About Common Read

The Common Read Project

The purpose of the Common Read program is to encourage incoming first-year and other students at the University of Michigan-Flint to read a common book prior to and/or early in the academic year. The book and the events surrounding it are intended to emphasize the importance of reading to higher education and an informed and enriched life, to make possible conversations and relationships based on shared reading experience, and to integrate the campus into national and global culture and discussions.

The Common Read Project is faculty-led, in collaboration with academic and student affairs. The charge of the committee is to select a book that inspires intellectual curiosity, prepares students for the challenging reading that is part of a university education, and contributes to the university as a community of ideas, inquiry, and discussion. Faculty are encouraged to assign the book in their courses and to guide discussion of the text. The committee also develops programming around the book’s themes. The committee invites the author to campus for a major presentation and other discussions. Faculty, staff and students are all invited to read and discuss the book and attend events.

Common Read Committee

Peggy Kahn, Co-Chair
David M. French Professor Emerita
Professor Emerita of Political Science

Christopher Molnar, Co-Chair
Associate Professor of History

Zia Davidian
Assistant Librarian

Stephanie Gelderloos
Lecturer in Writing

Guluma Gemeda, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Africana Studies​​​​​​​

Kimberly Laux 
Lecturer in Communications​​​​​​​

David J. Luke
Director, Intercultural Center

Adam Lutzker
Associate Professor of Economics

Rebecca Tonietto
Assistant Professor of Biology

Common Read Archives

Common Read 2017
The 2017-2018 Common Read was NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel, We Need New Names— a novel of displacement and relocation that speaks to people’s movements across cultural and political borders in the contemporary world. It begins in a Zimbabwean shantytown, narrated in the remarkable voice of a young girl, Darling, and ends in Detroit and Kalamazoo, Michigan. Edwidge Danticat, novelist, essayist, and our inaugural Common Read author, describes it as “an exquisite and powerful first novel, filled with an equal measure of beauty and horror and laughter and pain.”

Common Read 2016
The University of Michigan-Flint Common Read Committee selected Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me.

Common Read 2015
The University of Michigan-Flint Common Read Committee selected Sister Helen Prejean’s memoir, Dead Man Walking (Random House, 1994), as the 2015-16 Common Read. Published in 1994, the book is widely heralded as a profound reflection on capital punishment. Available in paperback and as an audio book, it has also been the basis for a film and an opera. The memoir speaks to issues of capital punishment, the criminal justice system, the humanity of perpetrators, and the claims and needs of direct and indirect victims of brutal crimes.

Common Read 2014
The University of Michigan-Flint Common Read Committee selected Jonathan Kozol’s Fire in the Ashes: Twenty Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America (Random House, 2012) as the 2014-15 Common Read. Fire in the Ashes revisits the children and families about whom Kozol has written in early books. Some of the stories are stories of defeat and inability to overcome almost impossible odds. Others are accounts of resilience, determination, and creativity, of children emerging whole and full of life.

Common Read 2013
The Common Read Selection Committee announced Amy Waldman’s The Submission, published in 2012, as its 2013-2014 selection. The Submission is a work of fiction. Set in New York City, the novel is about perspectives and tensions in the wake of 9/11. It raises broad questions about identity, respect, and belonging; uses of public space and the nature of art; and the behaviors of politicians and the media. It particularly explores Muslim-American identities and experiences after 2001. 

Common Read 2012
The UM-Flint Common Read Committee chose Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as the Common Read text for 2012-2013. Skloot’s widely reviewed and praised work of non-fiction focuses on the history of both U.S. medical research and one multi-generational African-American family. Skloot visited UM-Flint as part of the Common Read in the fall. 

Common Read 2011
The University of Michigan-Flint inaugurated the Common Read program in Fall 2011 with Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying, her 2007 memoir that bridges Haiti and the United States, a story that demonstrates the power of words to recreate worlds of both suffering and love. Ms. Danticat visited the UM-Flint campus on March 13, 2012. During her time at UM-Flint, she engaged in a writing seminar with faculty and students, and she delivered a public presentation on her book.