Common Book Program at Otterbein
A committee of faculty, staff, and students select from over fifty books each year in an effort to find a significant contemporary work to read the next year. Check out books under consideration for future Common Book programs in our Common Book LibGuide.
The selection of books for the common reading experience reflects Otterbein’s resolve to add an academic component to new student orientation and to present itself to incoming students as an intellectual community willing to grapple with significant contemporary issues. Since 1995, the series seeks to stimulate a year-long discussion of an academic theme derived from common book issues by exploring it in classes, residence halls, and co-curricular programming. This common reading experience involves all incoming first-year students, faculty, many staff members, and student leaders. A committee of faculty, staff, and students select from over fifty books each year in an effort to find a significant contemporary work to read the next year.
“Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead, Otterbein’s 2018 Common Book
About the Common Book Program
Who Gets the Common Book?
The selected book is distributed to first-year students free of charge during orientation sessions in the summer. Faculty and staff also receive a free copy of the book so they may prepare for the upcoming year’s events. Program organizers encourage all faculty members to use the book in their classes, take part in the year-long programming related to the book, or discuss the book with first-year students in informal ways.
What Programs Incorporate the Common Book?
New students receive their book in a facilitated classroom discussion during summer orientation sessions. A packet of materials provides the student with reading strategies and a writing assignment. Students are expected to read the book and complete their assignment before returning to campus in the fall.
First Flight & First Year Seminars
When students return to campus in the fall, they assemble for an all-campus convocation which touches on the Common Book. From there, they participate in their First Year Seminar course meeting where the common book writing assignment is due and posted to their personal ePortfolio. Structured discussions around topics presented int he common book during First Flight allow for a common bond among new Otterbein students.
First Year Seminar
Students will continue to engage in discussions surrounding the themes presented in the Common Book throughout the academic year. The First Year Seminar serves as one mechanism to engage students in discussions and programming related to the book. Peer Mentors connected to each First Year Seminar section have read and are trained to facilitate discussions related to the Common Book. Peer Mentors also help connect students to co-curricular programs offered throughout the year.
A focal point of the Thomas Academic Excellence Series is the visit by the Common Book author. The author speaks to the entire campus at a convocation, usually in October, followed by a book signing. Many authors have visited individual classes. Each year, students in Theatre 1000 interpret the Common Book’s issues through a series of playlets.
How is the Common Book Selected?
A committee of faculty, staff, and students select from over fifty books each year in an effort to find a significant contemporary work to read the next year. Members of the committee meet weekly to discuss the books nominated for the next Common Book, and then continue to meet to prepare the introduction of the book to the campus community.
If you enjoy reading and are interested in joining the committee, contact Colette Masterson, Co-Chair of the Common Book Committee, at (614) 823-3202. Interested in submitting a book for consideration? Please complete this online form to tell us more about the book you would like us to review.
Common Book Selection Criteria:
- It encourages scholastic intellectual development for new students.
- It is compatible with Otterbein’s mission.
- It is appropriate for a wide variety of disciplines and classes.
- It is by a significant contemporary author who can visit campus.
- It is not a book read in high school.
- It is challenging but not overwhelming to entering first-year students.
- It provides potential for hands-on experiences or service learning.
- It will sustain discussion for a year.
Full Body Burden
|2015-2016||Jeanne Marie Laskas
Running the Rift
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
City of Refuge
|2010-2011||Warren St. John
Strange as This Weather Has Been
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
|2007-2008||Helena María Viramontes
Under the Feet of Jesus
The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany
Mountains Beyond Mountains
The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World
|2002-2003||Ruth L. Ozeki
My Year of Meats
|2001-2002||Mary Doria Russell
After Long Silence
There Are No Children Here
She Walks These Hills
|1997-1998||Scott Russell Sanders
The Paradise of Bombs
|1995-1996||Anna Deavere Smith
Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities
“I am thankful that Otterbein hosts a program like the Common Book. I can already see a change in my analyzing skills from various classes this semester, but also, it was great to see an author speak about his book. This checked off something on my bucket list.”