UMass Amherst Common Read 2011-2016

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore2017-2018
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

Included on bestseller lists by both The New York Times and The Wall Street JournalThe Other Wes Moore presents the true story of two young men, born just blocks from each other, who share the same name, a difficult childhood, and trouble with the law. Though they share many similarities in their early lives, one Wes Moore becomes a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, and successful business leader, while the other Wes Moore is serving a life sentence in jail for murder.

Alternating between the stories of these two men, The Other Wes Moore explores the unique circumstances and personal decisions that culminated in two very different outcomes. The selection of The Other Wes Moore provided an opportunity to engage incoming students in meaningful conversations about issues of community, mentoring, our life circumstances and the choices we make.

Author Wes Moore, visited the UMass Amherst campus and delivered a keynote talk on Thursday, September 28th.


Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet

Make Your Home Among Strangers follows Lizet Ramirez, the daughter of Cuban immigrants, on her journey through her first year of college. Lizet navigates complex issues of race, class, and gender both at the fictional, ultra-elite Rawlings College and with her family and friends back home in Miami.

During the week of September 25-29, 2016, UMass Amherst hosted author, Jennine Capó Crucet, for a weeklong series of events designed to foster rich conversations among students, faculty, and staff.

2016 Common Read Events Schedule

2016 Common Read Author's Video


The True American by Anand Giridharadas

The narrative of The True American begins in the weeks after September 11, 2001, yet its themes resonate even today: from the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing to grander questions about what comprises the very soul of our nation. Giridharadas shows how the lives of two men, Mark Stroman and Raisuddin Bhuiyan, – from different places in American society at a critical moment in U.S. history – become entwined in surprising and revealing ways.

During the week of September 20, 2016, UMass Amherst hosted author Anand Giridharadas and central figure of The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas, Raisuddin Bhuiyan. A weeklong series of events was created to foster rich conversations among students, faculty and staff.

2015 Common Read Events Schedule

2015 Common Read Author: Anand Giridharadas

Author's video welcome to UMass Amherst students

Discussion Guide for 2015 Common Read


Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.

pdf_0.gif2014 Common Read Program Plan

pdf_0.gifDiscussion Guide for 2014 Common Read

pdf_0.gifCommon Read Programming Resources

pdf_0.gifRelevant Organizations

Orange is the New Black Research Guide


No Impact Man2013-2014
No Impact Man by Colin Beava

What does it really take to live eco-effectively?  For one year, Colin Beavan swore off plastic and toxins, turned off his electricity, went organic, became a bicycle nut, and tried to save the planet from environmental catastrophe while dragging his young daughter and his Prada-wearing wife along for the ride. Together they attempted to make zero impact on the environment while living right in the heart of Manhattan, and this is the sensational, funny, and consciousness-raising story of how they did it. With No Impact Man, Beavan found that no-impact living is worthwhile--and richer, fuller, and more satisfying in the bargain.



Ready Player One2012-2013
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.


A Hope in the Unseen2011-2012
A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind

It is 1993, and Cedric Jennings is a bright and ferociously determined honor student at Ballou, a high school in one of Washington D.C.’s most dangerous neighborhoods, where the dropout rate is well into double digits and just 80 students out of more than 1,350 boast an average of B or better. At Ballou, Cedric has almost no friends. He eats lunch in a classroom most days, plowing through the extra work he has asked for, knowing that he’s really competing with kids from other, harder schools. Cedric Jennings’s driving ambition–which is fully supported by his forceful mother–is to attend a top-flight college.

In September 1995, after years of near superhuman dedication, he realizes that ambition when he begins as a freshman at Brown University. In this updated edition, A Hope in the Unseen chronicles Cedric’s odyssey during his last two years of high school, follows him through his difficult first year at Brown, and now tells the story of his subsequent successes in college and the world of work.