Common Reading

RWU Common Reading Program

The Common Reading Program at RWU provides an introduction to academic life at the University for our new students and serves as a vehicle to bring the community together over a shared intellectual endeavor. This program was started in 2006 and has become a tradition that promotes the importance of academics, community, and discourse.  Each year the Common Reading Selection Committee meets to discuss possible books and carefully considers themes and topics that are integral to student learning, academic exploration and discussion. The authors of the selected books are invited to campus to provide a lecture and to participate in related activities, including classroom discussions. The result is a program that encourages new students, upperclassmen, and faculty and staff to explore interesting topics together and to share a common experience during the first weeks of the new semester each year.

Books that have been selected over the years have included:

"Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri


"A Long Way Gone" by Ishmael Beah


"The Working Poor" by David Shipler


"The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman


"Mountains Beyond Mountains" by Tracy Kidder


"Sailing Alone Around the Room" by Billy Collins


"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot


"Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War" by Nathaniel Philbrick


"The Circle" by Dave Eggers


"In the Shadow of the Banyan" by Vaddey Ratner


Themes of identity & immigration using the documentary Ellis as a starting point for reflection & discussion


"Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Other Conversations About Race" by Beverly Daniel Tatum


The Water Will Come:  Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell


2018 Common Reading Selection

The-Water-Will-Come_small.jpgEach year the University chooses an academic theme.  The theme for the 2018-2019 academic year will be: “Ocean State/State of the Ocean: The challenge of sea level rise over the coming century”. ” As a campus surrounded by water and in state where most of the population lives near water, sea level rise is one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time and so this is a worthy subject around with to build next year’s campus-wide conversation.

To help frame the discussion, new students will receive a copy of The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell. We will host the author on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 at 7:00 pm to address the campus and answer questions about his work. RWU will also hold numerous guest lectures, panel discussions, and perform community projects that will tackle this issue from various perspectives.

Through years of research, acclaimed author and investigative journalist Jeff Goodell has established himself as an expert on climate change, rising oceans, and humanity’s fraught relationship with our rapidly changing planet. As energy independence and global warming become increasingly urgent priorities, Goodell offers vital perspective on how to stem the tide of environmental disaster—and what’s at stake if we don’t.

His newest book is The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Reshaping of the Civilized World. Steeped in scientific research and on-the-ground reporting, The Water Will Come is written in the tradition of environmental classics like Silent Spring and The World Without Us.

In her review for The New York Times, Jennifer Senior praised The Water Will Come as “an immersive, mildly gonzo and depressingly well-timed book about the drenching effects of global warming, and a powerful reminder that we can bury our heads in the sand about climate change for only so long before the sand itself disappears.” The Water Will Come was a New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017, one of The Washington Post's 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction in 2017, and one of Booklist’s Top 10 Science Books of 2017. John Green called it “a thriller in which the hero in peril is us."

Jeff Goodell is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine and Yale University’s Environment 360. He serves on the board of the McHarg Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design.

Goodell speaks on sea level rise, geoengineering and climate change, coal, and America’s energy future.

For more information about the common reading experience, please contact Associate Provost Bob Shea or Associate Dean of Student Success Allison Chase Padula.