Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life," the tremendously popular, best-selling narrative that tells the story of how the author's family was changed by one year of deliberately eating food produced in the place where they live, has been selected for Virginia Tech's Common Book Project for the 2010-11 academic year.

Faculty and instructors who wish to utilize the Common Book Project this fall are encouraged to contact Mary Ann Lewis, director of first year experiences in the Division of Undergraduate Education, to receive a copy of the book and to learn more about support service to aid in instruction.

Now in its 11th year, the Common Book Project gives new and transfer undergraduate students a common academic experience during their first year at Virginia Tech. Faculty teaching first-year students are encouraged to integrate the common book into their curriculum to foster broader community discussions on important themes or issues and enhance student learning through engagement in support of the university's Quality Enhancement Plan.

"As in years past, the Common Book Committee made the choice with both faculty and student input, said Lewis. "Last fall, the committee decided to continue with the sustainability theme for the 2010-11 common book choice. Over winter break, committee members, as well as additional faculty and staff and more than 20 undergraduate students read several books and ultimately selected 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.'"

The students who participated in the selection process, said Lewis, continued to meet throughout the spring semester to formulate and share their recommendations to incorporate the book into classes. They also began conversations on the selection of next year's book.

Faculty of first-year students are encouraged to integrate the common book into their curriculum. Those who wish may make a request for a copy of the book at Common Book Project website.

The Office of First Year Experiences, in conjunction with the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research is working this summer to develop workshops for faculty to support those who wish to use the common book in their classes. Information on these workshops is forthcoming and will be posted to each of their websites.

A collaboration between the offices of First Year Experiences and Housing and Residence Life will result in all first-year students living in residence halls to receive a copy of the common book. A joint planning group with representatives from First Year Experiences, Housing and Residence Life, Academic Assessment, the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, Learning Technologies, and students are developing activities and related assessment strategies for resident advisors to use or adapt to meet a particular learning outcome.

In addition, Virginia Tech's Office of Sustainability will hold Sustainability Week 2010 from Sept.18 to 25 and plans are underway to connect some of the activities to the common book. The Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships will dedicate the week of Sept. 25 to Oct. 2 as a week of service for issues related to hunger and some activities scheduled during this period will relate to the common book.

Part memoir, and part journalistic investigation, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" (HarperCollins Publishers, 2007) provides the read with many new ways to more deeply understand an old truth: You are what you eat. Kingsolver wrote the central narrative; her husband, Steven L. Hopp, wrote sidebars that look into various aspects of food-production science and industry; and her daughter, Camille Kingsolver, contributes brief essays offering perspective from a 19-year-old on the local-food project.

Kingsolver's 13 published books include six acclaimed novels as well as short fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. Her first novel, "The Bean Trees," has been adapted into the core English literature curriculum in many high schools. In 1998 "The Poisonwood Bible" received several literary awards. Since then she has written the novels "Prodigal Summer" and "The Lacuna," and three nonfiction volumes. Her books have been translated and published throughout the world in more than 20 languages. In 2000, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal.

Read "Common Book offers a common thread" in the fall 2008 edition of Virginia Tech Magazine.

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