Three books are finalists for 2014 – 2015 common read


The K-State Book Network is one of four programs within the K-State First Program, an experience designed for first-year students to start college by introducing them to the resources, experiences and atmosphere K-State has to offer them.

The finalists for KSBN’s 2014-15 school year common read are, “The Ghost Map,” by Steven Johnson, “Defending Jacob,” by William Landay and “Born to Run,” by Christopher McDougall.

KSBN’s goal is to give first-year students the opportunities to engage around the common read inside and outside of the classroom. Criteria for selecting the common read include student learning outcomes, feasibility, relevance and readability.

All three of these books touch on something of interest to our community,” Tara Coleman, KSBN chairwoman and associate professor at Hale Library, said. “It will give people on campus, and beyond, the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise with others.”

The three finalists include topics of health, social justice, physical activity and history.

“Born to Run” is based on the author’s true venture to find a North American Indian tribe who are arguable the best distance runners in history, the Tarahamara. He travels to Copper Canyons in Mexico to learn from the Tarahumaras how they can run hundreds of miles without fatigue. McDougall connects what he learned in Mexico to science in the labs at Harvard to discover how humans are built to run.

“Defending Jacob” is a fictional story of a well-known prosecutor, who takes on a murder case near his home. When he finds out was that his own 14-year-old son was accused of the murder, he must deal with not only the trial on hand, but the challenges that come with defending his son in and out of the courtroom.

“Defending Jacob” was named one of the best books of the year by “Entertainment Weekly,” the Kansas City Star and Barnes & Noble.

“The Ghost Map” takes readers to 1854 London in the middle of a cholera epidemic. While thousands of people are dying every day, it becomes a race to determine how this mysterious disease is spread, and how to stop it. Based on true events, Johnson combines elements of science and history to tell the story.

Purpose of Common Book

All first-year students are given the common book during orientation and enrollment. The hope, Coleman said, is that it will help connect first year students to other students, class content and the book.

Part of this connection is to attend events the program hosts in conjunction with the book during the year, she said.

“Our assessments show that students who use the book in class and attend events inspired by the book get more out of the experience than those who only read the book over the summer,” Coleman said.

Events include author visits, speakers, and performances. This year, in conjuction with the current book “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline, the School of Music, Theatre and Dance performed an interactive music and movement play. Ernest Cline visited K-State to talk with students about the book. K-State First also hosted an event called, “I Love the ’80s,” which was a discussion on dystopia, nostalgia and “Ready Player One.”

Logan Hays, sophomore in communication studies, said he thought “Ready Player One” was a great choice for the common read.

“I really liked how it was realistic, because we are so centered around technology today that you could relate to the possibility of (a world like in ‘Ready Player One’),” Hays said.

K-State First

K-State First is broken down into programs including First-Year Seminar, CAT communities, and one-on-one mentoring programs. All programs center around the goal to educate first year students about resources of campus, and encourage student connections.

“I know from word of mouth, as well as from our assessments, that by reading the books and participating in campus and community events people were introduced to new ideas and felt a sense of community and common ground with others,” Coleman said.

Madison Talley, freshman in kinesiology, is an avid reader who said she agrees with the K-State First Program’s goal. She said that every person can bring a unique idea to a book discussion, which is a great way for people to get to know each other.

“Books can bring people who have different personalities, opinions or even backgrounds together and provide them with something to have in common,” Talley said.

Previous all-university common reads have included “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, “Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers, and “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins.