The Common Text

Ursula K. Le Guin Featured Presentation

Wednesday, October 28, 2015 at 5:30 p.m.
Campion Ballroom

This SU-only presentation for students, faculty, staff, and alumni features a reading, interview, and question-and-answer with Ursula K. Le Guin, acclaimed author of this year's Common Text. Limit of three tickets per person; you must register for your free ticket at  

This event is presented by the Office of the Provost, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Science and Engineering, the Learning Communities Program, the University Core, the English Department and its Creative Writing Program, the Pigott-McCone Chair, and the Philosophy Department.

Read more about Ms. Le Guin:

  • New York Times interview: Ursula K. Le Guin: By the Book. The author avoids "fiction about dysfunctional urban middle-class people written in the present tense," would recommend to Barack Obama "something as far as possible from Washington, D.C., and noisy self-righteous jackassery," and rereads Housman, Shelley, Yeats, Hardy, Bronte, and Rilke.
  • Feature in Seattle U's The Commons: Welcoming a Legend. "Le Guin is considered by many to be a visionary author in the field of science fiction. Her novels have tackled subjects ranging from race, gender, and environmentalism to the way we live as a society and navigate the world around us. Remarkably many of these works were written in the 1960s and '70s, decades before these issues would rise to the public consciousness. Her books represent the type of depth and speculation that has become a hallmark of the science fiction genre, which she helped shape through her courageous words."

All new undergraduate students will receive a copy of the Common Text at orientation. You are invited to participate in this shared reading experience through New Student Convocation, in-class discussions of the book, and beyond-the-classroom programs that will challenge and engage you.

Why do we read a Common Text?

  • Introduce students to an Ignatian-inspired process of inquiry that emphasizes meaning-making, risk-taking, and asking deep questions
  • Provide an opportunity to practice active reading, share informed opinions, and discuss challenging or conflicting ideas
  • Connect new students with Learning Communities, faculty, staff, and one another
  • Kick off a yearlong series of programs that integrate Common Text themes

Common Text 2015

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

The themes of this 1971 novel, which was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, are as relevant today as they were when Le Guin wrote this short tale of dreams and nightmares, imagination and reality, intentions and consequences, old and new worlds.

The novel narrates the journey of one man, George Orr, through various realities, all of them seemingly produced by his dreams. Each reality finds George in Portland, Oregon, but the geography changes, along with the political and cultural situation, often dramatically, each time George has what Le Guin calls an “effective dream.” George is presented to us as an entirely ordinary man—he ranks smack-dab in the middle of all intelligence and personality tests—but, of course, his appears to be an extraordinary ability: to change the shape of reality through his dreaming. George’s dreams alter reality so completely that they create a different continuum of history and erase the present reality for everyone except him.

Previous Common Texts


Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty (2011)
Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo


The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (2010)
Nicholas Carr


World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse (2011)
Lester Russell Brown


Country Driving (2010)
Peter Hessler


Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America (2008)
Paul Tough


The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (2008)
Pico Iyer


Crossing Into America
Louis Mendoza and S. Shankar