Sci-fi novel “Ready Player One” announced as KSBN 2013 common book

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The K-State Book Network has announced “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline as the 2013-14 common book, which will be given to all freshmen and transfer students to read. “Ready Player One” is the fourth book that the KSBN has selected for the common book program, a part of K-State First that helps students transition from high school into college.

Tara Coleman, web services librarian and associate professor, is a member of the KSBN public relations subcommittee. She explained that students will read “Ready Player One” in the summer and that some of their classes will incorporate the book in the fall.

“We want students to have an opportunity to connect with other people in academic ways, so if you are not a person who goes to sports, or maybe you don’t do any greek organizations, you’re still going to have the same book that other people have who are new to school as well, so that gives you a common connection,” Coleman said.

She said that another goal of the program is to help students think deeply and critically about the book and have discussions about it.

“This book will give you an opportunity to kind of bridge what you might be doing for fun with what you’re going to be doing in class,” Coleman said.

According to the KSBN website, the book’s plot revolves around an open-source virtual reality called OASIS.

“When the creator of the OASIS dies, it is revealed that he has hidden three keys throughout the OASIS and the person to find them all will win millions of dollars and own controlling stake in the company,” the website states. “Five years after the creator’s death, the protagonist Wade discovers the first key, which launches an international quest to find the others and own the OASIS.”

Coleman said that she is looking forward to students’ reactions to “Ready Player One when incoming freshmen begin to read it this summer.

“I think it’s going to be a nice community-building book,” Coleman said.

She said she hopes students will involve their families in discussions about the book, something Coleman said she observed with the first K-State common book, “The Hunger Games,” given to students in the 2010-11 academic year.

“When we give this book over the summer, I think it will be similar to ‘The Hunger Games.’ We got so many emails from parents who said, ‘Oh my God, this is a good book; we talked about it over the dinner table,’” Coleman said. “I think that’s a really good connection.”

Callie Farrell, sophomore in dietetics and gerontology, transferred to K-State this year and opted to read this year’s common book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” a non-fiction work by Rebecca Skloot.

“I really enjoyed it, actually,” Farrell said. “Having to read a book—I didn’t know colleges did that, especially state schools. I thought it was kind of interesting that they did that.”

While KSBN urges every student new to K-State to read the common book, it is not a requirement for all classes, so not everyone reads it.

Abby Staudenmaier, freshman in nursing, said she made it about halfway through “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” but stopped reading when she heard she would not have to read it for part of a grade in the classes she was taking.

“I was working two jobs, so I didn’t really have time for it over the summer,” Staudenmaier said.

Rachel Christie, freshman in chemistry, also opted out of reading the common book this year.

“I didn’t know anything about the book. I hadn’t heard anything about it, and usually when I read books … it’s usually books that I want to read,” Christie said. “I didn’t feel like it was required to read it, so I didn’t really want to.”

Christie added that “Ready Player One,” a science-fiction novel, sounds like a book she might enjoy reading.

Deciding which book to select is a yearlong process that brings together people from all across campus, Coleman said.

“We have a pretty open invitation,” Coleman said. “Anyone who’s interested in participating, who really cares about first-year students, is welcome to be a member of the committee, and it’s a mix of students, staff and faculty.”

The committee meets once in the spring to discuss selection criteria, and each member can then make one book recommendation. The committee then narrows the selections down and sends a shorter list of about three books out to the campus for feedback.

One book is selected based on campus feedback and the committee’s opinion. The selection must be approved by the provost and the vice president of undergraduate studies before being officially announced.

Anyone interested in joining the committee can contact Coleman through K-State Libraries and can check out further information at the KSBN website, k-state.edu/ksbn/.

In past years, book selections included “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, “Zeitounby Dave Eggers and, most recently, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot.

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