2019 - 2020 Common Read

Cover Image of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The AY 2019-20 Official Common Read Book Selection is 
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  

Per publisher Harper One, "Paulo Coelho's masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure.  His quest will lead him to riches far different--and far more satisfying--than he ever imagined.  Santiago's journal teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams".
Queensborough faculty members and their students will read The Alchemist in classes in the Spring 2020 semester, and students will have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of co-curricular activities. This year’s Common Read theme is self-realization, and faculty will have the opportunity to incorporate the text in their own classes as they see fit.  Every Spring, CETL sponsors a full week of Common Read events that allow faculty and students to engage in thematically linked co-curricular activities.

Faculty may click here to request a preview copy before 8/15/19.
For additional information regarding this initiative please contact Dr. Cara Murray (Associate Professor, English), Coordinator of the Common Read, at cmurray@qcc.cuny.edu

2020 Common Read Events Calendar

Due to COVID-19, all Common Read events and activities have been canceled or postponed. Opportunities for virtual events will be listed soon.





Secrets of Vitality and Health
11:10 - 12:10pm, RFK 201, (Limited Seating)
Paulo Coelho aptly writes, “When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” This event entails the discussion of the five health life lessons raised within the pages of The Alchemist that can be applied to your own life. Professor Lana Zinger.

The Jewish Alchemy: History of a Missing People
12:10 - 1:10pm, S-112
Paulo Coelho’s novel unfolds in Andalusia, the Maghreb, Egypt during an unspecified historical time period. Although we meet Spanish, Arab, and Berber people, we don’t see any Jewish people. This is strange, because Jewish people were also a significant part of these populations for thousands of years. In this event, we will learn about the history and sociology of the population missing from this story. Professor Daniel Mann.  

Tao: the Way
12:00 - 1:00pm, MC 24, (Limited Seating)
Come learn from fellow students about Taoism, its centrality within Eastern medicine, and how it resonates with philosophical ideas found in The Alchemist. Professor Rezan Akipinar.

Being Bilingual
2:00 - 3:00pm, S-112
Join us for a roundtable discussion on being bilingual. Student and faculty speakers will share their experiences speaking multiple languages. Audience members will participate in the event through writing exercises as well as contributing to the discussion. Professors Jennifer Maloy and Charissa Che.

The Global Appeal of the Alchemist
3:00 - 4:00pm, S-112
First published in 1988, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist has been a worldwide sensation that has sold over 150 million copies and has been translated into 80 languages. It is the favorite book of celebrities, intellectuals, and activists from Malala Yousafzai to Will Smith. In this presentation, students will explore the global appeal of The Alchemist. Professor Beth Counihan, 3:00-4:00, S-112.



Lost in Translation
1:10 - 2:30pm, LB-29
Written in Portuguese in 1988, and since translated into as many as 80 languages, The Alchemist is one of the most translated novels in the world by a living author. Participants will consider some of these many translations. Students will read parts of the text in Spanish and Portuguese, compare sentences from the original Portuguese text to their Spanish or English translations, and consider whether everything can be translated, or whether there will always be something lost in translation. Professor Lorena Ellis and Professor Melida Sanchez.

The Proverbs Project
2:30 - 4:00pm, M-136
We all know what a proverb means when it comes from our own culture. But when we hear a proverb from a place we’ve never been, it may be hard to make sense of it. At this event, students will translate and try to explain proverbs from their own languages and cultures. Audience members will be asked to share a proverb or two of their own. Professor Cara Murray.

Film Viewing: Good Will Hunting
6:00 - 8:00pm, M-136
Come see this movie about a gifted young man named Will Hunting who is faced with making life decisions in pursuit of his personal legend. Consider how his story parallels Santiago’s journey. 



Documentary Film Viewing: From Crime to Hollywood Star
9:10 - 10:30am, S-111
The Alchemist is a book about transformation, a young man who sheds his life as a shepherd to become what he’s always wanted to be. Come see a documentary film about Danny Trejo, who similarly transformed himself. Trejo spent much of his early life involved in drugs, crime, and prison life, but was able to turn his life around and become a well-known actor. Professor Celia Sporer.

Poetry and Divination
12:10 - 2:00pm, LB-29
Students will read and write poetry connected to The Alchemist. Professor Alison Cimino and the Creative Writing Club.

Finding Your Passion Abroad
1:00 - 2:00pm, M-136 
Travelling abroad can change your life, as Santiago found out when he left Spain and traversed the North of Africa. Come hear from two professors whose study abroad experiences changed their lives, and learn about the opportunities to study abroad here at Queensborough Community College. Professor Irvin Weathersby and Professor David Rothman in conjunction with the Study Abroad Office.

Nursing Stories: What made you want to be a nurse?
2:00 - 3:00pm, S-112  (open to Nursing students)
In The Alchemist Santiago leaves his family, his loved ones, and his country to follow his dream. In this event, nursing students are invited to participate in a skit regarding their own dreams and how they plan to pursue what they want. Professor Jessica Prepetit and Professor Janice Malloy.

Envisioning Women in The Alchemist
3:00 - 4:00pm, M-136
Women play a minor role in The Alchemist. At this event, students will write women into the text by revising existing female character’s roles, describing imagined encounters with women met on the journey, or detailing women’s likely roles in The Alchemist’s plot. Professor Nirvani Persaud.

Recreate Existing Technology
3:30 - 5:30pm, T-21 (Limited Seating)
The Alchemist, a book about improving upon one’s self, prompts us to think about the way that we might improve the world around us. In this event, catering to those studying Electronics I, students will take an existing technology and make changes to its circuitry in such a way as to improve upon its performance. Professor Huixin Wu.



Achieving a Personal Quest to Parallel The Alchemist
10:30 - 12:00pm, M-344B (Limited Seating)
Student presenters will give a PowerPoint presentation about themselves and their future goals in relation to the main character and events of The Alchemist. Professor Illene Goldsman.

Art from the Lands of The Alchemist
11:00 - 12:00pm, LB-29
In his journey through Southern Spain and Northern Africa, Santiago passes through many diverse regions. Come learn about the art from some of these regions from fellow students who have researched this art in their Survey of Art course. Professor Kathy Wentrack.

Walking Meditation
12:10 - 1:00pm.  Meet in front of KHC.  Events capacity of 60 has been met.
Being at one with the natural world and one’s thoughts is at the heart of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Our classes will unite for a one-hour long walking meditation through the Queensborough campus. We will follow up the walking meditation with a writing assignment in which we reflect upon our meditative walk. Professor Adrian Bordoni and Professor Jody Resko.

Everything Happens Twice: Rereading The Alchemist
2:00 - 4:00pm, M-136
Near the end of The Alchemist, the alchemist tells Santiago of a proverb that says, “everything that happens once can never happen again, but everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.” This event explores the act of rereading, focusing on what motivates us to reread or what we gain or experience when we reread a book. Professor Danny Sexton.

Climate Change and the Sahara Desert
4:00 - 5:30pm, LB-29
When Satiago sets out to find his treasure at the pyramids of Eqypt, he must first cross the formidable Sahara, a desert that spans the North of Africa and is larger than the United States.  In fact, the Sahara is the biggest tropical desert in the world and is growing daily.  In this interactive lecture, we will learn about strange and wonderous geographical features of the Sahara, as well as consider why this desert is expanding at unprecendented rates and what can be done to stop desertification, one of the biggest threats to mankind.  Professor Enrique Lanz Oca.  


Walk Around Oakland Lake: Connect to Nature
10:00 - 11:00am, Meet in front of Humanities Building
Speaking to the wind and listening to the rocks is a large part of what makes Santiago succeed in his quest. Join us for a walk around Oakland Lake, a 15,000-year old glacial-fed lake, just a stone's throw away from campus. We will learn about the plant, bird, and other surprising wildlife of this wonderful oasis. And we will practice listening to nature and our own wild sides. Professor Beth Counihan and Professor Cara Murray. Meet in front of the Humanities Building. Walk will be followed by refreshments at the CETL. 

Closing Celebration
11:00 - 12:00pm, CETL (L-313)
Please stop by CETL (L-313) at 11:00am for refreshments and reflections on this year’s Common Read.

Following Santiago's Journey at the MET
Meet at 12:00pm in front of the Library on QCC Campus or 1:45pm in the Lobby of the MET. 
Tour begins promptly at 2:00pm and lasts until 3:30pm.
We celebrate the conclusion of the 2019-2020 Common Read with a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we will follow Santiago's journey from Spain, to Tangiers, across the Sahara, and to the Egyptian pyramids.  The regions through which Santiago travels has been the home of many peoples, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, Roma, Berbers and Tuaregs, whose cultures intermingled and flourished alongside of each  other during many centuries.  We will follow Santiago's journey through these regions and look at art and artifacts that Santiago would have seen.  Professors Irvin Weathersby, Danny Sexton and Cara Murray.
Please contact Cara Murray if you plan to participate with your class or send a student.







Campus Cultural Centers

Kupferberg Holocaust Center exterior lit up at nightOpens in a new window
Kupferberg Holocaust Center Opens in a new window

The KHC uses the lessons of the Holocaust to educate current and future generations about the ramifications of unbridled prejudice, racism and stereotyping.

Russian Ballet performing at the Queensborough Performing Arts CenterOpens in a new window
QPAC: Performing Arts CenterOpens in a new window

QPAC is an invaluable entertainment company in this region with a growing national reputation. The arts at QPAC continues to play a vital role in transforming lives and building stronger communities.

Queensborough Art Gallery exterior in the afternoonOpens in a new window
QCC Art Gallery

The QCC Art Gallery of the City University of New York is a vital educational and cultural resource for Queensborough Community College, the Borough of Queens and the surrounding communities.