A Common Reader is a book assigned to all first-year students to read before or shortly after they arrive on campus in the fall. The purpose of the First-Year Common Reader is to integrate the student into the University learning community as early as possible. The shared experience of reading the book, which can be a work of fiction or non-fiction, is a way to engage students socially and academically both inside and outside of the classroom. The theme(s) of the Common Reader are incorporated into discussions, activities and experiences of first-year students.

Program Goals

The goals of Lewis University’s First Year Common Reader Program were adopted by the Common Reader Committee in December of 2006:

  • Create a sense of community         
  • Promote discussion
  • Set academic expectations for students
  • Provide a shared intellectual experience
  • Encourage cross-disciplinary dialogue
  • Increase faculty-student interaction
  • Promote critical engagement with ideas
  • Encourage reading among first year students
Common Reader Selections

2017 –Saving Lives in Auschwitz: The Prisoners’ Hospital in Buna-Monowitz
Dr. Ewa Bacon

Lewis University is pleased to announce that the book Saving Lives in Auschwitz: The Prisoners’ Hospital in Buna-Monowitz, written by Dr. Ewa Bacon, Professor Emerita of History at Lewis University, has been selected as the First Year Common Reader for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Saving Lives in Auschwitz tells the harrowing story of Dr. Bacon’s father, Stefan Budziaszek, a newly-graduated medical doctor imprisoned during WWII and consigned to lead the on-site prisoner hospital in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, a site of Hitler’s Nazi genocide and its related atrocities. How can a young doctor and his staff navigate in this extreme context? Indeed, as the publisher notes:

...here does seeking the cooperation of the Nazi concentration camp staff become collusion with Nazi genocide? How did physicians deal with debilitated patients who faced \"selection\" for transfer to the gas chambers? Auschwitz was a cauldron of competing agendas.” Ultimately, [the] “… hospital staff bear witness to the agency of prisoner doctors in an environment better known for death than survival.

The First Year Common Reader Committee selected this book for its potential for engaging our newest Lewis students in discussions, community activities, and debate addressing issues of social justice and personal and collective agency in the context of harrowing political tensions and realities during World War II. Based in both narrative and scholarly research, including the recently discovered official oral history of the author’s father, Dr. Bacon shares her journey to better understand her father’s experience and in turn expands the world’s understanding of the meaning, landscape, and function of Auschwitz, and the limitations and possibilities of resilience and human agency. 

2017 – Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists
Courtney E. Martin

2016 – Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream
Joshua Davis

2015 – Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon

2014 – The New Kings of Nonfiction
Ira Glass, Editor

2013 – The House on Mango Street
Sandra Cisneros

2012 – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot

2011 – Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream
Adam Shepard

2010 – Garbage Land
Elizabeth Royte

2009 – The Devil in the White City
Erik Larson

2008 – Persepolis II
Marjane Satrapi

2007 – Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon

2004 & 2005 – Life of Pi
Yann Martel

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Kurt Schackmuth, Vice President for Mission and Academic Services