‘Beautiful Boy’ is common-reading selection for incoming students

The 2015 Common Reading selection is "Beautiful Boy" by David Sheff.

About the book

What had happened to my beautiful boy? To our family? What did I do wrong? Those are the wrenching questions that haunted every moment of David Sheff’s journey through his son Nic’s addiction to drugs and tentative steps toward recovery.

Before Nic Sheff became addicted to crystal meth, he was a charming boy, joyous and funny, a varsity athlete and honor student adored by his two younger siblings. After meth, he was a trembling wraith who lied, stole, and lived on the streets.

David Sheff traces the first subtle warning signs: the denial, the 3 A.M. phone calls (is it Nic? the police? the hospital?), the rehabs. His preoccupation with Nic became an addiction in itself, and the obsessive worry and stress took a tremendous toll. But as a journalist, he instinctively researched every avenue of treatment that might save his son and refused to give up on Nic.

Beautiful Boy is a fiercely candid memoir that brings immediacy to the emotional rollercoaster of loving a child who seems beyond help.

About Sheff

David SheffDavid Sheff is the author of Beautiful Boy, published in 2008. The book was based on his article, “My Addicted Son,” which appeared in the New York Times Magazine. The article won a special award from the American Psychological Association for “outstanding contribution to the understanding of addiction.” Beautiful Boy was named the year’s Best Nonfiction Book by Entertainment Weekly, and it won first place in the Barnes and Noble Discover Award in nonfiction.

In 2009, he was named to the Time 100, Time Magazine’s list of the World’s Most Influential People. He won the 2013 College of Problems on Drug Dependence (CPDD) Media Award.

Along with The New York Times Magazine, Sheff has also written for Playboy, New York Times, Wired, Rolling Stone, Outside, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Esquire and Observer Magazine in England, Foreign Literature in Russia, and Playboy (Shueisha) in Japan.

He has conducted seminal interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, artist and dissident Ai Weiwei, nuclear physicist Ted Taylor, Congressman Barney Frank, Steve Jobs, Tom Hanks, Betty Friedan, Keith Haring, Jack Nicholson, Carl Sagan, Salman Rushdie, Fareed Zakaria, and others. He also wrote an award-winning documentary about John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and a radio special about Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, both for National Public Radio.

Sheff is the author of Game Over, called “the bible of the videogame industry” by The Wall Street Journal, and “beguiling” and  “irresistible. . . almost as hypnotic as a successful video game” by The New York Times. Author Gore Vidal said that China Dawn, Sheff’s book about the Internet revolution in China, is a “fascinating…study of go–getting businessmen in a revived China bound to shape our future.” All We Are Saying, based on Sheff’s interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1980, was a Literary Guild Selection book. Charles Champlin, Arts Editor of the Los Angeles Times, wrote: ”David Sheff’s sympathetic questions evoked so much of the Beatle past and of Lennon’s intellectual past and present and future plans that the interview would hardly have been less engrossing and important even it if were not illuminated by tragedy.”

Sheff graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. He lives with his family in Northern California.

About the Common Reading Program

The Common Reading Committee chooses the Common Reading selection each year. The committee is comprised of staff and faculty representing the interests of areas that include First Year Experience, Akron Experience Courses, English, Political Science, Psychology, Service Learning, & Communications. First-year students read the book, and faculty members infuse its themes into general-education course curricula throughout the first year.

The goals of the Common Reading Program include the following. 

  • To select a book that interests a variety of students from different backgrounds, majors, and experiences
  • To select a book that is students find engaging enough to read outside of required coursework
  • To provide an introduction to the expectations of higher education
  • To encourage students to read beyond textbooks
  • To create a foundation for students to explore values and ethics
  • To raise awareness and tolerance of intergenerational and cultural likenesses and differences
  • To promote academic discourse and critical thinking
  • To create a sense of community among incoming students
  • To integrate an academic and social experience into the campus community

Purchase your copy from UA's on-campus Barnes and Noble bookstore online in the Student Union, in the Polsky Building or at Wayne College.