Past Common Reading Books
The 2014 Common Reading Experience selection is Here Bullet by Brian Turner.
Past common readings include:
- The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities by Will Allen (2013)
- A School for My Village: A Promise to the Orphans of Nyaka by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri (2012)
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2011)
- The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (2010)
- Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama (2009)
- Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley (2008)
- Darfur Diaries: Stories of Survival by Jen Marlowe, Aisha Bain, and Adam Shapiro (2007)
- Confluence: A River, The Environment, Politics & The Fate of All Humanity by Nathaniel Tripp (2006)
- West of Kabul, East of New York by Tamim Ansary (2005)
- Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James Houston (2004)
- The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman (2003)
- Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (2002)
- An American Story by Debra Dickerson (2001)
- A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind (1999 & 2000)
- The Other Side of the River by Alex Kotlowitz (1998)
- Life on the Color Line by Gregory Williams (1997)
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1996)
- Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol (1995)
- Black Ice by Lorene Cary (1994)
- A Typical American by Gish Jen (1993)
- Linden Hills by Gloria R. Naylor (1992)
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1991)
Letter to Incoming Students
from Tess Haadsma, ’15
Dear Class of 2018,
Welcome to Albion, and congratulations on making the decision to become a Briton!
If you are reading this letter, that means you have picked up Brian Turner's Here Bullet, this year's Common Reading Experience book. Turner's book is many things: fairly short, easy to read, beautiful and, to be completely honest, terrifying.
Turner fought as an American soldier in the Iraq war and so saw what I (and I suspect you) have never seen first-hand: war.
Until I read Turner's poems, everything I knew about war I learned from newscasts or history classes or the movies. Turner's book of poems, though, makes an entirely different aspect of the war tangible – it is not the glory or the violence, so much as the human experience – the implications, the impact that war has on those caught in its crosshairs.
For those of you who have never picked up a book of poetry before in your life, don't be afraid. Poetry can be scary, yes, but these poems are different than the poems you've probably read in school. His language is our language, and the poems make a world that is so far away—in many ways—feel right here.
So the next time you go to the beach or need something to read on your lunch break, pick up Turner's book of poems and bring it with you. I think the poems will surprise you. They certainly surprised me.
Tess Haadsma, ’15
Frequently Asked Questions
What is this book all about?
It is a part of the Richard M. Smith Common Reading Experience which is an integral part of the William Atwell Brown, Jr., and Mary Brown Vacin First-Year Experience Program at Albion College.
How does the Common Reading Experience work?
It's pretty simple: we give you a book that a group of stellar students, staff, and faculty thought was pretty amazing, and you read it.
Why did that stellar group of students, staff, and faculty choose Brian Turner's Here, Bullet?
All of the members of the committee, most of whom are not poetry readers as a matter of course, found Tuner's poems beautiful, easily accessible, and relatable. They were struck by Turner's incredible ability to humanize the experience of war for everyone who is involved and to represent a range of cultures with deep respect and sensitivity. His poems made them feel as though they were surrounded by the world of the Iraq war in all of its complexity.
When do I read it?
You read the book this summer before you get to Albion in August. Your First-Year Seminar professor and student mentor will expect you to have finished this book by the first time they meet you.
What happens with this book once I get here?
Starting at your orientation, this book will be common ground for you to stand on with your classmates. You will engage with that book in class and out of it. You will be a part of discussions about it in your First Year Seminar and around campus; you will watch films and hear speakers who will help us all think about the complicated fact of war in our world. You will even get to meet the author and hear him talk about his experiences in Iraq and his work with words. You may even have access to an advance copy of his new memoir, though that's still up in the air. Keep your fingers crossed.
About the Author
Award-winning Poet, Author of Here, Bullet
Brian Turner is a soldier-poet who is the author of two poetry collections, Phantom Noise (2010) and Here, Bullet (2005) which won the 2005 Beatrice Hawley Award, the New York Times "Editor's Choice" selection, the 2006 Pen Center USA "Best in the West" award, and the 2007 Poets Prize, among others. He also has a memoir, My Life as a Foreign Country (2014) that retraces his war experience.
Turner served seven years in the US Army, to include one year as an infantry team leader in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Prior to that, he was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999-2000 with the 10th Mountain Division.
Turner's poetry has been published in Poetry Daily, The Georgia Review, and other journals, and in the Voices in Wartime Anthology published in conjunction with the feature-length documentary film of the same name. Turner was also featured in Operation Homecoming, a unique documentary that explores the firsthand accounts of American servicemen and women through their own words. He earned an MFA from the University of Oregon and has lived abroad in South Korea. In 2009, Turner was selected as one of fifty United States Artists Fellows.
Brian Turner poetry reading
Brian Turner's homepage