Common Reading Initiative

2014 Common Reading Initiative Book

A Pearl in the Storm, by Tori Murden McClure

A Pearl in the StormA Pearl in the Storm follows the author as she attempts to become the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic. In vivid, often jarring, detail the book charts McClure's treacherous crossing during one of the worst hurricane seasons on record. This is a book of not only hard work, sweat and tears, but also of sacrifice, risk and perseverance as McClure sets herself the task of rowing a 2,800-pound boat across 3,600 miles of open ocean.

This is not simply a book about physical challenge or determination, however. McClure is also well-versed in the science of tides and weather, the art and mechanics of boat building, and survival skills. In addition, she is an intellectual who derives strength from history and literature. Alone and vulnerable in the middle of the Atlantic, McClure travels the path of self-inquiry, relying on these disciplines to get through and make meaning of the three solitary months she spends on the water.

A Pearl in the Storm is an accessible and engaging read that appeals to scholars and athletes, to those interested in the sciences or the humanities, and to anyone who likes a suspenseful and compelling story.

Events and Activities for 2014-15

As a first-year student, you'lll receive this year's book during Summer Orientation. You'll read the book before you come to campus in August so you're ready to participate in the Common Reading Initiative's lectures, discussions, exhibits, films and activities, including:

Author Talk and Book Signing, 8 p.m., Sept. 24, Dibden Center for the Arts: Join us for an evening with Tori Murden McClure, who will discuss her life and some of her many adventures, including her solo row across the Atlantic. The evening will end with a question-and-answer session and a book signing.

Chesamore Cup Rowing Regatta: From the moment you arrive on campus for Fall Orientation until the evening of Sept. 20, this event will be in full swing. In McClure’s first month at sea, she rowed approximately 1350 miles across the Atlantic. Our goal is to collectively row the same mileage in the first month of the semester. It will take hard work and dedication to row all 2,172,609 meters (1350 miles), but with your help, it can be done!

Boatbuilding, throughout September: The JSC community will build three beautiful wooden boats on campus. Stay tuned for more information about this incredible opportunity!

Willey Library Display: On her trip, McClure stowed away 10 pounds of books in her tiny "cabin." Check out the display in the Willey Library and Learning Center to view
the titles that inspired and carried her through three months alone at sea.

Screening of MaidenTrip (date and time to be announced): MaidenTrip follows 16-year-old Laura Dekker, a Dutch schoolgirl, as she becomes the youngest person to sail solo around the world. The film illustrates what an accomplishment this is as Laura charts her course, fights the elements, and manages being alone for days at a time. But, like McClure’s journey in A Pearl in the Storm, Dekker’s is equally an internal journey of personal growth and awareness.

Exhibit: Images of Tori's Journey: Photographs from McClure's crossing of the Atlantic will be displayed in the wings of Dibden starting in August. Stop by for an incredible visual guide of her journey.

Female Athletes from Vermont, March 2015: Vermont is home to a large number of extreme athletes and adventurers. Join us for a panel discussion with some of Vermont's finest female athletes. The panel will discuss what it means to be both a competitor/explorer and a woman, including the many roles women play (wife, mother, caretaker, provider) and the societal expectations that accompany them.

History of JSC's Common Reading Initiative

We've designed the program to introduce you to the academic and intellectual culture of the college through a common reading experience. A committee of faculty, staff and current JSC students met over the course of the fall and spring semesters to choose a book for the entire incoming class to read during the summer. This fall, you will have many opportunities to share and compare ideas about the common book. Your peer Orientation Leaders, as well as many faculty and staff, will also have read the book, providing a broad base for discussion and integration into the JSC community.

Previous Years' Common Books


Detroit: An American Autopsy, by Charlie LeDuff



420 Characters, Lou Beach



Greasy Rider, Greg Melville



Outcasts United, Warren St. John



How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America, Moustafa Bayoumi



1 Dead in Attic, Chris Rose



A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah