Program History

The KU Common Book program began in the fall of 2012. From 2012 to 2019, the program was focused on first-year student engagement and administered by the Office of First-Year Experience.  The program went on hiatus in 2020 and returned in the fall of 2021 with an expanded purpose to engage all levels of students at KU. This expanded engagement included an expanded program coordination that includes the KU Libraries, the Hall Center for the Humanities, and the Division of Academic Success. The program’s success depends on many collaborative partners across campus.

The KU Common Book steering committee is charged with oversight of the program including the nomination and selection processes, and communicating information about the program to the campus community. The steering committee is responsible for designing and implementing a coherent, integrated program that fosters awareness of and engagement with the book. The steering committee will also oversee the preparation and dissemination of materials for educators to integrate into their courses.

Previous Selections

  • 2012-2013 - Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss
  • 2013-2014 - The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan
  • 2014-2015 - The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty
  • 2015-2016 - A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • 2016-2017 - Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • 2017-2018 - Citizen by Claudia Rankin
  • 2018-2019 - Create Dangerously by Edwidge Danticat
  • 2019-2020 - Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation edited by John Freeman
  • 2021-2022 - Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • 2022-2023 - Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century edited by Alice Wong
  • 2023-2024 - Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Resources for Educators

One way that the KU Common Book program engages students with the book is through coursework. This requires collaboration with faculty and instructors to integrate the book and its themes into assignments and curriculum. The resources on this page can be used by faculty and instructors to teach the book in the classroom.

Our partners across campus have helped compile the resources below. If you have additional resources to highlight, please reach out to

KPR Presents Book Club: Parable of the Sower

Listen to the discussion.

Presentation Recordings

The following presentations were delivered in April 2023 as part of a series of workshops for faculty and instructors to prepare to teach Parable of the Sower in the classroom.

"Facilitating Respectful and Engaging Classroom Conversations bout Substance Use and Addiction" 

Presenter:Dr. Michael Amlung, Associate Professor in Applied Behavioral Science and Associate Director for Training of the Cofrin Logan Center for Addiction Research and Treatment 

Description: Substance use and addiction are prevalent in contemporary society and cut across all segments of the population. Drug use plays a significant role in the 2023-2024 KU Common Book, Parable of the Sower, and the behaviors and associations of those participating in substance use reflect the perspectives of the characters in the novel. In our discussions and interpretations of the text, as students, faculty, and staff at KU, we can draw upon current research and understanding of the complex considerations that surround substance use and addition. Dr. Amlung will share background information on prevalence of addictions and patterns of substance use, provide examples of stigmatizing and non-stigmatizing language referring to people who use substances, and provide concrete strategies for creating an engaging and respectful classroom discussion of these issues. The session will combine didactic information with hands-on exercises and teaching techniques that instructors can adapt for their courses. 


"Black Writing and the Spencer Museum's Common Work of Art" 


Presenter: Joey Orr, Andrew W. Mellon Curator for Research, Spencer Museum of Art 

Description:  The Spencer Museum of Art has commissioned artist Fahamu Pecou to create KU’s 2023-2024 Common Work of Art to be in conversation with the Common Book, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. The Museum’s curator for research, Joey Orr, will give some insight into the work as well as the exhibition context, Black Writing, which will be open to the public during fall 2023 and is a collaboration with KU’s History of Black Writing as they celebrate their 40th anniversary. 

"Teaching Parable of the Sower: A Panel Discussion"


Moderator: Giselle Anatol, Professor, Department of English, Director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction; Interim Director of the Hall Center for the Humanities  

Panelists: Ali Brox, Assistant Teaching Professor, Environmental Studies; Joe Harrington, Professor, English; Paul Outka, Associate Professor, English; Ray Mizumura Pence, Associate Teaching Professor, American Studies; Paul Stock, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies and Sociology 

Description: This panel discussion will feature cross-disciplinary perspectives on themes found within  Parable of the Sower. Panelists will discuss their experiences teaching the book and guiding students in meaningful discussion, as well as expand upon the topics introduced to help us consider some of what Octavia Butler might have been suggesting as she wrote of a future world with familiar elements.  

Assignment Examples & Templates 

coming soon

Accessibility in the Classroom: