Introduction to the Common Reading Experience:
The University of Kentucky's Common Reading Experience is a collaborative effort amongst New Student and Family Programs, Student Affairs, Undergraduate Education, and other campus partners designed to introduce new students to academic life at the University. The goal is two-fold: first, to bring new students together for a common reading experience that introduces them to academic discourse prior to the start of classes; and second, to engage the entire UK community in a common intellectual experience through year-long programming.
First-year students will read a book selected for their cohort the summer before their first semester on campus. They will then join a community of scholars during K Week, where they will participate in small group discussions about the book with other new and upperclass students. The entire UK community is invited to engage in a common academic experience throughout the school year by attending and participating in events coordinated around the book's themes, topics, and issues. All students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to connect with one another through this common intellectual experience which will allow for critical reflection on the book and the collegiate experience.
New students will obtain a FREE copy of the book during their "see blue." U Orientation. Other students, faculty, and staff may purchase the book through the UK Bookstore. Please visit the Programming Calendar for information regarding this year's programming.
Click here for more information regarding the Common Reading Experience Vision Statement, Mission Statement, Goals, and Learning Outcomes.
University of Kentucky Common Reading Experience Selections:
2015-2016 Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton with Erin Torneo
2014-2015 A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
2013-2014 Where Am I Wearing? by Kelsey Timmerman
2012-2013 The Unforgiving Minute by Craig Mullaney
2011-2012 No Impact Man by Colin Beavan
2010-2011 Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
2009- 2010 The Color of Water by James McBride
2015-2016: PICKING COTTON BY JENNIFER Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton with Erin Torneo
About the Book:
Please note that the following book carries a trigger warning: The content deals with an account of a sexual assault and may be triggering to some people.
Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she slept. She was able to escape and eventually positively identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. Ronald insisted that she was mistaken-- but Jennifer's positive identification was the compelling evidence that put him behind bars. After eleven years, Ronald was allowed to take a DNA test that proved his innocence. He was released after serving more than a decade in prison for a crime he never committed. Two years later, Jennifer and Ronald met face-to-face-- and forged an unlikely friendship that changed both of their lives.
In their own words, Jennifer and Ronald unfold the harrowing details of their tragedy, and they challenge our ideas of memory and judgment while demonstrating the profound nature of human grace and the healing power of forgiveness.
About the Authors:
Jennifer Thompson-Cannino lives in North Carolina with her family. She speaks frequently about the need for judicial reform and is a member of the North Carolina Actual Innocence Commission, the advisory committee for Active Voices, and the Constitution Project. Her op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, the Durham-Herald Sun, and the Tallahassee Democrat.
Ronald Cotton lives with his wife and daughter in North Carolina. He has spoken at various schools and conferences including Washington and Lee University, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Georgetown Law School, and the Community March for Justice for Troy Anthony Davis in Savannah, GA.
Erin Torneo is a Los Angeles-based writer. She was a 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts Nonfiction Fellow.
2014-2015: A LONG WAY GONE BY ISHMAEL BEAH
About the Book:
What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived.
In A Long Way Gone, Beah tells a riveting story on how he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he had been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. At sixteen, he was removed from fighting by UNICEF, and through the help of the staff at his rehabilitation center, he learned how to forgive himself, to regain his humanity, and finally, to heal.
About the Author Ishmael Beah:
Ishmael Beah, born in 1980 in Sierra Leone, West Africa, is the New York Times bestselling author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. The book has been published in over thirty languages and was nominated for a Quill Award in 2007. Time magazine named the book as one of the top ten nonfiction books of 2007, ranking it at number three. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vespertine Press, LIT, Parabola, and numerous academic journals. He is a UNICEF Ambassador and Advocate for Children Affected by War; a member of the Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Advisory Committee; an advisory board member at the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Violence at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; visiting scholar at the Center for International Conflict Resolution at Columbia University; visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights at Rutgers University; cofounder of the Network of Young People Affected by War (NYPAW); and president of the Ishmael Beah Foundation. He has spoken before the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, and many panels on the effects of war on children. He is a graduate of Oberlin College with a B.A. in Political Science and resides in Brooklyn, New York.
2013-2014: Where am I Wearing? by Kelsey Timmerman
About the Book:
Fueled by passion and curiosity, Kelsey Timmerman tells the story of the items we often take for granted.
From garment factories in Cambodia to banana plantations in Costa Rica, Kelsey Timmerman is dedicated to addressing global issues through storytelling. By traveling the world and telling the stories of the people he meets, Timmerman is able to educate his readers and initiate dialogue about how to improve our world economy.
In his first book, WHERE AM I WEARING?, he traveled the world to find out where his clothes came from. Visiting garment factories in Asia and Latin America, he shared the stories of the people who make our clothes. From a 20-something t-shirt maker in Honduras to a single mother of two in Bangladesh, Timmerman humanizes the issues of globalization and provokes readers to check their tags and think about where their clothing came from.
About the Author Kelsey Timmerman:
Kelsey Timmerman is the author of Where Am I Wearing? A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes, and recently released his second book Where Am I Eating? in 2013. His writing has appeared in publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and CondÃ© Nast Portfolio and has aired on NPR. Kelsey is also the cofounder of the Facing Project, which seeks to connect people through stories to strengthen community. He has spent the night in Castle Dracula in Romania, played PlayStation in Kosovo, taught an island village to play baseball in Honduras, and in another life, worked as a SCUBA instructor in Key West, Florida. Whether in print of in person he seeks to connect people around the world. An acclaimed public speaker, Timmerman has lectured on travel and globalization across the country. He is particularly passionate about educating students, and encourages them to think globally and act locally. He is a frequent keynote speaker at universities, high schools, and conferences.
2012-2013: The Unforgiving Minute by Craig Mullaney
About the Book:
A West Point grad, Rhodes Scholar, and Army Ranger recounts his unparalleled education in the art of war and reckons with the hard wisdom that only battle itself can bestow.
One haunting afternoon on Losano Ridge in Afghanistan, Captain Craig Mullaney and his platoon were caught in a deadly firefight with Al Qaeda fighters when a message came over the radio: one of his soldiers had been killed in action.
Mullaney's education had been relentlessly preparing him for this moment. The four years he spent at West Point and the harrowing test of Ranger School readied him for a career in the Army. His subsequent experience as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford couldn't have been further from the Army and his working class roots, and yet the unorthodox education he received there would be surprisingly relevant as a combat leader. Years later, after that unforgettable experience in Afghanistan, he would return to the United States to teach history to future Navy and Marine Corps officers at the Naval Academy. He had been in their position once, and he had put his education to the test. How would he use his own life-changing experience prepare them?
The Unforgiving Minute is the extraordinary story of one soldier's singular education. From a hilarious plebe's-eye view of the author's West Point experience to the demanding leadership crucible of Ranger School's swamps and mountains, to a two-year whirlwind of scintillating debate, pub crawls, and romance at Oxford, Mullaney's winding path to the battlegrounds of Afghanistan was unique and remarkable. Despite all his preparation, the hardest questions remained. When the call came to lead his platoon into battle and earn his soldiers' salutes, would he be ready? Was his education sufficient for the unforgiving minutes he'd face? A fascinating account of an Army captain's unusual path through some of the most legendary seats of learning straight into a brutal fight with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, The Unforgiving Minute is, above all, an unforgettable portrait of a young soldier grappling with the weight of his hard-earned knowledge while coming to grips with becoming a man.
About the Author Craig Mullaney:
Craig M. Mullaney joined Ustream, the leading live interactive broadcast platform in 2011. He previously led the operations, planning, and strategy portfolio at Development Innovation Ventures, a ~$15mm venture capital-style fund within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that identifies, tests, and scales breakthrough innovations to core challenges throughout the developing world. He previously served at USAID as the senior adviser to the Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, on Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2010, Devex named Mullaney a "40 Under 40 International Development Leader."
Before joining USAID, Mullaney served at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as the Principal Director for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia Policy and as the Chief of Staff for the Department of Defense Transition Team. Prior to joining the Department of Defense, Mullaney was on the national security policy staff of President Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. Mullaney graduated second in his class from the United States Military Academy. After completing Ranger School, he continued to the University of Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. At Oxford, he completed a Master's degrees in diplomatic and economic history and backpacked extensively through the developing world.
In 2003, Mullaney led an infantry rifle platoon along the hostile border between Afghanistan and Pakistan with the 10th Mountain Division as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. His platoon, operating along a range from humanitarian assistance to combat engagements against al-Qaeda, earned the most combat decorations in the division. Following his return to the United States, Mullaney joined the elite 3rd Infantry Regiment, "The Old Guard," in Arlington, Virginia, responsible for Arlington National Cemetery burials, the Tomb of the Unknowns, and defense of the National Capital Region. He served for three years on the history faculty of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and led the International Scholarships Program to institutional and national record levels of success. Mullaney's military decorations include the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal with "V" device, Combat Infantryman's Badge, Ranger Tab, and Parachutist Badge.
Mullaney is the author of the 2009 New York Times bestseller The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education, a Washington Post Best Books of 2009, Military Times Best Military Books of the Decade, and Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. He has appeared on The Charlie Rose Show, The CBS Early Show, BBC World News America, National Public Radio, The Colbert Report, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His speaking engagements have included Harvard Business School, U.S. Southern Command, USAA, Princeton University, military service academies, and numerous other business, academic, leadership, and policy forums. He is a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
A proud Rhode Island native, Craig currently lives in San Francisco, California. A former wrestler, rower, marathoner, and sports parachutist, Mullaney's current interests include cycling, yoga, and barefoot hiking.
2011-2012: No Impact Man by Colin Beavan
About the Book:
What does it really take to live eco-effectively? For one year, Colin Beavan swore off plastic and toxins, turned off his electricity, went organic, became a bicycle nut, and tried to save the planet from environmental catastrophe while dragging his young daughter and his Prada-wearing wife along for the ride. Together they attempted to make zero impact on the environment while living right in the heart of Manhattan, and this is the sensational, funny, and consciousness-raising story of how they did it. With No Impact Man, Beavan found that no-impact living is worthwhile--and richer, fuller, and more satisfying in the bargain.
About the Author Colin Beavan:
As the news stories go: "Colin Beavan is a liberal schlub who got tired of listening to himself complain about the world without ever actually doing anything about it..." Thus, in November, 2006, Beavan launched a year-long project in which he, his wife, his two-year-old daughter and his four-year-old dog went off the grid and attempted to live in the middle of New York City with as little environmental impact as possible.
The point of the project was to experiment with ways of living that might both improve quality of life and be less harmful to the planet. It also provided a narrative vehicle by which to attract broad public attention to the range of pressing environmental crises including: food system sustainability, climate change, water scarcity, and materials and energy resource depletion.
Beavan is a PhD electronic engineer (University of Liverpool). He spent the late 80s and early 90s as a consultant to philanthropic organizations such as social housing providers, drug treatment agencies and hospitals, helping them to promote themselves in order to secure increasingly scarce, Thatcher-era funding.
In 1992 Beavan returned to the United States and wrote for magazines until Hyperion published his first book Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and the Murder Case that Launched Forensic Science (a popular history of criminology) in 2001. In 2006, Viking published his second book, Operation Jedburgh: D-Day and America's First Shadow (about the operation that formed the precedent for U.S. anti-Soviet operations in Afghanistan).
He is director of the No Impact Project, a visiting scholar at NYU, an advisor to the University's Sustainability Task Force, and sits on the board of directors of New York City's Transportation Alternatives and on the advisory council of Just Food.
2010-2011: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
About the Book:
When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four, chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the days after, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and helping those he could. But, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared. Eggers's riveting nonfiction book, three years in the making, explores Zeitoun's roots in Syria, his marriage to Kathy, an American who converted to Islam, and their children, and the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun became possible. Like What Is the What, Zeitoun was written in close collaboration with its subjects and involved vast research in this case, in the U.S., Spain, and Syria.
About the Author Dave Eggers:
Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including You Shall Know Our Velocity, winner of the Independent Book Award, and What Is the What, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of France's Prix Medici. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in southern Sudan, gave birth to the Valentine Achak Deng Foundation, run by Mr. Deng and dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces books, an eponymous quarterly journal, a monthly magazine (The Believer), and Wholphin, a quarterly DVD of short films and documentaries. In 2002, with Nínive Calegari he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. Local communities have since opened sister 826 centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, Seattle, and Boston. In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and there, with Dr. Lola Vollen, he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.
For more information on Dave Eggers, his books, awards, press, and interviews, visit McSweeney's
2009-2010: The Color of Water by James McBride
About the Book:
This fascinating, superbly written memoir was a New York Times bestseller for two years. To date is has sold more than 2.1 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 16 languages. It tells the story of James McBride and his white, Jewish mother Ruth. Ruth was born in Poland and raised in Suffolk, VA., the daughter of an itinerant rabbi and a loving, disabled mother who spoke no English. At 17, Ruth fled the South, landed in Harlem, married a black man in 1941, founded a church, was twice widowed and raised 12 children in New York City. Despite hardship, poverty and suffering, Ruth sent all 12 of her children to college.
Lavishly praised by critics, embraced by millions of readers, this tribute to a remarkable woman helped set the standard for modern day memoir writing. It is considered an American classic and is required reading in high schools and colleges across America. It is a perennial favorite of book clubs and community-wide reading events, including New York City and Philadelphia. But most importantly, it is an eloquent, touching exploration of what family really means.
About the Author James McBride:
James McBride is an author, musician and screenwriter. His landmark memoir, "The Color of Water," is considered an American classic and read in schools and universities across the United States. His debut novel, "Miracle at St. Anna" was translated into a major motion picture directed by American film icon Spike Lee. It was released by Disney/Touchstone in September 2008. James also wrote the script for the film, now available on DVD. His novel, "Song Yet Sung", was released in paperback in January 2009. His new novel about American revolutionary John Brown will be released in Feb. 2013. His latest work is the August 2013 film "Red Hook Summer" which he co-wrote and co-produced with acclaimed director Spike Lee.
He is also a former staff writer for The Boston Globe, People Magazine and The Washington Post. His work has appeared in Essence, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. His April, 2007 National Geographic story entitled "Hip Hop Planet" is considered a respected treatise on African American music and culture.
James is a native New Yorker and a graduate of New York City public schools. He studied composition at The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and received his Masters in Journalism from Columbia University in New York at age 22. He holds several honorary doctorates and is currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.