UM Announces 2014 First-Year Reading Experience Book

May 16, 2014

MISSOULA – The University of Montana, in partnership with the Missoula Public Library’s The Big Read program, has selected “The Things They Carried” by National Book Award-winner Tim O’Brien as the 2014 First-Year Reading Experience book.

All first-year students at UM are invited to participate in the First-Year Reading Experience. The program provides incoming freshmen with a shared intellectual experience to encourage discussion, advance critical thinking and develop a sense of community.

This is the first time the University has partnered with the Missoula community to share a common read. The collaboration, which is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, offers students and community members common ground for meaningful discussion. Many community partners and sponsors will offer programming, exhibits and other involvement opportunities to discuss the themes of the book.

“The Things They Carried” is a collection of short stories about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War. It first was published in 1990. In 2005 it was named by The New York Times as one of the 22 best books of the last quarter century.  It earned the Chicago Tribune Heartland Award in fiction and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

The book will be used and referenced in classes across campus, including the Global Leadership Initiative and Writing 101. The book will be available for purchase at The Bookstore at UM, located in the University Center.

O’Brien will be on campus Tuesday, Oct. 28, to speak to the freshman class as well as to the campus and Missoula communities.

O’Brien’s short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Esquire, Playboy, Harper’s Magazine and numerous editions of The O. Henry Prize Stories and The Best American Short Stories.  His novels have sold more than 3.5 million copies and have been translated into more than 20 languages. 

UM freshmen are invited to participate in a writing contest based on the book and interactions with the author during the campus visit.

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Contact: Megan Stark, assistant professor, UM Mansfield Library, 406-243-2864,