ASU Common Reading Experience

The ASU Common Reading Experience Committee is pleased to announce the 2015-2016 Common Reading book selection:

Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future (2011) by Robert B. Reich.
Vintage Books: ISBN-13: 978-0307476333

About the Book (Publisher’s Summary):

When the nation’s economy foundered in 2008, blame was directed almost universally at Wall Street. But Robert B. Reich, one of America’s most experienced and trusted voices on public policy, suggests a different reason for the meltdown, and for a perilous road ahead. He argues that the real problem is structural: it lies in the increasing concentration of income and wealth at the top, and in a middle class that has had to go deeply into debt to maintain a decent standard of living.

Persuasively and straightforwardly, Reich reveals how precarious our situation still is. The last time in American history when wealth was so highly concentrated at the top—indeed, when the top 1 percent of the population was paid 23 percent of the nation’s income—was in 1928, just before the Great Depression. Such a disparity leads to ever greater booms followed by ever deeper busts.

Reich’s thoughtful and detailed account of where we are headed over the next decades reveals the essential truth about our economy that is driving our politics and shaping our future. With keen insight, he shows us how the middle class lacks enough purchasing power to buy what the economy can produce and has adopted coping mechanisms that have a negative impact on their quality of life; how the rich use their increasing wealth to speculate; and how an angrier politics emerges as more Americans conclude that the game is rigged for the benefit of a few. Unless this trend is reversed, the Great Recession will only be repeated.

Selection Criteria

The Committee selected Aftershock for many reasons beyond its readability and widely garnered praise. Our incoming first year students face numerous significant challenges, not the least of which are increasingly entrenched barriers to achieving success in today’s economy. Reich’s assessment of how we got to this point and what should be done to restore America’s economy and faith in the American dream serves as a timely vehicle for fostering campus discussion just as the 2016 presidential election season gets underway.

The issue of rising inequality cuts across multiple disciplines, including but not limited to economics, political science, history, sociology, psychology, and philosophy, and interweaves subject matter as diverse as globalization, the impact of science and technology on society, and how we should define and cultivate a fair and just society.

A campus showing of the accompanying award-winning documentary, Inequality for All, will provide an additional opportunity for the campus and community to consider the state of American democracy.

About the Author

Robert B. Reich is an American politician, academic, and political commentator who has served in three national administrations, including 1993-1997 as Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton. Reich is a former Harvard University professor and the former Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. He is currently a professor at the University of California, Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. He is also a trustee of the Economists for Peace and Security.

Robert Reich has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations (which has been translated into twenty-two languages), Supercapitalism, and the best sellers The Next American Frontier, The Future of Success, Locked in the Cabinet, and Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future. His articles have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, the Financial Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His bi-weekly commentaries on public radio’s Marketplace are heard by nearly five million people, and he is an occasional political commentator, notably on Hardball with Chris Matthews, This Week with George Stephanopoulos and CNBC's Kudlow & Company.

In 2003, Reich was awarded the prestigious Václav Havel Foundation Prize for pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2008, Time magazine named him one of the ten most successful cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century, and The Wall Street Journal named him one of the nation’s ten most influential business thought-leaders.

Help us build a great Common Reading Program!

A successful Common Reading program requires broad participation across campus. Here’s how you can contribute:

Help Us Build an Aftershock Common Reader

The CRE Committee would like to create a Common Reader to accompany the book, and requests your suggestions for related reading selections that will enhance student consideration of the subject matter from a broad variety of positions, perspectives, and disciplines. Selections can include poetry, book chapters, articles, and short stories across multiple disciplines. These reading selections can be used inside and outside the classroom to enhance discussion of the book.

Event Proposals

In the past, faculty and staff at Adams State have successfully hosted many Common Reading Experience events, including book discussions, lectures, field trips, special topics courses, art projects, and service learning initiatives. The committee welcomes all proposals for events and activities related to the selected common reading experience book. Proposals should include elements that reflect the themes and issues of the book. Events can be scheduled for either Fall 2015 or Spring 2016. Proposals should ideally be received by May 1, 2015 to be considered for the Fall semester, and by October 31, 2016 for the Spring semester. Please send them to Committee Chair Carol Smith at

Past ASU Common Reading Selections

2014: The Other Wes Moore (2010) by Wes Moore

2013: Leaving Mother Lake (2004) by Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu

2012: Enrique's Journey (2005) by Sonia Nazario

2011: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007) by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney

2010: Sky Bridge (2007) by Laura Pritchett

2009: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (2007) by Ishmael Beah

2008: Three Cups of Tea (2006) by Greg Mortenson