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Common Reading 2010

To come to college means to come into a new relationship with books.

The Common Reading Program is now an established start-of-school tradition at SMU. Students new to SMU receive the selected book during the summer at AARO and read it before they arrive for the start of the fall semester. Faculty, staff, and returning students already have begun reading and discussing the book in preparation for the small-group conversations with new students that take place just before Rotunda Passage and Opening Convocation—truly an afternoon of SMU new-student traditions. Students will find that the book and the questions it raises will be part of the curriculum of their first-year writing courses as well.

This year's Common Reading is Dave Eggers' Zeitoun.


From The New Yorker

Through the story of one man’s experience after Hurricane Katrina, Eggers draws an indelible picture of Bush-era crisis management. Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a successful Syrian-born painting contractor, decides to stay in New Orleans and protect his property while his family flees. After the levees break, he uses a small canoe to rescue people, before being arrested by an armed squad and swept powerlessly into a vortex of bureaucratic brutality. Dave Eggers When a guard accuses him of being a member of Al Qaeda, he sees that race and culture may explain his predicament. Eggers, compiling his account from interviews, sensibly resists rhetorical grandstanding, letting injustices speak for themselves. His skill is most evident in how closely he involves the reader in Zeitoun’s thoughts. Thrown into one of a series of wire cages, Zeitoun speculates, with a contractor’s practicality, that construction of his prison must have begun within a day or so of the hurricane.

Publisher's Biography Page

Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including his most recent, Zeitoun, a nonfiction account a Syrian-American immigrant and his extraordinary experience during Hurricane Katrina and What Is the What, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in southern Sudan, gave birth to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, run by Mr. Deng and dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces a quarterly journal, a monthly magazine (The Believer), and Wholphin, a quarterly DVD of short films and documentaries. In 2002, with Nínive Calegari he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. Local communities have since opened sister 826 centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, Seattle, and Boston. In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and there, with Dr. Lola Vollen, he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.

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Zeitoun (McSweeney's, 2009)

What Is the What (McSweeney's, 2006)

Co-editor, Surviving Justice (McSweeney's, 2005)

Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers, with Daniel Moulthrop and Nínive Clements Calegari (New Press, June 2005)

Introduction, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (Modern Library, February 2005)

Introduction, Forty Stories by Donald Barthelme (Penguin Classics, January 2005)

Editor, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004 (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)

Introduction, When We Were Very Maakies by Tony Millionaire (Fantagraphics Books, 2004)

Contributor, Yours in Food, John Baldessari, editor (Princeton Architectural Press, October 2004)

Your Disgusting Head, co-researcher (Simon & Schuster, 2004)

The Future Dictionary of America, co-editor (McSweeney's, 2004)

How We Are Hungry (McSweeney's, 2004)

Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney's Humor Category, co-editor (Knopf, summer 2004)

The Unforbidden Is Compulsory; or, Optimism (McSweeney's, 2004)

Introduction, A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain (Modern Library, 2003)

Introduction, The Tenants of Moonbloom by Edward Lewis Wallant (New York Review of Books Classics, 2003)

Giraffes? Giraffes!, co-researcher (Brutus Blue Publishing Force, 2003)

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003, editor (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)

Sacrament [a version of You Shall Know Our Velocity!] (McSweeney's, 2003)

McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, contributor (McSweeney's/Vintage, 2003)

Jokes Told in Heaven About Babies, assistant to Lucy Thomas (McSweeney's, 2003)

The Kindness of Strangers, contributor (Lonely Planet, 2003)

You Shall Know Our Velocity! (McSweeney's, 2002)

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2002, editor (Houghton Mifflin, 2002)

The Onion Ad Nauseam, contributor (Boxtree, 2002)

Foreword, Drama in the Desert: The Sights and Sounds of Burning Man by Holly Kreuter (Raised Barn Press, 2002)

Speaking with the Angel, contributor (Riverhead Books, 2001)

Best American Travel Writing 2000, contributor (Houghton Mifflin, 2000)

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Simon & Schuster, 2000)