Tag Archives: fiction to talk about

Murray State talks Thomas Mullen’s The Last Town on Earth

CommonReads previously brought you the news Murray State University selected Thomas Mullen’s The Last Town on Earth for it’s Freshman Reading Experience program. Mr. Mullen recently spoke to students at the university and has received wonderful accolades from Ted Brown, Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts:

We could not have asked for a better presenter than Mr. Mullen.  He gave of himself, his knowledge, and his time freely to both our students and our faculty, charming and enlightening each one of the many groups with which he came in contact during his two days with us.  He was both eloquent and personable in talking with our students, showing genuine interest in them and in their ideas.  Students and faculty alike loved his book from the outset, but they appreciated it even more after being able to frame it in the context of his impressive personal presence.  There are great authors and there are great presenters, but they are all too rarely found in the same person:  Thomas Mullen is one of those precious few, and I recommend him most highly.

For more information on bringing Thomas Mullen or other Random House, Inc. authors to your campus contact rhacademic@randomhouse.com.

View video of Thomas Mullen speaking at the Random House, Inc. Author Luncheon during the 2010 First-Year Experience conference here.

Visit Murray State University’s Freshman Reading Experience webpage here.


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Queens University of Charlotte has “great expectations” for Mister Pip

Are your students or patrons reading Great Expectations? Consider adding Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones to your program. The book has been recently selected by Queens University of Charlotte for common reading. It is also the 2008 winner of the ALEX and Best Book for Young Adults awards given by Young Adult Library Services Association and was a Booker Prize finalist and a Commonwealth Writer’s Award winner. 

The novel is set on a copper-rich tropical island shattered by war, where the teachers have fled with most everyone else, only one white man chooses to stay behind: the eccentric Mr. Watts, object of much curiosity and scorn, who sweeps out the ruined schoolhouse and begins to read to the children each day from Charles Dickens’s classic Great Expectations.

Dorothy McGavran, professor of English and director of the Core Program in Liberal Arts at Queens University of Charlotte ,recently shared some of her thoughts on Mister Pip and why it has been selected the university’s summer read:

[Mister Pip] is a book about the value of education. Referred to in reviews as a fable, it [also] affords opportunity for discussion of moral choices with implications for individuals, family, and community.


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Spotlight on Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

If your common reading committee is looking for a work of fiction that combines history with narrative and highlights issues still relevant today such as racism and injustice, consider Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.

The novel has been adopted as common reading at Gustavus Adlophis University (St. Peter, MN) as well as Schenectady One County, One Book (Schenectady, NY) and Coeur d’Alene Library “Our Region Reads” (Coeur d’Alene, ID). Winner of the Literature Award – Fiction for the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), it tells the story of a young Chinese boy and Japanese girl growing up in Seattle’s Japantown during World War II.

…A timely debut that not only reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, but cautions us to examine the present and take heed we don’t repeat those injustices. Kirkus Reviews

Ford expertly nails the sweet innocence of first love, the cruelty of racism, the blindness of patriotism, the astonishing unknowns between parents and their children, and the sadness and satisfaction at the end of a life well lived. The result is a vivid picture of a confusing and critical time in American history. Recommended for all fiction collections.” – Library Journal

To learn more about author Jamie Ford and his debut novel visit his website.


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Northern Michigan University & Marquette County to flock to The Sparrow

Northern Michigan University along with the county of Marquette have announced Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow as their One Book, One Community selection for 2010!

The book, which has been previously selected for common reading programs at Knox College and the University of Washington, tackles the question: “If you have to send a group of people to a newly discovered planet to contact a totally unknown species, whom would you choose?” (Milwaukee Journal-Sentenial) According to the One Book Marquette website: 

The plot centers on a Jesuit mission to another planet, but it is neither science fiction nor overly religious.  Rather, it is a beautifully written novel that forces us to take a hard look at our society, its history and its values, and what it means to have faith in something.

Russell’s PhD in anthropology helps her create worlds, species and societies that are believable and shocking; her talent as a writer helps her people the book with funny and intelligent characters. Much more than a fascinating tale of first contact, The Sparrow reaches beyond genre fiction into an examination of morality, belief and what it means to gain, question, or even to lose, one’s faith.

Read more about the One Book Marquette program here.

Read about last year’s One Book Marquette selection here.


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The Last Town on Earth goes to high school

Common reads aren’t just for college freshmen!

Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio has chosen The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen as a campus-wide read. The book, however, is not new to the campus. After hearing about it at nearby Bowling Green State University (where it also has been used as common reading) two years ago, a teacher elected to use the historical novel, which poses ethical questions following the quarantine of a small town during the 1918 flu pandemic, in his classroom each semester. Students even engaged in “Q&A” discussions with the author via e-mail.

Watch the video of Thomas Mullen speaking at the Sixth Annual First-Year Experience Conference in Denver, Colorado here!

The Last Town on Earth is not the only Random House book to make it into high school classrooms. First-Year Experience favorites Mountains Beyond Mountains, Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands, and Funny in Farsi are just a few others with roots in secondary education.

Has common reading made it to your area high schools? What are the high schoolers in your life reading?


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Last Town at Murray State University

Murray State University has chosen The Last Town on Earth for its Freshman Experience Book. The book will be used with incoming first year students in English and Philosophy courses.

The novel, by Thomas Mullen, tells the story of a Northwestern town quarantined during the 1918 flu pandemic and addresses issues of morality that still resonate today. It has also been adopted for common reading at Bowling Green State University, the Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, the Western Michigan University Honors program, and Whitman College. One City, One Book adoptions include A Tale for Three Counties in Batavia, New York and Together We Read in Stanwood and Camano Island, Washington.

Thomas Mullen spoke about his novel at the First-Year Experience conference during the Sixth Annual Random House Author Luncheon. View the video here! He has also written an original piece for our sister blog, Debate This Book. Read it and comment to let us know what you think.


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Thomas Mullen speaks at First-Year Experience Author Luncheon

We’re back with more video from the First-Year Experience Author Luncheon, which took place at this year’s FYE Conference on February 15th in Denver, Colorado.

Second to speak was Thomas Mullen whose novel, Last Town on Earth , addresses issues of morality and ethical struggle as readers enter a Pacific Northwest town that has quarantined itself during the 1908 flu epidemic. With recent health scares still in the general forefront of most minds, the novel provides a timely yet historically rich story that will get your students talking.

See which programs have adopted Last Town on Earth.

View other videos from the 2010 First-Year Experience Author Luncheon.

For more information on bringing these speakers to your school or community e-mail rhacademic@randomhouse.com.


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Schenectady’s sweet on Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Do you have a copy of our One Book, One Community catalog? If not, email library@randomhouse.com to request one!

The results are in for another One Book vote! This time Schenectady, New York and the Schenectady Public Library has selected Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by first-time novelist Jamie Ford for the 2010 “One County, One Book” read.

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Last Town at Whitman College

Whitman College has selected Last Town on Earth. Thomas Mullen’s powerful novel, while set at the turn of the 20th century, is definitely in keeping with the times.

last town on earth

Set against the backdrop of one of the most virulent epidemics that America ever experienced–the 1918 flu epidemic–this sweeping first novel is a tale of morality in a time of upheaval.

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Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands a nationwide common read!


2003 Chautauqua South Fiction Award winner

2003 San Diego Magazine’s Book Award for Fiction

2002 Deadly Pleasures’ Best U.S. First Novel

Inspired by real events, Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands is a novel that tackles race politics in the pre-Civil Rights South unlike any other book in recent memory.

A wise and luminous story about a northern family, a souther town, and the senseless murder that sparks an extraordinary act of courage, the book is told from the point of view of a little girl who is witness to the lynching of a black man. From the arrival of noteworthy figures such as Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP, and Mr. Hoover’s FBI, to the expressed opinions and actions of the everyday town citizen, Lay That Trumpet In Our Hands will give students a solid sense of the events, people and national mood of this volatile and chaotic period in American history.

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