When colleges suggest a “common reading” book for new students, it’s usually a non-fiction book on diversity or racial equality, according to an Inside Higher Education survey of 121 colleges and universities.
The top pick, used by 10 colleges and universities, was Bryan Stevenson’s memoir, Just Mercy: A Story of Redemption and Justice. Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and a law professor at New York University, he writes about trying to overturn death and prison sentences for criminals — most are black men — he believes to be wrongly convicted.
(I see the jacket blurb compares Stevenson to Atticus Finch.)
Other titles on the freshman reading list this year range from The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People and Communities at Ohio State University to Bad Feminist at the University of California at Los Angeles and Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash at Rowan and Lock Haven Universities. Texts on economics, sustainability and food remained popular, but were second to books dealing with topics such as diversity and race relations.
At least six schools will ask new students to read The Other Wes Moore, a popular choice for the past three years.
Author Wes Moore was an Army officer, Johns Hopkins graduate and newly chosen Rhodes Scholar when he saw that another Wes Moore, born a few blocks away in Baltimore, had been arrested for murdering a police officer.
Both were raised by black single mothers, but one Wes Moore was born to married, educated parents (his father died when he was 3). His mother worked long hours to send her children to private school, then sent Wes to a military boarding school when she thought he was being influenced by street culture.
The other Wes was the son of a never-married woman and an absent father.
Also popular is Enrique’s Journey, which tells the story of a Honduran boy searching for his mother, who’s gone to the U.S. to find work.
Few colleges assign literature, but the University of Kansas will ask freshmen to read Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.