UAA Initiatives

Books of the Year

Who Are We?
The UAA/APU Books of the Year program is a powerful partnership between University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University that brings faculty, staff, and community members together to understand common themes. The books serve as the catalyst for discussions of larger issues of local and international significance.

What Makes Us Unique?
The Books of the Year program started in 2006 as part of a Ford Foundation Difficult Dialogues initiative—one of only 26 in the country—to provide a safe environment on campuses for discussions of challenging topics. UAA and APU are now national leaders in this area.

Because of our Difficult Dialogues beginnings, we’re different than other university common reading programs. Our goal is to select books that provoke serious discussion about serious issues, rather than providing “introduction to college” exercises or a freshman class bonding experience.  Our associated programming encourages readers to explore the theme, not just the books, and provides creative venues and forums for people to express their interpretations in different ways.

UAA/APU Faculty Steering Committee
The UAA/APU Faculty Steering Committee is essential to the program. Members are appointed by the UAA Senior Vice Provost of Academic Affairs and are fully engaged in program development, including:
- Selecting the theme and books
- Creating Reader’s Guides, and identifying/developing interdisciplinary faculty resources and other supplemental materials for our campuses and community
- Recommending and contributing to academic and community programming
- Collaborating with colleagues to broaden the reach of programming and materials to students
- Recommending and helping foster partnerships
- Recommending how the Books of the Year program can continue to support our Difficult Dialogues initiative

How Are the Theme and Books Selected?
The UAA/APU Faculty Steering Committee participates in a year-long process to select a general theme and two books that support that theme.

In response to faculty feedback, in 2011 the program began keeping the same theme and books for two years. This allows more time for thoughtful curriculum development and programming related to the theme and book selections.

Criteria for Theme
- Relevant to our campuses and community
- Encourages in-depth discussion of challenging multi-faceted topics

Criteria for Books
- Both books must have a balanced approach that foster discussion, not a one-sided view or polemic about a topic
- Content and format lends itself to meaningful, innovative teaching in-line with Difficult Dialogues theory and practice
- Topics have inter-disciplinary appeal
- Available in paperback
- Less than 400 pages
- One of the books is written by a living author who may visit to engage with students, faculty, and the community

RESOURCES for Using the Themes and Books
(click on the theme for reader’s guides, faculty resources, and other supplemental materials)

2015-17: Negotiating Identity in America
- The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
- The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

2013-15: Information, Ideas, Ideology
- The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone
- Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden

2011-13: Money & Morality
- The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David Shipler
- The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

2010-11: Service in a Foreign Land
- This is Not Civilization: A Novel by Robert Rosenberg
- Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer , a Man Who Would Change the World by Tracey Kidder

2009-10: Responding to Climate Change in Alaska
- Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Arctic Alaska by Seth Kantner
- The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change by Charles Wolforth

2008-09: Alaska’s Native Peoples:  A Call to Understanding
- Yuuyaraq: The Way of the Human Being by Harold Napolean
- Growing up Native in Alaska by A.J. McLanahan
- Alaska Native Cultures and Issues: Responses to Frequently Asked Questions Roderick, by Libby Roderick (ed.)

2007-08: Religion & Politics
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khudra

2006-07: Immigration & Otherness
- The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
- The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Ann Fadiman