UW Common Book

What if everyone in the UW community read the same book?

The Devil's Highway

The UW Common Book project aims at just that outcome. Last fall, freshmen and other members of the UW community read Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert. The program began in 2006 and has been a tremendous success, returning for the 2008-09 school year with a new book-The Devil's Highway by Pulitzer Prize finalist Luis Alberto Urrea.

The UW Alumni Association invites all alumni and friends to participate in the Common Book project. Pick up a copy at the University Book Store (members save 10% on all Book Store purchases), read it and engage in conversations around the book's timely subject-immigration in the United States. Details about events related to the Common Book, including book clubs, will be available soon.

About The Devil's Highway

The Devil's Highway follows 26 men who in May 2001 tried to cross the Mexican border into the scorching deserts of southern Arizona, a landscape dubbed the Devil's Highway. Of the 26 men who attempted the flight, only 12 survived. Urrea, a native of Tijuana, Mexico, who now lives outside Chicago, tells the complex story of life on the U.S. border, and Marc Ramirez of The Seattle Times calls the tale a "stunning work of narrative journalism that puts a much-needed face on a notoriously divisive issue."

About Luis Alberto Urrea

Luis Alberto Urrea (pronounced oo-RAY-uh) is a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and a member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and an American mother, he has published extensively in all the major genres. Urrea's first book, Across the Wire, was named a New York Times Notable Book and won the Christopher Award. He also won a 1999 American Book Award for his memoir, Nobody's Son: Notes from an American Life, and his book of short stories, Six Kinds of Sky, was named the 2002 small-press Book of the Year in fiction by the editors of ForeWord magazine. Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, Ill., where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

University Book Store

The University Book Store is selling The Devil's Highway at a 30% discount. You can buy the discounted book online or at any of University Book Store locations. UWAA members receive an additional 10% off. See our membership benefits section for more details and to join the UW Alumni Association.


View UW Undergraduate Academic Affairs' Common Book site.

Past Common Books

2007-Field Notes From a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert
Known for her insightful and thought-provoking journalism, New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert tackles the controversial subject of global warming. In writing that is both clear and unbiased, Kolbert approaches this monumental problem from every angle. She travels to the Arctic, interviews researchers and environmentalists, explains the science and the studies, draws frightening parallels to lost ancient civilizations, unpacks the politics and presents the personal tales of those who are being affected most. Kolbert visited the UW campus in October 2007.

2006-Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
Kidder tells the true story of Dr. Paul Farmer-a world-class "Robin Hood" who was brought up in a bus and on a boat and who in medical school found his life's calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Both Farmer and Kidder visited the UW campus during the year.

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