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Common Reading

Station Eleven

Station Eleven

A Novel by Emily St. John Mandel

Station ElevenWelcome to the SMU Common Reading Program!  The Common Reading Program is an established start-of-school tradition at SMU.  As the incoming class you will receive the book during the summer at AARO and should read it before you arrive for the start of the fall semester.

Faculty, staff, and returning SMU students have already begun reading and discussing the book in preparation for small-group conversations you will participate in before Rotunda Passage and Opening Convocation.  Your first-year writing courses will use the book as part of your curriculum for the fall semester.  

The Story

After a virulent flu sweeps the world and civilization collapses, a troupe of musicians and Shakespearean actors moves from camp to village in North America giving performances. The rise of a dangerous prophet, a rare graphic novel, and a carefully curated Museum of Civilization are only a few of the rich elements woven through this deeply inventive and mesmerizing novel that raises questions of what humanity longs for when nearly all seems lost.

One snowy night, a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. 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 cross-hairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

The Author

Emily St. John MandelEmily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York.

She is the author of four novels, most recently Station Eleven, which was a finalist for a National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. A previous novel, The Singer's Gun, was the 2014 winner of the Prix Mystere de la Critique in France. Her short fiction and essays have been anthologized in numerous collections, including Best American Mystery Stories 2013. She is a staff writer for The Millions. She lives in New York City with her husband.



  • National Book Award Finalist
  • PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist
  • Arthur C. Clarke Award Finalist
  • Longlisted for the Bailey's Prize (formerly the Orange Prize) and for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
  • A New York Times bestseller
  • An American Library Association Notable Book
  • Named best book of the year by Entertainment Weekly and BookPage

Chosen as one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post, TIME Magazine, TimeOut New York, and other publications; named one of the best books of the year by Kirkus, The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, O Magazine, The Huffington Post, and several other publications; #2 on the Publisher's Lunch Best of the Best Books of 2014 list; the 2015-2016 Great Michigan Read selection; a Texas Library Association Lariat List book; a Barnes & Noble Discover pick; an Indie Next pick; winner of the 2015 Tournament of Books; by all accounts kind of an unsettling read on an airplane.

Reviews and Articles

The Guardian

New York Times

Entertainment Weekly

An Interview with Emily St. John Mandel by the National Book Foundation


Emily St. John Mandel discusses Station Eleven


Common Reading Discussion

Sunday, August 23 (prior to Convocation)
Location TBD

Common Reading Public Lecture

Wednesday, September 9
6:00 PM | McFarlin Auditorium


Check back soon for information on small group discussions and faculty brown bag sessions!

Selection Process

Each year the Common Reading book is selected by the Common Reading Selection Committee. Chaired by David Doyle, Director of SMU's University Honors Program, the Committee solicits books suggestions from the entire SMU Community. 

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"This is a book not as much about apocalypse as it is about our human society, particularly the objects and technology we live with but take for granted on an every-day basis.  Also, the book enables readers to consider how art can create meaning and value in the most constrained of human circumstances."

-Dr. Harold Stanley, Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost ad interim