The UW Common Book introduces and engages freshmen in the University's academic community. Each year, UW freshmen receive the same book at summer orientation and are expected to read it prior to fall quarter. Through this shared intellectual experience, students are challenged to examine important subjects and build community around significant issues. It is one way Undergraduate Academic Affairs welcomes students to their new academic home and cultivates intellectual inquiry.

You Are Never Where You Are

Since 2006, the University of Washington has chosen a Common Book--a text rooted in contemporary societal issues to welcome freshmen into their new academic community. This year's Common Book represents two major firsts: it's the first time the Common Book focuses on the genre of poetry—and it's the first time the selection committee has assembled an original anthology, rather than choosing a single work. These poems do not appear together anywhere else. The selection committee of faculty, students and staff searched for good poems, imagining what new students might like to read.

The result: You Are Never Where You Are, a collection of 15 poems. It's an extra book, a little go-to guide that doesn't give specific instructions but offers an idea of what it means to be human.

Read the welcome letter from Vice Provost and Dean Ed Taylor >

Read the introduction by Frances McCue >

List of poems >

Buy the book from the University Book Store >

UW Common Book

Initiated by Undergraduate Academic Affairs in 2006, the UW Common Book aims to introduce and engage freshmen in the University’s intellectual community. During summer orientation, University of Washington freshmen receive a common text with the expectation that they read it before fall quarter begins.

Centered in Undergraduate Academic Affairs at the UW Seattle campus, UW Bothell and Tacoma may also choose to incorporate the book into their campus curriculum.

The UW Common Book is implemented with the partnership of First Year Programs and the support of the University Libraries, the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity, the University Book Store, and UW Alumni Association.

Disability Resources for Students

The University of Washington is committed to providing equal access and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education, and employment for individuals with disabilities. If you are a student with a documented disability that would impact your ability to read the common book without reasonable accommodation, please contact Disability Resources for Students to request the common book in alternate format e.g. audiotape, large-print, electronic text, Braille.

Disability Resources for Students is located in 448 Schmitz Hall, 206-543-8924 (V/TTY), 206-685-8379 (fax),

UW Common Book Goals

1.To promote a common text to be read by students, faculty, staff, and alumni at the University of Washington to develop a sense of community focused on intellectual inquiry.

2.To offer entering freshmen a focus for conversation and social exchange.

3.To provide students with opportunities to reflect about their roles as learners and leaders.

4.To integrate the text into appropriate classes in a meaningful way, and to extend book-related activities throughout the University.

5.To encourage participation of the wider community at campus events and to develop co-sponsored events with local libraries, businesses and interested organizations.

2010 UW Common Book Selection Committee

Thank you to these individuals who volunteered hours of their time to recommend the UW Common Book:


Gene Edgar

College of Education

Lisa Oberg

University Libraries

Committee Members

Javonna Arriaga

Undergraduate student, Pre-Major, Arts and Sciences

Kirsten Atik

Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Anis Bawarshi

English, College of Arts and Sciences

Christopher Campbell

Urban Design and Planning, College of Built Environments

Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Becky Corriell

Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Shelby Handler

Undergraduate student, Pre-Humanities

Sam Kolodezh

Undergraduate student, Pre-Social Sciences

Kannan Krishnan

Materials Science and Engineering, College of Engineering

Physics, College of Arts and Sciences

Frances McCue

University Honors Program

College of Education

Robert McNamara

English, College of Arts and Sciences

Carol Niccolls

Office of the President

John Sahr

Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering

Undergraduate Academic Affairs

UW Common Book Partners

  1. University of Washington Libraries

  2. First Year Programs

  3. Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

University Bookstore

UW Alumni Association


The 2010 Common Book selection committee gratefully acknowledges the following individuals whose efforts and support made You Are Never Where You Are possible.

Ed Taylor, dean and vice provost of Undergraduate Academic Affairs, supported the Common Book’s focus on poetry and the work of the selection committee.

Otis Smith in the University’s Copyright Permissions Center cheerfully, skillfully and diligently pursued the permissions for these poems and others the committee considered. Patrick McNelly in the Copyright Permissions Center provided early guidance in this process.

Clark Shores, attorney in the Attorney General’s office, helped us negotiate the waters of copyright law and patiently answered countless questions along the way.

Bryan Pearce, CEO, and Mark Mouser, manager, of the University Book Store, both gave key guidance and enthusiasm from the get-go on this project.

Nicole Yeo, UW sophomore who designed the cover of the book, brought a new perspective, freshness, persistence and immense visual creativity to this design challenge.

Rudy Yuly proofread the book and we are grateful for his eagle eye and editorial sensibility.

John Linse and Maggie Keech, both from UW Creative Communications, respectively, designed the interior of the book and shepherded it through the printing process.

Jim Bodeen of Blue Begonia Press, Barry Grimes of Yakima, WA, and John Marshall and Christine Deavel of Open Books: A Poem Emporium suggested poems to committee members.

Alberto Ríos granted speedy permission to use a line from his poem “I Saw You Tomorrow” for the title of this collection.

Selection History

Note: The sites below are no longer maintained and may have broken links.

2009: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama.

The website for the 2009 UW Common Book is archived here.

2008: The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea.

The website for the 2008 UW Common Book is archived here.

2007: Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert.

The website for the 2007 UW Common Book is archived here.

2006: Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder.

The website for the 2006 UW Common Book is archived here.



“People like poetry like people like music: nobody doesn’t. If some think they don’t, they just haven’t listened to the right thing.”

—Richard Kenney,
UW professor and poet