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RWU Common Reading Program

The Common Reading Program at RWU provides an introduction to academic life at the University for our new students and serves as a vehicle to bring the community together over a shared intellectual endeavor. This program was started in 2006 and has become a tradition that promotes the importance of academics, community, and discourse.  Each year the Common Reading Selection Committee meets to discuss possible books and carefully considers themes and topics that are integral to student learning, academic exploration and discussion. The authors of the selected books are invited to campus to provide a lecture and to participate in related activities, including classroom discussions. The result is a program that encourages new students, upperclassmen, and faculty and staff to explore interesting topics together and to share a common experience during the first weeks of the new semester each year.

Books that have been selected over the years have included:

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri 2006
Along Way Gone by Ishmael Beah 2007
The Working Poor by David Shipler 2008
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman 2009
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder 2010
Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins 2011
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot 2012
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War by Nathaniel Philbrick 2011

2014 Common Reading Selection

Join the Roger Williams University entering class and our entire academic community as we explore this year’s First Year Experience (FYE) theme of Adaptation and Change through the 2015 Common Reading, The Circle by Dave Eggers.  

Published in 2013, the book raises questions that reflect contemporary issues about privacy and identity, the ethics of powerful corporations and which entities should be allowed to collect our personal data.  The Circle explores what happens when people surrender their personal lives for public exhibition in the digital age – a hyper-connected world where everyone is watching and judging, and every part of our lives is documented, cross-referenced by corporations, and collected in national security warehouses. Set in the near future, the story introduces Mae, a woman in her 20s, on her first day of work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, which integrates its users’ social media and personal accounts into one online existence. Mesmerized by the company’s prestige and influence, Mae trades anonymity for ambition, competing relentlessly to climb the ranks of the Circle while her performance – and everyone else’s at the company – is on constant display.

New students, their families, and members of the RWU faculty and staff are encouraged to explore The Circle through a series of events offered throughout the academic year.  New students can enter the annual essay to earn the chance to win great prizes!  ger Williams University will be hosting various lectures and panels throughout the school year related to themes that The Circle addresses.  Such discussions will complement classroom conversations, and will serve as opportunities to enhance the intellectual dialogue about topical issues within the public sphere.  

We invite members of our community to check this site regularly for the most current information on the program and related events.  For more information, feel free to contact Associate Dean Allison Chase Padula, Chair of the Common Reading Committee, at