On the Same Page

The Jones Library hosts an annual On the Same Page community reading program each spring. The entire Amherst community is invited to read the book and participate in the related programs. A variety of programs are offered to enrich the reading experience and to encourage dialogue about the themes the book presents. 

What is an On the Same Page reading program?

On the Same Page is designed to bring the local community together, reading the same book and encouraging discussion and communication about the book and the themes it contains. Intended to be an annual event, On the Same Page – Amherst will explore a different book each year to include a variety of themes, topics, genres, and writing styles.
On the Same Page Amherst
Olga Dies Dreaming

The 2023 selection featured the novel Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez.  This novel was a Best Book of 2022 by The New York Times, Kirkus, NPR, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, Vogue, Audible, Esquire, the BBC, and more!

It’s 2017, and Olga and her brother are well-known members of the Puerto Rican diaspora in New York City: Olga, a tony wedding planner for Manhattan’s power brokers; Prieto, a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. Years ago, their mother, Blanca, abandoned them to work underground for the island’s independence. Now, in the wake of the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico’s history, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives.

How to Make a Slave

The 2022 selection featured the essay collection How to Make a Slave and Other Essays by Jerald Walker. This title was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award in Nonfiction, and winner of the 2020 Massachusetts Book Award in Nonfiction.

How does a Black professor at a mostly white liberal arts college in Massachusetts experience and confront racism at work and in the community? This book tells us how author Jerald Walker addresses this challenge with strong emotions, humor, and constant reflection as he elegantly blends personal revelation and cultural critique. The result is a bracing and often humorous examination by one of America's most acclaimed essayists of what it is to grow, parent, write, and exist as a black American male. Walker refuses to lull his readers; instead his missives urge them to do better as they consider, through his eyes, how to be a good citizen, how to be a good father, how to live, and how to love.

Station Eleven

The 2021 selection featured the novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel as part of a regional community read called the NEA Big Read: Pocumtuck Valley in partnership with over forty organizations and businesses in Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden counties.

Station Eleven is a sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender look at a group of survivors of a plague that wipes out much of human life on earth. It begins when a famous actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Moving back and forth in time - from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains - this suspenseful, elegiac novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor's first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

Call Me American

The 2020 selection featured the memoir Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin.  This fascinating memoir was named a 2019 Notable Book by the American Library Association and as a Library Journal Best Books: Nonfiction Winner in 2018.

In Call Me American, we find a "riveting" (The New Yorker) and "highly inspiring" (Kirkus Reviews) memoir of a young man, whose parents were nomadic herders, growing up in poverty in war-torn Somalia, with a seemingly impossible dream of becoming an American.  As a child, Abdi supported his family through his wits, and learned English by watching forbidden American action movies.  Sporting American clothes and dance moves, he became known around Mogadishu as Abdi American.  When radical Islamists rose to power, he used his language skills to post secret dispatches to NPR.  Against all odds, he reached America and began his quest for citizenship.

The Locals

The 2019 selection featured the the fiction title The Locals by Jonathan Dee. This timely novel, written prior to the last presidential election, explores the dramas of twenty-first-century America — rising inequality, working-class decline, and a new authoritarianism — as played out in a small town in the Berkshires.

In The Locals, we find a society bitterly divided. People struggling to achieve the American dream. A billionaire at the head of the government. The fictional Berkshire community of Howland sees its world turned upside down when a hedge fund manager and his family relocate there, and he is elected first selectman. He exerts his power, cutting government services and promising to pay himself for anything truly necessary. How the citizens of Howland react makes for fascinating reading as a reckoning day arrives.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman

The 2018 selection featured the nonfiction title The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. The book explores the cultural history of the first female superhero, and the role played by feminism in developing the enduring character known as Wonder Woman. Also explored is the story of William Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, and the intriguing and unusual story of this unconventional family.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman was the winner of the 2015 American History Book Prize and a New York Times bestseller. The Secret History of Wonder Woman was included on several "Best Books" list of 2014 and 2015, including ALA Notable Books of 2015 (Nonfiction) and Booklist Editors' Choice: Best Arts & Literature Books 2015.

The Sixth Extinction

The 2017 selection featured the nonfiction title The Sixth Extinction:  An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert. The book explores five mass extinctions that have occurred over the past half-billion years, when the diversity of life on earth has been severely reduced. Scientists are now tracking the next mass extinction, of which human beings and their actions may be the direct cause. Kolbert explains how humans have altered life on the planet and how these actions may become our legacy.

The Sixth Extinction was the winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, a finalist for the PEN Literary Award and the L.A. Times Book Prize, and a New York Times bestseller. The Sixth Extinction was included on many "Best Books" list of 2014 and 2015, including The Economist Magazine Books of the Year, New York Magazine Best Books of the Year,  Washington Post Best Books of the Year, Time Magazine Top 10 Books of the Year,  Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year, NPR Best Book of the Year, Library Journal Best Books of the Year, New Yorker Best Books of the Year, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year, San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, and New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year,

Being Mortal

The 2016 selection featured the nonfiction title Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. The book examines the hardest challenge of the medical profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending. Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. He offers examples of different models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care, to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.

Being Mortal was a bestselling title that was featured on many lists and nominated for many prizes, including The New York Times Notable Books of the Year, The Economist Magazine Books of the Year, Shelf Awareness Best Books of the Year, Apple iBooks Best of the Year, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Guide to the 100 Best Books of the Year, Oprah.com Best Books of the Year, NPR Best Book of the Year, Buzzfeed Best Books of the Year, Barnes and Noble Best New Books of the Year, Amazon.com Best Books of the Year, Audie Award Finalist, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers, Los Angeles Times Holiday Books Guide, L.A. Times Book Prize - Finalist, National MS Society Books for a Better Life Award Winner, and the Indies Choice Book Awards Winner.

Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The 2015 selection featured the novel The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow. This novel was the winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction in 2008, which is awarded biennially to the author of a previously unpublished novel of high literary caliber that promotes fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky was hailed as one of the Best Novels of 2010 by the Washington Post, a Top 10 Book of 2010 by The Oregonian, and named a Top 10 Debut of 2010 by Booklist.

Set in the 1980s, the novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy, the nature of which gradually unfolds. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty force her to confront her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.

Sandcastle Girls

The 2014 selection featured the novel The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. The author's 15th novel takes the reader to Syria in 1915, a time and place that left a haunting legacy to those of Armenian heritage, with repercussions still felt today. The Sandcastle Girls was a New York Times bestseller, a Publishers' Weekly bestseller, and an Indiebound bestseller, as well as being an Oprah.com "Book of the Week" and named one of the "Best Books of 2012" by the Washington Post, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and BookPage. The Sandcastle Girls was also awarded the ANCA Arts & Letters Award and the Saint Mesrob Mashdots Medal by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia.

The novel tells the story of Elizabeth Endicott, who arrives in Aleppo, Syria in 1915 with a diploma from Mount Holyoke College, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. Elizabeth has volunteered to help the refugees of the Armenian Genocide during the First World War. There she meets a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. Years later, their American granddaughter embarks on a journey back through her family's history, uncovering a story of love, loss, and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.

Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The 2013 selection featured the novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and the John Sargent, Sr. First Novel Prize, as well as the 2008 Massachusetts Book Award for fiction.

The novel tells the story of Oscar, a likeable but overweight New Jersey ghetto nerd, who aspires to be a great fantasy writer and to fall in love. But these dreams may never come true, due to the fukú, the supposed curse that has followed several generations of his family in the Dominican Republic. While exploring mature and controversial themes, the writing style and language of this book bring the reader to the urban streets of this immigrant neighborhood and uses a mixture of English and Spanish to capture the true flavor of the environment.