Incoming members of the Class of 2016 will open their mailboxes this summer to find Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff: The Impact of Overconsumption on the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health – And How We Can Make It Better.” The Common Reading Book Committee announced earlier this month that it had chosen the 2010 book, an account of global production and consumption patterns and the impact of waste on society, as its recommended summer book for incoming students.
A review from the American Library Association’s Booklist included in the announcement describes how Leonard, a former Greenpeace employee, “takes us through the extraction of natural resources and the production, distribution, consumption and disposal of various products, documenting ecohazards and the exploitation of workers along the way.”
The book will be mailed to all incoming students as part of the efforts of the Tisch College’s Common Reading program to “provide a common academic experience.” Freshmen will be encouraged to reflect on the book’s message through discussions, lectures, seminars and workshops held during orientation and throughout the year.
Last year’s Common Reading Book was Dave Eggers’ “Zeitoun.”
“The Story of Stuff” book, along with a variety of online educational media resources, is part of a non-profit project Leonard and her colleagues founded in 2008 after the success of her initial “Story of Stuff” video. The video, a kid-friendly treatise on the culture of waste in the United States, has been viewed millions of times and embraced by teachers as a way to simplify issues like pollution and global warming for a younger audience.
Widely supported by environmentalist groups, the “Story of Stuff” video received criticism from those who saw Leonard’s message as anticapitalist. The School Board of Missoula County, Montana, most notably, ruled in 2009 that the video was biased and that showing it in class impinged on the academic freedom of its students.