As the new academic year gets underway, the Common Book Project Committee at Virginia Tech is seeking suggestions for the university’s next Common Book, to be used for the 2015-16 year.

The Common Book Project started as a pilot project in 1998 to enrich the first-year experience and create a sense of community among undergraduate students. The project launched full-scale in 2000.

“The Common Book creates a unique opportunity for students and faculty who represent the university’s diverse academic disciplines to discuss and learn from the same book,” said Mary Ann Lewis, assistant provost for first-year experiences. “The goal of the project is for this common thread to be present for all students, regardless of their major.”

The university’s current Common Book for the 2014-15 academic year is Conor Grennan’s “Little Princes,” an account of the author’s trip to an orphanage in a war-torn Nepal and his efforts to reunite the children with their parents. 

The committee selected the book for the 2013-14 academic year after taking suggestions from the public. It was one of 180 suggestions. The book was reaffirmed for the 2014-15 academic year.

The Common Book is distributed for free to all first-year and transfer students. Faculty members who teach those students are encouraged to integrate the Common Book into their curriculum through class discussions and projects.

Faculty members, teaching assistants, students, and staff may request a copy by sending an email to the committee.  Faculty members can enroll in workshops, sponsored by the Office of First Year Experiences and the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, to explore and design ways to incorporate the Common Book into a course’s curriculum. Registration information is available online.

The Common Book Project Committee, which is made up of students, faculty, and staff members from across campus, is requesting book suggestions from the university community for a new book to use in 2015-16. Submissions can be made online through Sept. 30. The committee hopes to make a selection from the suggestions by the end of the fall semester.

Meanwhile, the Office of First Year Experiences is coordinating events this fall to celebrate and enhance the teaching and learning opportunities surrounding the university’s current Common Book, “Little Princes.” Many of the events will happen during the month of November, including:

  • A campus visit by the book author, Conor Grennan, on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. in Burruss Hall’s auditorium. Following his presentation, there will be an opportunity for questions and book signing. This will be free and open to the public.

Later in the fall semester, more information will be released through Virginia Tech News on other Common Book Project events planned in November.

In the 16 academic years since the Common Book Project fully launched on campus, eight books have been featured:

  • 2000-2004 – "Einstein’s Dreams" by Alan Lightman (also used in pilot program in 1998-2000)
  • 2004-2005 – "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel
  • 2005-2007 – "Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers" by Alissa Quart
  • 2007-2009 – "Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man who Would Cure the World" by Tracy Kidder
  • 2009-2010 – "Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything" by Daniel Goleman
  • 2010-2011 – "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life" by Barbara Kingsolver
  • 2011-2013 – "This I Believe II," a collection of 75 short essays of personal philosophies by remarkable men and women
  • 2013-2015 – “Little Princes,” by Conor Grennan