Common Read 2014-15

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Contact & Location


General Education

Rodney Frey
Director, General Education
Phinney Hall 116
(208) 885-6268


Common Read


The Common Read is a program designed to engage the university and Moscow community, its students, staff, faculty and community members, in a unified intellectual activity.  For first-year students it introduces them to academic expectations, respectful discourse, and community building.   The Common Read is supported by the Judith M. Runstad Lecture Series, which sponsors a keynote address by the author of the Common Read, or someone closely associated with the book. First-year students will be asked to read the book as part of their ISEM 101 Integrated Seminar requirements.  The Common Read book is available through the U of I VandalStore - Bookstore.

This is a program sponsored through the General Education program, supported by the Office of Student Affairs, and a host of faculty, staff and student members on the Common Read Committee. 

Common Read: 2014-15

The University of Idaho is excited to announce our Common Read for 2014-2015 will be Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen.

The author, Bich Minh Nguyen, will be giving a keynote address on the Moscow campus, Wednesday, September 24th at 7 pm in the International Ballroom of the Student Union Building. The talk is free and the general public is welcome.  To view the YouTube talk, go to:   or


As a Vietnamese girl coming of age in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nguyen is filled with a rapacious hunger for American identity, and in the pre-PC-era Midwest (where the Jennifers and Tiffanys reign supreme), the desire to belong transmutes into a passion for American food. More exotic- seeming than her Buddhist grandmother's traditional specialties, the campy, preservative-filled "delicacies" of mainstream America capture her imagination.

In, the glossy branded allure of Pringles, Kit Kats, and Toll House Cookies becomes an ingenious metaphor for Nguyen's struggle to become a "real" American, a distinction that brings with it the dream of the perfect school lunch, burgers and Jell- O for dinner, and a visit from the Kool-Aid man. Vivid and viscerally powerful, this remarkable memoir about growing up in the 1980s introduces an original literary voice and a new spin on the classic assimilation story.

Stealing Buddha's Dinner received the PEN/Jerard Award from the PEN American Center, was a Chicago Tribune Best Book of 2007, a BookSense pick, and a Kiriyama Prize Notable Book.  It was also selected as a common read selection within numerous communities and universities, including the all-state Great Michigan Read for 2009-2010.  

Nguyen received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan and has taught fiction and creative nonfiction in the MFA Program at Purdue University and the MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco.  She and her family recently moved to the Bay Area.

You can order the book online from the VandalStore or purchase it in your home town.  All first-year students are asked to purchase a copy, available at the U of I VandalStore - Bookstore, along with other bookstores and publication outlets.  When first-year students take their ISEM 101 Integrative Seminar, be it Fall Semester or Spring Semester, they will be involved in a class discussion of the book and asked to write a short reflective essay on Stealing Buddha's Dinner.   Paperback at $15.00.

Nominations: 2015-16

We are now seeking nominations for Fall - Spring 2015-16.  Deadline for nominations is Monday December 8, 2014.  The Common Read committee is seeking nominations of books, regardless of genre, that accomplishes the following:

  • Promotes engagement on a topic relevant to the university community and especially incoming first-year students.  The topic should be of broad interest across the university and Moscow community.
  • Given the breadth of audience, the book should be accessible, enjoyable, engaging, yet challenging
  • Provides an opportunity to inspire students intellectually to learn, engage and lead, to take “ownership” of their University of Idaho educational experience in critical and creative ways.
  • Provides diverse points of view, experiences, or other content that would promote sustained discussion.
  • Provides multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspective, allowing students, staff and faculty from differing academic disciplines to find points of intellectual convergence and integration as they address the topic of the book.
  • Addresses the five University of Idaho Learning Outcomes.   See "Resources for Faculty."
  • Holds the possibility that the author of the book (or someone closely associated with the book) would come to the Moscow campus and give a keynote address or presentation on the book, sponsored by the Judith M. Runstad Lecture Series.  Presentations given in association with the Common Read would be free and open to the public.

Past selections have included works of fiction, history, race and culture, ethnic identity, immigrant experience, economics, and political discourse.  See Past Common Reads

If you have a book in mind, please send your nomination to   Include in your nomination a synopsis of why you think this book is appropriate for the Common Read, addressing each of the criteria listed above.  Also include: Book Title, Author, Publisher, Year Published, Paperback Option, Cost, Awards, Name of nominator and contact information.