Common Reading Program

The Common Reading Program invites Sweet Briar students, faculty and staff to participate in a shared reading experience that excites conversation about age-old questions and important contemporary issues facing us all as learners, educators, citizens and human beings. 

Chosen for its ability to spark discussion both in- and outside the classroom, the Common Reading book helps us to reaffirm our belief that learning is not a solitary activity — it is a collaborative and social one. In other words, reading the same book helps unite everyone in the Sweet Briar community by getting us all on the same page, both literally and figuratively.


The Common Reading book for 2014Half The Sky

“Strength in What Remains”

by Tracy Kidder

In “Strength in What Remains,” Tracy Kidder gives us the story of one man’s inspiring American journey and of the ordinary people who helped him, providing brilliant testament to the power of second chances.

Deo arrives in the United States from Burundi in search of a new life. Having survived a civil war and genocide, he lands at JFK airport with two hundred dollars, no English, and no contacts. He ekes out a precarious existence delivering groceries, living in Central Park, and learning English by reading dictionaries in bookstores. Then Deo begins to meet the strangers who will change his life, pointing him eventually in the direction of Columbia University, medical school, and a life devoted to healing.

Kidder breaks new ground in telling this unforgettable story as he travels with Deo back over a turbulent life and shows us what it means to be fully human.


Books from past years include:

"Half the Sky"
by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

“The Fabric of the Cosmos”
by Brian Greene

“Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge”
by Edward O. Wilson

“The Gastronomical Me”
by MFK Fisher

“Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books”
by Azar Nafisi

“Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation”
by Olivia Judson

“The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals”
by Michael Pollan

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”
by Rebecca Skloot

“Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization”
by Reza Aslan

“The History of Money”
by Jack Weatherford