The Common Text

The Common Text Program

Each year the university selects a book on an important topic to launch the academic year for incoming students.   As a student at Seattle University you will read and engage with the ideas of important thinkers, explore weighty issues, and learn to critically and deeply examine the world around you and your place in it. The Common Text program welcomes students to our Ignatian-inspired process of inquiry that emphasizes meaning-making, intellectual risk-taking, and asking deep questions.  

Incoming students receive the year's Common Text over the summer and are asked to read the book thoughtfully.   The issues raised by the book are a central subject of our discussions on Academic Day in September, are incorporated in some classes, and pursued in a yearlong series of programs built around the Common Text themes.  

This website introduces this year's Common Text and provides resources to help you engage with the text as you read it and prepare for Academic Day. We will continue to add materials to this site, so check back regularly and be on the lookout for emails from the Common Text team as September draws closer.  

Welcome to Seattle University, where we wrestle with big ideas!

Common Text 2019

Our 2019-20 Common Text: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

a picture of the book cover for So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Written by a local Seattle journalist, So You Want to Talk About Race offers a combination of personal history and instruction-oriented critical analysis in order to present the reader with a set of insights, stakes, and vocabularies for ongoing engagement with “some of the most complex sets of realities of today's racial landscape—from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement—offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide” (Seal Press).

The book’s best-selling success is no surprise, as “Oluo is an exceptional writer with a rare ability to be straightforward, funny, and effective in her coverage of sensitive, hyper-charged issues in America. Her messages are passionate but finely tuned, and crystalize ideas that would otherwise be vague by empowering them with aha-moment clarity. Her writing brings to mind voices like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay” (Seal Press).

At one student on our committee explained, So You Want to Talk About Race, “Takes things to a higher level than what was available in high school. All of the topics in the book would be treated in Core courses. It calls out white people and pushes back against white supremacy. And validates the experiences of people of color.” A second student similarly felt that this book would take on the kinds of issues that we want to see addressed in our community.

Find out more about this book here: 

Previous Common Texts


Tulalip from My Heart: An Autobiographical Account of a Reservation Community (2013)
Harriette Shelton Dover


Notes from No Man's Land (2009)
Eula Biss


Kindred (1979)
Octavia Butler


The Lathe of Heaven (1971)
Ursula K. Le Guin


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