Books nominated for the 2014-2015 Freshman Common Reading at CSUN

The Winner for 2014-2015

The conventional representation of death as a hooded skeleton but this time impaled by its own scythe.

The Postmortal: A Novel by Drew Magary.

365 pages; 2011 (pbk.). Fiction.

Nominated by Kimberly Embleton: "Postmortal, written in the form of a diary, takes place in the not-too-distant future when a cure for aging has been discovered. The cure doesn’t make one immortal; it just stops the aging process. This book raises questions about ethics, morality, overpopulation, mortality, the environment, families, birth, marriage, and interpersonal relationships. A fun read, but also really is quite thought provoking."

More information: extended book review on by Stefan Raets.


The Other Finalists

All Natural*: *A Skeptic's Quest to Discover If the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier by Nathaniel Johnson

All Natural: A Skeptic's Quest to Discover If the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier by Nathanael Johnson.

352 pages (hbk.); 2013. Nonfiction.

Nominated by Erin Delaney: "This book explores both 'natural' and 'technological' solutions to a variety of modern problems, including nutrition, birth, vaccinations, and livestock. The author, who was raised by parents convinced that the 'natural' way is best, challenges his parents' assumptions as an adult. While doing so, he sometimes reveals our mistaken assumptions and how little science has conclusively proven."

More information: Amazon; author's website.


An African-American boy riding a bike looks back over his shoulder at the camera as he rides away down an empty street.

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore.

250 pages; 2010. Memoir.

Nominated by Stacey Bieber: "The text has been a common reading book at a number of schools, such as UCLA, Johns Hopkins, SMU, Marietta College, and Florida State University. . . . the book touches on many topics which would be of interest—expectations (societal and parental), poverty, family, and responsibility."

More information: author's website; Christian Science Monitor book review.


Title and author are printed against the t-shirted torso of a serviceman with a dogtag that says 'a novel.'

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain.

307 pages (pbk.); 2012. Fiction. Available in Oviatt Library.

Nominated by Cheryl Spector: "Billy and seven other men from Bravo Company are on a two-week leave from the Iraq War; it is Thanksgiving weekend and they are being paraded as halftime heroes at a Dallas Cowboys football game though Beyonce has top billing. Wonderful writing; sharp critiques of American obliviousness alternate with high comedy and frequent profanity which however seems appropriate to the characters and their situation. Beware, ears polite!"

More information: New York Times book review; Washington Postbook review.


Close-up of a couple's two clasped hands.

Nineteen Minutes: A Novel by Jodi Picoult.

450-700 pages; 2007. Fiction. Available in Oviatt Library.

Nominated by by Nicole Dickson: "With recent tragedies such as the Newtown shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing, Nineteen Minutes offers insight into what causes people to do these sort of things. It’s a thought-provoking novel, and is written so that you see multiple sides of the story: a victim’s side, the judge’s, even the accused’s. I believe this book will help incoming freshmen think about the larger world and what what we can do to stop events like these from happening. It’s also an engaging story that is worth the read."

More information: author's website.


Silhouette of a girl in profile against a darkening sunset and a dark red ocean.

The Age of Miracles: A Novel by Karen Thompson Walker.

304 pages; 2012 (pbk. 2013). Fiction. Available in Oviatt Library.

Nominated by Sabrina Peck. From the author's website: "On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover . . that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray."

More information: One City, One Story selection for the city of Pasadena (2013); Powell's Books review.


Other Nominated Titles

Photo of a smiling Sonia Sotomayor on the cover of her book _My Beloved World_.

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor.

315 pages; 2013. Memoir. Available in Oviatt Library.

Nominated by Sharron Kollmeyer Gerfen: "I usually don't read biographies but this is much different, and actually not even really a memoir--hard to explain exactly what it is except that it is a very good story with lots of connections possible for our students in so many ways. My Beloved World inspired me."

More information: New York Times book review; Washington Post book review; NPR story.


Cover shows a cracked egg held together by a bandaid.

Nurture Shock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.

240 pages; 2009 (pbk. 2010). Nonfiction. Available in Oviatt Library.

Nominated by Virginia Huynh: "a great example of how child development research can be accessible to lay audiences. It’s the one book I recommend to all my friends who are expecting a child because it raises important questions about the role of parents in developing children’s intelligence, sociability, health, and even brain development ."

More information: Wall Street Journal online book review; Wired.combook review.


Pictures of melting polar cap, catastrophic winds, an ominous insect, and an enormous tidal wave illustrate the book cover.

Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert.

218 pages; 2006 (pbk. 2007). Nonfiction. Available in Oviatt Library.

Nominated by Rabia Djellouli: "This is an easy-to-read 200-page paperback which presents real stories of climate change evidence and impacts."

More information: New York Times book review (16 Mar 2006); Scientific American book review (23 Apr 2006).



Shades of blue show smoky scenes of battle from Ancient Greece through Vietnam on the book's cover.

What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes

258 pages; 2011 (pbk.). Nonfiction. Available in Oviatt Library.

Nominated by Cheryl Spector: "A superb blend of personal anecdote and quirky philosophy by a Marine who wrote the book 'primarily to come to terms with [his] own experience of combat' as a soldier in Vietnam. Marlantes is right to say that his book 'ought to be required reading in Congress and among military leaders.'"

More information: this book is the 2014 selection for California Reads. The theme is "War Comes Home."


Got ideas or opinions about a book for CSUN's Freshman Common Reading?

Nominations have closed for 2014-2015. But if you'd like to nominate a title for the 2015-2016 Freshman Common Reading, you can submit your suggestion to Cheryl Spector or to the CSUN Common Reading Blog:

Nominations are welcome from all members of the CSUN community.

How did we select the book for 2014-2015?

The Common Reading Selection Committee met in early November 2013 to choose finalists from the list of nominated titles. The Committee met again during the second week of January 2014 to select the winning title for 2014-2015.

Members of the Selection Committee volunteer their service each year. CSUN students, staff, and faculty are all welcome to join. If you would like to help choose the 2015-2016 book, please contact Cheryl Spector at x3932 or via email at before mid-October 2014. Think you're not ready? You may be right, but consider this: first-semester CSUN freshmen have played a crucial role in our selection process every year since 2008.

CSUN's Common Reading Archives

2013-2014: Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash

2012-2013: One Amazing Thing

2011-2012: The Glass Castle

2010-2011: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

2009-2010: The Soloist

2008-2009: Nickel and Dimed

2007-2008: The Things They Carried

What books are other campuses reading?

Find out by checking the One Book, One College list maintained by librarian Barbara Fister at Gustavus Adolphus College.