Books at the University of Idaho Library

Past Common Reads

2014 Common Read

"Stealing Buddha’s Dinner" by Bich Minh Nguyen
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.

The author, Bich Minh Nguyen, gave a keynote address on the Moscow campus on Wednesday, September 24th. To view the YouTube talk, go to:

2013 Common Read

"Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit" by Barry Estabrook
Tomatoland combines history, legend, passion for taste, and investigative reporting on modern agribusiness and environmental issues into a revealing, controversial look at the tomato, the fruit we love so much that we eat $4 billion-worth annually.  Estabrook traces the supermarket tomato from its birthplace in the deserts of Peru to the impoverished town of Immokalee, Florida, a.k.a. the tomato capital of the United States. It was the 2012 IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) Award Winner in the Food Matters category.

2012 Common Read

"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, in vitro fertilization, 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. 

2011 Common Read

"The Big Burn" by Timothy Egan
The Big Burn chronicles the largest forest fire in America, and how it made Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy as the president who saved our wild places. In August 1910, strong wind accompanied by drought-stricken national forests of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, starting hundreds of small blazes burning across the forest floor jumped from treetop to ridge as it raged, destroying towns and timber in the blink of an eye.The Big Burn tells an epic story while painting a moving portrait of the people who lived it, and offers a critical cautionary tale.

2010 Common Read

"The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal" by Jonathan Mooney
"The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal" addresses the challenges all of us have faced regardless of ability; being different, yet wanting to be like everyone else. The book was well received, and the author, Jonathan Mooney, joined us on campus and presented to the university community during fall orientation activities.

2009 Common Read

"Deep Economy" by Bill McKibben
"Deep Economy" by Bill McKibben has been selected for the 2009 Common Read book for incoming students by a committee of faculty, staff, and students.

2008 Common Read

"1 Dead in Attic-After Katrina" by Chris Rose
"1 Dead in Attic-After Katrina" is a collection of stories by Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose, recounting the first harrowing year and a half of life in New Orleans after Hurrican Katrina. This book was well received and over 600 students attended the 1/2 day discussion. The author Chris Rose also joined us on campus and presented to student, community and administrative groups.