Common Read

Since 2007, a committee comprised of Johns Hopkins University faculty and staff members has selected a book as recommended reading for new students at the university. Sharing a common reading experience is among the first activities in which students will partake with their fellow new Blue Jays—their first homework assignment!

The Common Read program:

  • brings members of the entering first-year class and new transfer students together to participate in intellectual exchange and critical thinking about a carefully chosen text;
  • builds community and eases the transition to college by engaging students in small-group discussions with faculty members, staff members, and experienced students;
  • encourages students to consider the world around them through reflection and dialogue; and
  • invites new students to “cultivate their capacity for lifelong learning” by considering a common text from a variety of different perspectives

The annual Common Read program is generously underwritten by parent donors to the Hopkins Parents Fund.

2017 Book Selection

Cover of "Spare Parts" book

The book for this year’s Common Read program is Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream by Joshua Davis. Spare Parts is a particularly fitting selection for this year’s Common Read program given its focus on innovation, initiative, and perseverance. Many themes throughout the book will provide for rich, intellectual dialogue, ranging from immigration, to poverty, to the role of women portrayed in the book.

During Orientation, students will discuss the book in small groups led by faculty and staff members, in addition to RAs and First-Year Mentors. As a primer for these discussions, students are encouraged to participate in a “response” contest over the summer. Students may either submit a written essay or a short video with their response to the book. Additional information on the contest and Common Read program will be distributed to students via email.

Copies of Spare Parts will be mailed to new students’ permanent addresses, so you do not need to purchase the book! Please note that it may take longer for the book to reach international students.

Past Book Selections

  • 2016$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer
  • 2015The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • 2014 Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D.
  • 2013The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
  • 2012The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
  • 2011Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
  • 2010The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • 2009Johns Hopkins: A Silhouette by Helen Hopkins Thom
  • 2008Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • 2007From Binge to Blackout by Chris and Toren Volkmann

Nominate a Book

Have you read or heard of a book that you would like to nominated for a future Common Read? Fill out our nomination form with a book of your choice!