Common Book 2014

Each summer, first-year students complete their first college assignment by participating in the Buckeye Book Community. First-year students on the Marion campus will purchase the book prior to or during orientation and are asked to complete the reading before they return to campus in the autumn. Students should be prepared to discuss and analyze what they have read. Students on every Ohio State campus will be reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls this summer.

The Buckeye Book Community connects the first-year class through a shared experience and introduces the expectation that college students cultivate a life of learning both in and outside the classroom.

The Glass Castle

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

The Assignment:

On Monday, August 25, you will attend Freshman Welcome Day on the Ohio State Marion campus. Welcome Day is an opportunity for new students to meet each other and have small group discussions about your common book reading experience with Ohio State University faculty. You will have lunch with the Campus Dean, Dr. Greg Rose, and other staff and faculty. 

Arrive on campus for Welcome Day with a printed 2–3 page response paper focusing on The Glass Castle, answering one of the prompts listed below. The assignment is part of your Exploration 1100.01 course, required for all new OSU students at Marion and Delaware. You may receive a maximum 25 points for the paper and an additional 25 points for attending the Welcome Day for a total of 50 points in your course.

Printing will not available on Freshmen Welcome Day so be sure you have your printed paper with you.

Follow the instructions below and choose a writing prompt from the list provided.  Complete your writing assignment based on the prompt you select. If you quote from the book in your paper, be sure to use correct MLA style citation to document your source.  Be certain that your work is your own.

All papers are to be formatted as follows:

  • Include a cover sheet containing the following information
    • your first and last name and OSU user name (last name.#)
    • planned major of study

    • Exploration class section number (check your class schedule on your Student Center)

    • Exploration instructor’s name (check your class schedule on your Student Center)

    • Writing prompt number/Title

      • The paper must be typed
      • Use 12 pt., Times New Roman, double-spaced, with 1 inch margins
      • Length - two to three double spaced typed full 8.5”x 11” pages minimum
      • Papers should be well thought out, with a clear thesis and argument to support your thesis, using the text for evidence.

Choose one of the following writing prompts as the focus for your paper.

Your paper needs to include specific examples and citations from the book regardless of the prompt you choose.

  1. Pick one of the social issues addressed in the book, (i.e. alcoholism, unemployment, divorce, food insecurity, education, homelessness, racism, religion, sexual abuse, mental illness). Research the chosen issue in the 1960s and 2014. Has the prevalence of that issue changed over time? If so, how? Compare and contrast differences in the social issue and the programs and resources available. Would the Wall’s life have been different if the story took place in 2014? Why or why not? If different, how so? Site examples from the book as well as external sources. 
  2. As you read The Glass Castle, identify one or two emotions that you feel in each of the five sections. Describe in detail why you identified the emotion/s. Compare and contrast the emotions you experience and site specific examples from the book that correspond to the emotions you identified (what specifically lead you to feel a certain emotion?). Summarize your own emotional journey from the beginning to the end of the book. 

Contact your academic advisor if you have questions about the assignment.

Kylie Butte

Wolali Dedo

Penny Eyster

Sharon Gattshall

Louis Hominga

Tom Marshall

Shellie Shirk

Chris Trapp

Past Common Book Information

2011: "Outcasts Unlimited" by Warren St. John

2012: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

2013: The Submission by Amy Waldman