. In this book, Kozol shares what it is like to grow up in the South Bronx, the poorest urban neighborhood of the United States. All freshmen had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Jonathan Kozol in October, 2012. The freshman day of service was also linked to this book. Freshman cleaned up city parks in the city of Reading, Pa
- Fall 2011 – Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder. This is the story of Deo, a medical student from Burundi. Deo fled to New York City to escape the violence in Burundi and genocide in Rwanda. His is a story of survival, despair, determination, evil and ultimately, kindness.