The Common Read is BU’s First Year Experience reading selection. The Common Read gives new students a shared academic experience they can chat about and introduces them to our campus values and Mission. Freshmen and their BU 101 instructors read the book over the first few weeks on campus and have numerous opportunities to discuss it throughout the fall at FYE events.
The 2023 Common Read
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything—everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt’s Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome’s got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.
Cussy’s not only a book woman, however, she’s also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy’s family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she’s going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.
Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman’s belief that books can carry us anywhere—even back home.
Previous Common Reads
The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose by Chris Wilson
About the Book
Growing up in Washington, DC, Chris Wilson was surrounded by violence and despair. He watched his family and neighborhood shattered by trauma and lost his faith. One night when he was seventeen, defending himself, he killed a man. He was sentenced to life in prison with no hope of parole.
But what should have been the end of his story became the beginning. Behind bars, Wilson embarked on a remarkable journey of self-improvement – reading, working out, learning languages, and even starting a business. At nineteen, he sat down and wrote a list of all the things he intended to accomplish, and all the steps he’d have to take to get there. He called it his Master Plan. He revised that plan regularly and followed it religiously. Sixteen years later, it led him to an unlikely opportunity-and a promise he has been working hard to live up to every day since. Harrowing, heartbreaking, and ultimately triumphant, The Master Plan is a memoir for this moment, proving that every person is capable of doing great things.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.
Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.
Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction • Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction • Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award • Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize • Finalist for the Kirkus Reviews Prize • An American Library Association Notable Book
The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham
The deeply reported story of identical twin brothers who escape El Salvador’s violence to build new lives in California—fighting to survive, to stay, and to belong.
Growing up in rural El Salvador in the wake of the civil war, the United States was a distant fantasy to identical twins Ernesto and Raul Flores—until, at age seventeen, a deadly threat from the region’s brutal gangs forces them to flee the only home they’ve ever known. In this urgent chronicle of contemporary immigration, journalist Lauren Markham follows the Flores twins as they make their way across the Rio Grande and the Texas desert, into the hands of immigration authorities, and from there to their estranged older brother in Oakland, CA. Soon these unaccompanied minors are navigating school in a new language, working to pay down their mounting coyote debt, and facing their day in immigration court, while also encountering the triumphs and pitfalls of teenage life with only each other for support. With intimate access and a breathtaking range, Markham offers an unforgettable testament to the migrant experience. Named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review. Winner of the Ridenhour Book Prize, Silver Winner of the California Book Award, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, shortlisted for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, and longlisted for the Pen/Bogard Weld Prize for Biography.
Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by Kristen Green
Combining hard-hitting investigative journalism and a sweeping family narrative, this provocative true story reveals a little-known chapter of American history: the period after the Brown v. Board of Education decision when one Virginia school system refused to integrate.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s unanimous Brown v. Board of Education decision, Virginia’s Prince Edward County refused to obey the law. Rather than desegregate, the county closed its public schools, locking and chaining the doors. The community’s white leaders quickly established a private academy, commandeering supplies from the shuttered public schools to use in their all-white classrooms. Meanwhile, black parents had few options: keep their kids at home, move across county lines, or send them to live with relatives in other states. For five years, the schools remained closed.
At once gripping, enlightening, and deeply moving, Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County, is a dramatic chronicle that explores our troubled racial past and its reverberations today, and a timeless story about compassion, forgiveness, and the meaning of home.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was a mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger. But William had read about windmills, and he dreamed of building one that would bring to his small village a set of luxuries that only 2 percent of Malawians could enjoy: electricity and running water. His neighbors called him misala—crazy—but William refused to let go of his dreams. With a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks; some scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves; and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to forge an unlikely contraption and small miracle that would change the lives around him.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a remarkable true story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. It will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual’s ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.