Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger
Tribe examines the way war creates intimate bonds between people. Through times of adversity, humans are given a sense of purpose and connection. These experiences create collectives that depend on one another, ultimately connecting with our inherent nature as a communal species. To this point, Junger explores the relationship between combat veterans returning home and higher rates of post- traumatic stress disorders, as they search for the closeness and unity in everyday society. Tribe explores themes of loyalty, belonging, and the human quest for finding meaning in life. This book introduces elements of tribal societies for the purpose of helping us consider ways of creating communities that thrive not from catastrophe or war, but from peace and the act of coming together in purpose.
The Promise of a Pencil, by Adam Braun
The Promise of a Pencil is Braun’s first-person account of his journey from high-powered Wall Street consultant to founder of the non-profit Pencils of Promise (PoP), an organization he started with just $25 that has now built over 200 schools in developing countries.
A Pearl in the Storm, by Tori Murden McClure
The book 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. She is also well-versed in the science of tides and weather, the art and mechanics of boat building, and survival skills. And, McClure 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.
Detroit: An American Autopsy, by Charlie LeDuff
LeDuff’s book touches on a wide range of pertinent topics: the American and global economy; class in America and the recession; the role of government, the press, and the citizenry in American democracy; and community building and urban renewal, among others.
Once a thriving metropolis — a true leader in the nation for production, wealth, and opportunity — Detroit is now the nation’s poorest city, leading the nation in unemployment, arson and other social ills. As a Detroit native and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, LeDuff tells the tale of the city’s decline, getting up close and personal with his subject.
2012 Common Book
420 Characters, by Lou Beach
Within this collection of miniature stories, entire worlds take shape… Beach’s characters contend with the strange and terrible and beautiful in life, and no outcome is certain. Begun as a series of Facebook status updates, 420 Characters marks a new turn in an acclaimed artist and illustrator’s career, and features original collages by the author.
2011 Common Book
Greasy Rider: Two dudes, one fry-oil-powered car, and a cross-country search for a greener future.
Is it possible to drive coast-to-coast without stopping at a single gas pump? Journalist Greg Melville is determined to try. With his college buddy Iggy riding shotgun, he sets out on an enlightening road trip. The quest: to be the first people to drive cross-country in a french-fry car. Will they make it from Vermont to California in a beat-up 1985 Mercedes diesel station wagon powered on vegetable oil collected from restaurant grease dumpsters along the way? Their trip takes them to the solar-powered Google headquarters; the wind turbines of southwestern Minnesota; one of the first houses to receive platinum certification for leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED); and a so-called “eco-friendly” Wal-Mart.
Part adventure and part investigation of what we’re doing (or not doing) to preserve the planet, Greasy Rider is upbeat, funny, and full of surprising information about the many sustainable measures that are within our reach.
2010 Common Book
Outcasts United, by Warren St. John.
The book chronicles a refugee soccer team, a remarkable woman coach and a small southern town turned upside down by the process of refugee resettlement.
In the 1990s, that town, Clarkston, Georgia, became a resettlement center for refugees and a modern-day Ellis Island for scores of families from war zones in Liberia, Congo, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan. The town also became home to Luma Mufleh, an American-educated Jordanian woman who founded a youth soccer team to help keep Clarkston’s boys off the streets. These boys named themselves the Fugees — short for refugees.
Outcasts United follows a pivotal season in the life of the Fugees, their families and their charismatic coach as they struggle to build new lives in a fading town overwhelmed by change. Theirs is a story about resilience in the face of extraordinary hardship, the power of one person to make a difference and the daunting challenge of creating community in a place where people seem to have so little in common.
2009 Common Book
How Does It Feel To Be A Problem? Being Young and Arab in America, by Moustafa Bayoumi.
The book weaves together the stories of seven young Arab American men and women who live in Brooklyn. In its review of the book, Publisher’s Weekly writes: “..for most of its history, American society has paid little attention to its Arab and Muslim citizens — until the events of September 11 thrust millions of uninvolved people into a very unfavorable limelight, often forcing them to answer for the monstrous deeds of others. The author profiles seven young people for whom that day’s horrors were not just a shared national tragedy but the beginning of a struggle to define themselves, as they began to face pervasive workplace discrimination and government surveillance, cultural misunderstanding and threats of violence. In many ways, his absorbing and affectionate book is a quintessentially American picture of 21st-century citizens ‘absorbing and refracting all the ethnicities and histories surrounding [them].’”
2008 Common Book
1 Dead in Attic, by Chris Rose
Chris Rose’s chronicle of post-Katrina New Orleans freeze-frames New Orleans — a city caught during its most desperate time — as it struggles out of the floodwaters and wills itself back to life. In commenting on the book, one reviewer wrote: “Celebrated as a local treasure and heaped with national praise, Rose provides a rollercoaster ride of observation, commentary, emotion, tragedy and even humor — in a way that only he could find in a devastated wasteland. They are stories of the dead and the living, stories of survivors and believers, stories of hope and despair. And stories about refrigerators.”
2007 Common Book
A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah
A Long Way Gone is Beah’s first-hand account of being pressed into service as a child soldier in the war-torn country of Sierra Leone. His story of a childhood lost and an adulthood found is an inspiring journey from heartbreaking tragedy to hope and redemption.