1. Kansas State University
  2. »Division of Communications and Marketing
  3. »K-State Today
  4. »'The Unthinkable' selected as 2022 Kansas State University common book

K-State Today

April 29, 2022

'The Unthinkable' selected as 2022 Kansas State University common book

Submitted by Jennifer Tidball

"The Unthinkable" cover

Kansas State University has selected the 2022 K-State First Book: "The Unthinkable" by award-winning journalist Amanda Ripley. 

In "The Unthinkable," Ripley explores who survives when disasters strikes and why. Half of Americans have been affected by a disaster of some kind. In big disasters, regular people are the first and most important rescuers on the scene. But very few of us know what to expect until it is too late. 

K-State First Book will celebrate the 2022 selection in the fall semester with multiple in-person and virtual events. More event information will be shared as details are finalized.  

In the book, Ripley combines the stories of survivors with research into how the brain works under extreme duress. "The Unthinkable" tries to bring light into civilization’s darkest moments. Why do we freeze in the middle of a fire? How can we override this instinct? Why do our senses of sight and hearing change during a terrorist attack? 

"As a Kansan, I was drawn, of course, to the information about tornadoes," said Greg Eiselein, professor of English and director of K-State First. "I was surprised to learn that perhaps the most important thing one can do to survive a tornado is to know one's neighbors. Examples like this made me realize that the research in this book is for all of us, not just social scientists, first responders and superheroes. Our students are going to love this book." 

K-State First Book, the all-university reading program that is part of K-State First, selects a common book for the academic year and coordinates classroom and campus activities to correspond with the reading. K-State First Book provides incoming students with a shared academic experience that they can discuss with professors, staff, administrators and other students when they arrive on campus.  

The 2022 First Book Selection Committee — comprised of 30 students, staff, administrators, and faculty — spent the last six months reading 39 books on the theme of books that inspire readers to take action and make a positive change in their community. 

"I read 'The Unthinkable' several years ago and took to heart the advice shared in the book," said Tara Coleman, chair of the K-State First Book selection committee and associate professor at K-State Libraries. "When fire alarms went off in Hale Library on May 22, 2018, I quickly left the building, even though I was 100% sure it was a false alarm because of what I read. I was wrong and the fire was real. Fortunately, no one was hurt in that fire, but it served as a reminder that we should always take precautions. I know that when others read the book, they will also take away things that will help them in the future." 

K-State First Book will partner with several university and community organizations to coordinate programming for the 2022 common book. Programming partners so far include the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art; the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education, or CARE; the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences; the College of Education; the College of Architecture, Planning & Design; the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, or MANRRS, chapter; the College of Veterinary Medicine; the College of Health and Human Sciences; the Division of Multicultural Student Affairs; K-State Libraries; the Staley School of Leadership Studies and UFM Community Learning Center. 

"The 2022 book selection allows us to continue conversations from the past 12 years of K-State First's common reading program as we explore themes connected to community, history, our stories, the built world and our environment," said Karin Westman, chair of the K-State First Book PR/events committee and department head of English. "With this year's selection, we will also get to meet what author Amanda Ripley calls 'our disaster personalities.' With the help of our campus partners, we're looking forward to a great range of in-person and online programming." 

Programming partners will plan a lecture, panel or other kind of event that draws on the expertise of that group to help the university community experience "The Unthinkable" in a new way. K-State First Book will provide publicity support for the event, and programming partners will receive three to five copies of the 2022 selection to share within their group in advance of the fall semester. 

Interested departments or groups should contact ksbn@k-state.edu no later than Friday, May 20, if they would like to join this effort for the 2022 selection. 

More information about the K-State First Book program, the 2022 book selection and resources for its inclusion in fall activities and classrooms is available at the K-State First Book website, k-state.edu/ksfb.

In this issue

News and research
COVID-19 university updates
Personnel changes
Health and safety
Kudos, publications and presentations
Campus construction and maintenance
University life