University's 2024 Common Read Book Teaches Happiness

'Build the Life You Want' co-author Arthur C. Brooks to speak at freshman convocation

A smiling man sits at a desk in an ornate office.

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi campus leaders hope incoming students discover their passion, fuel their curiosity and, most of all, find happiness.

Happiness is the focus of the 2024 Common Reading Experience selection, "Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier" (Penguin, 2023) by Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey.

"For more than a decade, our Common Reading Experience has enriched our classrooms, sparked lively conversations, and strengthened our connections," Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. "I'm excited to see how this year's selection by Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey will inspire our campus community to reflect on their aspirations and goals for pursuing a life filled with meaning, joy and success."

Each year, the Common Reading Experience committee reviews book suggestions from around campus to select the work that each incoming student receives before they arrive in the fall. The author also gives the keynote address at freshmen convocation.

"Again, this year, the chancellor and provost have selected a wonderful book for UM's Common Reading Experience," said Stephen Monroe, co-chair of the Common Reading steering committee and chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric. "Their choice follows recommendations from our dedicated committee of faculty, staff, students and alumni.

"We are a community of readers, and next fall we will gather together around another great book."

Brooks, a Harvard leadership professor, partnered with Winfrey, the lauded talk show host, philanthropist and producer from Kosciusko, to write this year's selection, which explains the science behind happiness and how to cultivate it.

"'Build the Life You Want' is an ideal book for our freshmen and incoming students and will provide foundational tools for them to build the life they want to have and to become the people they want to be," said Natasha Jeter, assistant vice chancellor for wellness and student success. "It's a very unique approach because it uses a scientific slant to learning how to construct a life of happiness and fulfillment."

Arthur Brooks

The book tells readers to ask themselves, "What is standing between me and happiness?" and, after identifying the problem, teaches methods to pursue purpose and cultivate joy, Jeter said.

"This little book focuses on the art of being happy and, from that happiness, building a better life for oneself and others," she said.

Brooks is the author of 13 books, including four national bestsellers, and is a regular columnist for The Atlantic. He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed research papers and is a former president of the American Enterprise Institute think tank.

Every freshman and transfer student gets a copy of the book over the summer, and many first-year experience and writing courses will use it in class. Jeter said she hopes the selection will introduce first-year students to a college experience predicated on literature that fosters a love of reading.

"Every year, we are challenged with how to participate in a process that accurately reflects our campus' devotion to literature and to our students," she said. "We want to make a selection that is relevant and provocative and that will help our students as they join the campus.

"The foundation we're establishing here with our students will help them prepare for the rest of their lives."


Clara Turnage


Office, Department or Center


April 14, 2024