Students have at least one item in common this year: a purple paperback novel distributed by the University’s One Book program.
This year’s selection for the annual campus-wide reading effort “Good Kings, Bad Kings” by Susan Nussbaum is a 2013 novel that explores the lives of residents of an institution for juveniles with disabilities.
According to the University website, the One Book committee hopes the novel will “raise awareness about the treatment of people with disabilities in today’s society” and reflect the dedication that the University has to this cause through student organizations such as LEVEL and Special Olympics.
Susan Nussbaum will visit the University Jan. 28 for book signings.
The One Book dinner, which offers a special menu, will follow in Dougherty Hall, according to the website.
The One Book committee strives to choose books with new settings to balance the scope of experiences and cultures explored each year, said Director of Student Development Dr. Thomas Mogan. The subject matter filled in a gap in topics explored by previous selections, Mogan said.
Mogan and Assistant Vice President for Multicultural Affairs Teresa Nance created the One Book program, which Nance said, “began with community members who wanted to do something to connect.”
Faculty, staff and students can nominate books through an online form. Guidelines for book suggestions include a “broad appeal to readers of different ages and different educational backgrounds” and “relevance to issues of diversity and inter-cultural dialog within both the local and the global communities.”
Recent One Book selections include “Little Princes” by Conor Grennan and “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford. Some past One Book topics include human trafficking, genocide, dysfunctional family situations and war.
Nance said that after the fall break each year the committee narrows down the nomination list to a manageable number of books for the committee to read over the winter recess. The committee does not vote, but instead waits to select a final book until the members reach a consensus.
In past years committee members have chosen books that explore specific topics, but this year in particular the committee was looking for a book by a female author that would speak to students. The selection “grows out of the conversation among the committee,” Nance said.
Although Nance said the committee discusses many books worth reading, usually one choice stands out as a “One Book-book.” The final selection becomes clear when the committee finds “that point that involves everyone in the community.”
The committee members anticipate that some will love the book, some will hate it, but everyone will react, Nance said.
“We would not be a good committee if we were trying to please everyone,” Nance said.
“The point of a book is to talk,” she added.
By ordering 6,000 copies of each year’s One Book, Villanova receives a deal from the publishing house. Four thousand five hundred copies are distributed through residence halls, but copies are also available for all off-campus students. This year electronic copies are also available, Nance said.
Nance said that while students are not generally forced to participate in One Book, some teachers do incorporate the selection into their curriculums. Mogan said the committee used to circulate a survey after the author’s event, and may bring the survey back this year to receive feedback.
Nance said Dining Services finds a way to be involved in the program by providing cuisine related to the culture or topics of the One Book during the author’s event. Nance said the dinner and decorations help make One Book become even more of a community event.
Nance said this is one aspect that distinguishes the University from other universities with campus reading programs.
“There are few things that really bring us together, but a book can,” Nance said.
Nance said One Book is a welcome change for students who face frequent required readings.
“Isn’t it great just to take a minute and read something for fun?” she asked.
Mogan said a list of more events and programs will be posted on the University website in the coming weeks.
Students and faculty members who are interested in becoming more involved in the program should reach out and join the committee.