Mountain View College Selects Nickel and Dimed for the 2012 Common Book Project

This year, students, faculty, and staff at Mountain View College will learn about and consider the challenges faced by Americans working for minimum wage as they read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. The bestselling book has been selected for the 2012 Common Book Project.

Each year, a committee seeks a text “that has application across an array of academic disciplines.”

The common book should encourage students to think critically, ask questions, and discuss themes and issues with their peers. A truly interdisciplinary initiative, Mountain View faculty has “integrated the Common Book into course sections in History, Spanish, Humanities, Biology, Art, English, Chemistry, Physics, Drama, Speech, Government, Cultural Studies and Developmental Writing.”

Mountain View College 2012 Common Book Project Kick-off : Conversation with Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

Beyond the classroom, programming to complement the Common Book Project includes “author lectures, performing arts events, visual arts exhibits and Café Conversations.” Most notably, Barbara Ehrenreich kicked off the fall programming calendar when she visited campus in September.

This month, the Common Book Writing Contest, open to any student enrolled at MVC, calls for 5,000-word essays written in response to a brief prompt. First, Second, and Third place prizes will be awarded, and all entries are considered for publication in the MVC Writer’s Garret, the college’s literary magazine.

The Mountain View College Theatre Department is also participating; at the end of October, they’ll stage playwright Joan Holden’s dramatic adaptation of Nickel and Dimed.

Since its first publication in 2001, nearly 100 colleges and universities have adopted Nickel and Dimed for their common reading programs. Check out the list of those schools, and browse our other most Popular Picks for common reading.

Nickel and Dimed • Picador • 256 pages

Our Boys is the 2012 iRead Book at Washburn University

Joe Drape’s Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen is the 2012 iRead book at Washburn University.

The Washburn campus in Topeka is about 200 miles from Smith Center, Kansas, where New York Times sportswriter Joe Drape moved with his family to get a community perspective on the small town football team with the nation’s longest high-school winning streak. The author is slated to speak at Washburn in September 2012.

The iRead common reading program is one component of Washburn’s First Year Experience curriculum. First-year students will read the book in IS 110: The Washburn Experience, a student success course that focuses on focuses upon information literacy, effective communication, academic integrity, and the transition into the college experience.

The broader goals of the iRead program are to:

  • Enhance the campus community
  • Uphold the university mission of “learning for a lifetime”
  • Advocate the goals of the Washburn Transformational Experience
  • Create a common experience for students
  • Foster involvement and inclusivity as early as possible
  • Enrich and expand the minds of students

Previous iRead books at Washburn include A Long Way GoneNickel and Dimed, and This I BelieveClick here to see the other schools that have adopted these books and other Popular Picks from Macmillan!

Our Boys • St. Martin’s Griffin • 320 pages

Macmillan’s Common Reading March Madness Picks!

Colleges and universities of all sizes in all regions are gearing up for the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament and Macmillan wants in on the bracketology!

Click for a closer look:

Macmillan is not affiliated with the NCAA, ESPN, or HP. Bracket Source: ESPN

Since I’m all about selecting winning books for common reading, I based my bracket picks on the schools that have adopted Macmillan titles for their programs. When neither school had—at least, not this season!—I went with the lower seed (those picks are noted in black). When Macmillan adopters went head to head, I used seed positions to make my predictions, as well.

I proposed the common reading bracket with tongue in cheek, but my little experiment has been fun and informative. Here we have a whole new perspective on the trends and the diversity in common reading selections at schools across the country.

As you can see, the competitors are very well read!

In the East, Ohio State is the favorite with Elie Wiesel’s Night, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, and Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man. First Four victor Clemson has previously adopted Ron Rash’s novel One Foot in Eden, and they’ll be reading his Saints at the River this fall. Common reader MVP No Impact Man is the Fall 2011 book at the University of Kentucky. Nickel and Dimed has been the common reading title at both UNC, Chapel Hill and Syracuse University. The UNC Tarheels have also read Picking Cotton and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, while Syracuse has adopted A Long Way Gone. The University of Washington represents with Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe.

Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone dominates in the West, where the universities of Texas and Tennessee have both selected the book. Hampton University first-year students have been reading Daniel Black’s They Tell Me of a Home just this year and Temple’s have read Elie Wiesel’s Night. Number two seed San Diego State University has adopted Ray C. Anderson’s Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist.

Next, we go to the Southwest, where Boston University has favorites Nickel and Dimed and A Long Way Gone on its roster. The University of Illinois has also adopted Nickel and Dimed and the University of Akron has chosen A Long Way Gone. Class Matters has been read campus-wide at the University of Richmond, while Saint Peter’s has adopted Night. Florida State students submitted their own “This I Believe” essays when the university picked This I Believe—how many of the Seminoles wrote about basketball?

Finally, in the Southeast, University of Pittsburgh students have read Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Utah State has adopted Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone and Wofford College freshmen have read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and Ron Rash’s One Foot in Eden. Students in the University of Wisconsin system, from Parkside to Marathon County, have read everything from This I Believe II to Deep Economy; I hope they’re all united behind the Badgers from Madison! But can sixth-seed Saint John’s take Katharine Weber’s Triangle all the way to the championship?

The Big Dance begins tomorrow—what book are you rooting for?

P.S. For more unconventional bracketology for academics, check out The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Tweed Madness!

No Impact Man is Ohio State’s 2010 Buckeye Book

No Impact Man is the 2010 pick for the Buckeye Book Community at Ohio State University!  Every first-year student received a copy at summer orientation.  They read the book over the summer and returned to campus in the fall prepared to discuss it—and embark on their own No Impact experience.

For a decade, the Buckeye Book Community program selected a book about a relevant social issue and assigned the reading to the incoming first-year class.  The shared reading experience:

—Promotes reflection and dialogue among first-year students and faculty/staff around a common academic activity
—Introduces students to expectations of higher education
—Cultivates the life of the mind in and outside the classroom
—Helps foster community among first-year students
—Connects first-year students to faculty and staff through co-curricular programming
—Provides students with the opportunity to hear from the author, engage with the author through Q&A, and gain a greater understanding of the author’s motivation and writing process

Colin Beavan, author and the founder of No Impact Project, spent two days on campus this month.  In the evenings, he spoke to large audiences about why his family embarked on a year-long No Impact Experiment and how the experience changed his perception of human impact on the environment, strengthened his resolve to make longterm lifestyle changes on behalf of the planet, and shifted his personal values and goals.

Colin also joined students in smaller discussion groups to talk about writing and reading No Impact Man and share ideas about conservation and sustainability practices on campus.

Watch and Listen: “No Impact Week” at The Ohio State University

Those ideas were put into action during OSU’s No Impact Week, October 10-17.  To kick it off, Students for a Sustainable Campus sponsored the fourth annual Scarlett, Gray, and Green Fair, featuring more than forty booths (and free food, free t-shirts, and the chance to win a free bike!)  University administrative departments like the Office of Business and the Office of Energy Services, as well as environmental organizations and companies from across the state, showcased their environmentally friendly goals and achievements and encouraged students to get involved, as well.

Some students and faculty contributors to the Ohio State No Impact Blog shared their thoughts about No Impact Man and No Impact Week with the whole campus community:

“After reading No Impact Man, I realized more than ever that being environmentally friendly not only helps the environment (clearly), but could actually significantly improve my life.

For example, this book, along with my summer internship with Consider Biking, is the reason I have taken my bike on errands instead of my car. As a result, I am in better shape and have saved a lot of money on gas. Another change No Impact Man has led me to make is watching less TV. It is amazing how much more I get done now. And while I thought TV was helping me unwind, I am actually more relaxed if I read, play guitar, go running, etc.

Therefore, I am interested to see how participating in no Impact Week will further change my habits for the better. I realize that a lot of the changes are very easy and I should have already been doing them, but I think this is the push I need.”

Stacy Weisfeld, OSU Class of 2011, Vice President of Students for Recycling, Assistant to Director of Sustainability and Energy Management

Themed days throughout the week zeroed in on reducing impact in different areas.  For instance, Consumption and Trash Day included a tour of the local Rumpke Recycling facility, distribution of free recycling bins for dorm rooms, and installation of recycling stations in some common areas that were missing them.  On Food Issues Day, participants learned about sustainable food practices like eating locally and packing lunch in reusable bags.  Dining Services invited students behind the scenes to see how their food waste is handled.  For Transportation Day, OSU held an Alternate Transit Resources Fair representing greener ways to get around campus and the Columbus area and the Department of Recreational Sports hosted a Biking 101 course.

The Buckeye Book Program and OSU’s No Impact Week made local headlines: Book Inspires OSU Students To Limit Impact

Colin’s No Impact Project organization can customize a program for any campus.  Interested?  Learn more

In previous years, Ohio State has adopted Elie Wiesel’s Night and Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America for the Buckeye Book Community.

No Impact Man • Picador • 288 pages

A Long Way Gone is the 2010 Common Text at Wright State University

Wright State University’s 2010 Common Text is A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.  The university is giving a copy of the book to each member of the class of 2014 at Orientation sessions throughout the summer. The Common Text program was established:

—To expose students to WSU’s academic atmosphere from the time they arrive on campus for Orientation
—To provide a common academic experience for all first-year students by giving them the opportunity to engage with peers in intellectual discussions both inside and outside the classroom.
—To communicate the expectation that students will begin to read actively and critically, make judgments about the validity of what they read and be able to discuss challenging, sometimes conflicting, ideas.

Author Ishmael Beah will speak at Freshman Convocation, held when students arrive on campus in September. Beah’s address will kick off this year’s Presidential Lecture Series, which aims “to advance human justice and promote the university’s commitment to creating a diverse university community and learning environment.”

This year, the university has established a Common Text Essay Contest and invited first-year students to select and write on a theme and passage from the book.  The winner will be announced during the Freshman Convocation ceremony.

Later in the fall, Wright State University will host a Campus Big Read event—read-a-thon style!  Beginning at 8:30am on Wednesday, November 3, students, campus officials, and local celebrities will read passages from A Long Way Gone for 10-15 minutes before handing the book off to the next reader.  It’s an opportunity to unite the campus community while raising awareness for the plight of child soldiers.

A Long Way Gone will be central to many First-Year Seminars this year, as well as courses in WSU’s Learning Community program, which links General Education courses with specific seminars or fields of study.  Students who share similar interests or majors take at least two classes together, which affords a network of new friends and study partners while they make the transition to college life.

Previous Common Text selections at Wright State University include An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It and Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in AmericaClick here to see a list of other colleges and universities that have adopted Macmillan’s Popular Picks for common reading programs!

A Long Way Gone • Sarah Crichton Books • 240 pages


Ishmael Beah and his editor, Sarah Crichton, spoke recently about where he’s been and what he’s been doing since his memoir was published in 2007.

Crichton: I find it tremendously moving how the book keeps finding a larger and larger audience. So many high-school and college students read it.

Beah: Yes, more and more schools keep assigning it, and I keep meeting teachers who say, “This is the first time this kid has ever finished reading a book.” It is beyond my own comprehension. The book has a life of its own.

Read the complete interview at Work in Progress.

Illinois Wesleyan University Selects No Impact Man for the 2010 Summer Reading Program

Illinois Wesleyan University has selected No Impact Man for the 2010 Summer Reading Program.

The university will distribute copies of the book to their incoming students this summer. First-years are required to read the book before arriving on campus for “Turning Titan,” the new student orientation program, in August. Then, the class of 2014 will be introduced to the university community in discussion groups lead by faculty and staff.

In September, author Colin Beavan, No Impact Man himself, will visit campus for a day to meet with students and speak at the President’s Convocation.

No Impact Man was selected for the Summer Reading Program because “the topic of environmental sustainability is consistent with our University mission and is certain to stimulate a rich discussion and debate.”

The Summer Reading Program is central to orientation; Richard Wilson, President of the University, wrote about the program:

“At the outset, it reinforces the importance of critical thinking and effective communication skills. The discussions and lecture also expose students to a diversity of ideas and stimulate further reading and exploration. Finally, we have found that the discussions enhance the feeling among faculty, staff and alumni that education is a shared responsibility.”

Illinois Wesleyan’s previous Summer Reading titles include Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America which, like No Impact Man, is a Popular Pick from Macmillan!  Click here to see the other schools that have chosen these books for their common reading programs.

No Impact Man • Farrar, Straus and Giroux • 288 pages

This I Believe II is the 29th Annual Summer Reading Book at Miami University in Ohio

This I Believe II: More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women is the summer reading title for first-year students at Miami University in Ohio this year!

The Summer Reading Program, now in its 29th year, is considered a student’s first assignment as a Miami University freshman.  The program underlines those activities valued most by the Miami community: critical engagement with ideas; close interaction among faculty, staff, and students; and reading, listening, talking, and learning as characteristics of active, responsible citizenship.

To welcome new students to the university and to introduce them to the engaged reading, writing, and critical thinking they’ll do in their four years there, the entire class receives a copy of the same book and reads it over the summer.  When they arrive on campus in August, students will hear a lecture by the author (or, in this case, editor) and discuss the reading in small groups of classmates from their residential halls, professors, and upperclass student leaders.

Miami University in Ohio has previously adopted Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich and Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night.  To see a list of schools that have adopted these books, as well as Jay Allison and Dan Gediman’s first volume of essays, This I Believe, and other Popular Picks from Macmillan, click here.

This I Believe II • Holt Paperbacks • 288 pages

‘Niagara Reads’ Escape from Slavery this Fall

For the second time, Niagara University has selected Francis Bok’s Escape from Slavery: The True Story of My Ten Years in Captivity and My Journey to Freedom in America for the freshman reading program, Niagara Reads 2010. The university will give copies of the book to new students during their Freshman Welcome events this summer.

The book will be central to the curriculum in “First Year Niagara,” a semester-long freshmen symposium that covers the university’s mission, academic honesty, time management, career exploration, and self evaluation. However, all faculty members are encouraged to adopt the Niagara Reads title in various courses at all levels.  Instructors at NU have incorporated previous common reading books and Niagara Reads programming into courses in composition, business communication, religion, and others!

The program includes a service learning element, an essay contest, and other campus activities.  Through Niagara Reads, the university strives to:

  • provide freshmen with a common experience that is intellectually stimulating
  • set the tone for serious college work
  • convey the message that Niagara University is a place where reading and the exchange of ideas are important
  • encourage students to develop the habit of regular reading for pleasure
  • transmit the values of Niagara University

Escape from Slavery was very well received when it was adopted for the first time in 2006, and was chosen again for this year’s program by a committee of faculty members, staff and students. Francis Bok, who has spoken on campus a couple of times in the past, will address a whole new group of students and faculty in September 2010.

Previously, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed and All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein have both been Niagara Reads books.

Escape from Slavery • St. Martin’s Griffin • 304 pages

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist is San Diego State University’s 2010 Common Experience Book

San Diego State University has selected Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose—Doing Business by Respecting the Earth for the shared reading component of its 2010 Common Experience program!

The Common Experience at SDSU is a year-long, campus-wide program that revolves around a theme; the theme this year, and for the next three years, is Social Justice and Environmental Integrity: A Call to Service.  Ray C. Anderson’s book about sustainable, responsible business will be central to programming based on that theme. Click here for more information about the book.

New students will be asked to read Confessions of a Radical Industrialist this summer, and will hear a brief presentation about it at convocation in the fall. Through the 2010-2011 academic year, those first-year students and continuing upperclassmen will discuss the book in first-year experience classes, selected writing classes, in residence hall discussions and in upper-level courses.

The conversations that begin in those courses will continue through thematically relevant activities and events for the whole campus community—”student journals, films, theater, creative writing, original music and dance performances, art exhibitions, panel discussions, renowned guest speakers, service learning experiences and more, all enrich the process and expand inclusiveness.”

Presented by an assorted group of campus offices, the Common Experience is a collaborative effort to:

—Cultivate a common intellectual conversation across the campus – with special attention to engaging all entering students
—Enhance student participation in the intellectual life of the campus by encouraging discussion of and critical thinking about a core text and common topic
—Foster a sense of community among San Diego State University students, faculty and staff, and the wider community

Previous Common Experience books at SDSU include Nickel and Dimed and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.  Both are Popular Picks for common reading from Macmillan!

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist • St. Martin’s Press • 320 pages

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Selects Picking Cotton for the 2010 Carolina Summer Reading Program

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has selected Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption as the common book for the 2010 Carolina Summer Reading Program!

The book was the unanimous choice of a nine-member selection committee of students, faculty and staff who reviewed books based on the following criteria:

—Intellectually stimulating—stretch students’ minds, cause students to think about things they might not have before
—Enjoyable, engaging, relatively short, easy to read, up-to-date
—Reading that will provoke interesting discussion
—Appropriate for developmental level of incoming students
—Addresses a theme/topic that is applicable to students themselves (i.e., societal issues)

Incoming students will read the book before their freshman orientation.  In the fall, discussion groups will meet in the new students’ dorms as part of the Residential Life orientation program.  Professors will also assign the book  in relevant first-year seminars.

The Carolina Summer Reading Program is designed to provide a common experience for incoming students, to enhance participation in the intellectual life of the campus through stimulating discussion and critical thinking around a current topic, and to encourage a sense of community between students, faculty and staff.

—Office of New Student & Carolina Parent Programs

Topical campus-wide events (film screenings, panel presentations, etc.) to be held during the fall semester are in the works.  One event the University plans to host is a presentation by authors and activists Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, who are both natives of North Carolina.

View the Picking Cotton book trailer:

Click here and visit The Innocence Project to learn more about eyewitness misidentification, which plays a role in more than 75% of the wrongful convictions that are eventually overturned through DNA testing.

In previous summers, UNC at Chapel Hill has adopted Nickel and Dimed and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, both Popular Picks for first-year reading programs.  Visit the Programs page to see lists of other schools that have used those books, and others from Macmillan!

Picking Cotton • St. Martin’s Griffin • 320 pages