I see [respect] not only as an expression of circumstance, history, temperament, and culture, rooted in rituals and habits, but also arising from efforts to break with routines and imagine other ways of giving and receiving trust, and in so doing, creating relationships among equals. — Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

UW Common Book

Ideas are core to the University of Washington. We look to and write books as ways to express ideas and discoveries, to learn from others, to share and teach, and to grow and inspire. Since 2006, we have given freshmen a book as a way of celebrating words and writing and to welcome them into this extraordinary community of ideas.

The UW Common Book program began with a simple purpose: provide entering first year students with an initial shared experience built around the reading of a common text. Now the UW Common Book is a freshman year tradition.

The Common Book is selected to be readable and welcoming but also to represent the diversity and multiplicity of thought and excitement of discovery found at the core of our work at the UW. We hope the Common Book gives students a first taste of the undergraduate experience itself and that it provides a platform for students to begin to explore questions, perspectives, or forms of writing that, while sometimes unfamiliar or challenging, are also thought provoking, eye-opening, mind-altering and even inspiring.

The Common Book is distributed to all incoming students during summer orientation. It is supported during the year with courses and events developed especially for first year students and designed to connect the book with UW academic life and the broader issues that shape our world. Students are urged to read the book, contribute to a discussion about the book online or in person with professors and friends, and participate in Common Book activities.

The Common Book is centered in Undergraduate Academic Affairs at the UW Seattle campus.

Questions? Email

2012-13 UW Common Book in the News

Disability Resources for Students

The University of Washington is committed to providing equal access and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education, and employment for individuals with disabilities. If you are a student with a documented disability that would impact your ability to read the common book without reasonable accommodation, please contact Disability Resources for Students to request the common book in alternate format e.g. audiotape, large-print, electronic text, Braille.
Disability Resources for Students is located in 448 Schmitz Hall, 206-543-8924 (V/TTY), 206-685-8379 (fax),

UW Common Book Partners

• University of Washington Libraries
• First Year Programs
• The Graduate School
• Housing and Food Resources/Division of Student Life
• Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity
• University Bookstore
• UW Alumni Association

Selection History

Note: The sites below are no longer maintained and may have broken links.

2011: The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist by Richard Feynman

2010: You Are Never Where You Are: A Collection of Poems edited by the Common Book selection committee.

2009: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama.

2008: The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea.

2007: Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert.

2006: Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder.