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Davis, California

Monday, September 20, 2021

UCD Book Project searches for happiness

Finding bliss may just be a page-turner away.

This year’s Campus Community Book Project’s must-read is Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World – aimed at uniting the university and city communities.

The Campus Community Book Project is a yearly project sponsored across the campus among various disciplines to promote cross-cultural dialogue through the common experience of reading.

The Geography of Bliss provides some levity of last year’s theme, emotional and psychological health and well-being, said Mikael Villalobos, administrator of Diversity Education Programs and coordinator of the Campus Community Book Project.

“[Weiner’s book] is lighter and different from books from previous years,Villalobos said.It’s humorous, and at the same time, thought-provoking,

The Geography of Bliss takes the reader through a journey around the world in search of happiness. With a mixture of psychology, humor and science, the author approaches the subject of happiness with the idea that some places are happier than others, and aims to figure out why.

The Campus Community Book Project began in 2001 as a response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Office of Campus Community Relations believed it was an opportunity to bring the campus together.

The book selection for each year begins with the Campus Council of Community and Diversity. The council selects a topic for the year and announces their decision in the spring. At that time, there is a call for nominations from the campus and the community. Those nominations are read by a selection team throughout the summer and the chosen book is announced at the end of summer. While the book project just began with Weiner’s book, the selection team is already in its final stages of choosing a book for next year.

In order to make the project campus-wide, faculty members choose to include the book in their classes. Many courses, including the University Writing Program and freshman seminars, regularly incorporate each year’s book selection.

It is the key to the project’s success, said Gary Sue Goodman, Writing Minor and Internship faculty advisor and former coordinator of the Campus Community Book Project.

When the book project is integrated into classes, the purpose of the project is better met,Goodman said.

Goodman said the reason they chose this book was because of its ability to integrate different cultures.

“This book is really interesting,Goodman said. “It raises questions about how we talk about different cultures and something so elusive as happiness.

In addition to classes, faculty members lecture about the themes of the books in events that are held throughout the next few months, ending with a book signing by the author on Dec. 1.

Chris Dyer, a junior mechanical and aeronautical engineering double major, read The Devil’s Highway when it was the book selection two years ago. He said it brought to light many issues he has never thought of.

I read the book because it was assigned in one of my classes but also because it sounded interesting from all the publicity it was given by the school,Dyer said.I never knew what goes on at the U.S. and Mexico border and how many men, women and children die every year and this book project opened my eyes.

 

NICK MARKWITH can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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