Richard M. Smith Common Reading Experience

Reading Matters.

A collage of graphics representing the curated collection of CRE selections for 2023.

The 2023 CRE selection is a curated collection of easily digestible works centered on the theme of belonging, identity and self discovery.

It matters in our lives as students and teachers, as professionals and citizens, as critical thinkers and people trying to make our way in a wonderfully complicated and richly multicultural world.

It introduces us to ideas we may never have encountered and makes possible relationships that might not have existed without it.

It cultivates our imaginations and feeds our curiosity.

Perhaps most importantly, reading can provide and expand common ground.

Richard M. Smith, Albion alumnus and former Newsweek editor-in-chief, understood the power of reading to create community and engage our minds. That is why he endowed Albion College’s Richard M. Smith Common Reading Experience (CRE).

The CRE is built on and affirms the deep relevance of reading and its ability to experience our world in more nuanced, thoughtful, and often joyful ways.

This year we are trying something new…something exciting, something we believe will be a great fit for our first-year students and first-year seminar (FYS) instructors. Rather than picking a single common book, we’ve curated a small collection of quickly digestible works (a common experience experience) that we hope will speak to our FYS instructors’ and first year students’ diverse interests and aptitudes. This collection includes a graphic memoir, a collection of poems, a master’s thesis, two plays, an art exhibit, a digital humanities exhibition, an illustrated interview transcript, a concert, two films, two short essays, a short story, a speech, and a song from which FYS instructors can pick to share, experience, and discuss with their first-year students. Several of these items were recommended directly by current Albion College students, staff, and faculty in response to a call for nominations that went out during the Spring 2023 semester. Three of them were created by Albion College Students–Eryn Star (‘21), Akaiia Ridley (‘22), and Carlos Paniagua Emiliano (‘23)–for Albion College students. 

Click here to review the 2023 CRE selections. All materials are freely accessible.

Past Common Reading Experience Books

Common readings include:

  • 2022 – How To Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • 2021 – How To Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • 2020 – The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui
  • 2019 – The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui
  • 2018 – Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo`Crucet
  • 2017 – Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo`Crucet
  • 2016 – High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Societyby Dr. Carl Hart
  • 2015 – How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon
  • 2014 – Here, Bullet by Brian Turner
  • 2013 – The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities by Will Allen
  • 2012 – A School for My Village: A Promise to the Orphans of Nyaka by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri
  • 2011 – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • 2010 – The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • 2009 – Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
  • 2008 – Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley
  • 2007 – Darfur Diaries: Stories of Survival by Jen Marlowe, Aisha Bain, and Adam Shapiro
  • 2006 – Confluence: A River, The Environment, Politics & The Fate of All Humanity by Nathaniel Tripp
  • 2005 – West of Kabul, East of New York by Tamim Ansary
  • 2004 – Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James Houston
  • 2003 – The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman
  • 2002 – Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • 2001 – An American Story by Debra Dickerson
  • 2000 – A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind
  • 1999 – A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind
  • 1998 – The Other Side of the River by Alex Kotlowitz
  • 1997 – Life on the Color Line by Gregory Williams
  • 1996 – The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • 1995 – Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol
  • 1994 – Black Ice by Lorene Cary
  • 1993 – A Typical American by Gish Jen
  • 1992 – Linden Hills by Gloria R. Naylor
  • 1991 – Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston