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UM Common Reading Experience narrowed down

The University of Mississippi’s Common Reading Experience selection group has narrowed its list to five books, with one to be selected for campuswide reading and discussion in 2016.

All incoming freshmen and transfer students will get copies of the selected book, which will be announced in February, with instructions to read it before the fall semester begins. The text will be used during classes for discussion, and faculty and staff are also encouraged to read the book in an effort to enrich the sense of community.

“Our short list is especially strong this year and includes five excellent books,” Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and committee co-chair, said. “Any of the books would be a great Common Reading selection for 2016.”

Faculty, staff and students, as well as alumni and residents of the greater Oxford community were invited to nominate a suggested title this fall. The committee chose from books that were ideally less than 400 pages, available in paperback, written by a living author and published within the last five years, all to ensure the book is accessible to both students and readers in the community.

The committee has been meeting weekly since mid-October and will do so through January to discuss the recommendations. Recently, they settled on five books and the committee members will read all of them before making their choice in January.

“We will come together in late January to discuss each book and rank our choices,” Banahan said.

Kirk A. Johnson, associate professor of sociology and African-American studies and co-chair of the Common Reading Experience selection subcommittee, is impressed with the list.

“It’s hard to imagine a more eclectic range of books, both in format and theme,” Johnson said. “Each title has different strengths, but the common denominator is broad appeal within the university community and especially for our target audience of next year’s entering class.”

The finalists include:

• “Ten Little Indians” by Sherman Alexie.

• “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson.

• “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America” by Kiese Laymon.

• “Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do” by Claude M. Steele.

• “Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal” by Conor Grennan.

This will be the sixth Common Reading Experience at UM. The 2015 Common Reading Experience selection is “The Education of a Lifetime,” a memoir by Robert Khayat, UM chancellor emeritus.