Eric Greitens’ “The Heart and the Fist” will be Virginia Tech’s Common Book for the 2015-16 academic year.

The New York Times best-seller details Greitens’ life of service, through academics as a Rhodes Scholar and Truman Scholar as well as roles with humanitarian organizations and service as a United States Navy SEAL. Following his military service, Greitens founded The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit organization that challenges veterans to serve in communities across the United States.

The Common Book Project Committee requested public suggestions for a new book this fall.

  • The call prompted 163 recommendations for 103 books.
  • Of the faculty, staff, students, and community members who submitted recommendations, 126 agreed to volunteer for a review process that narrowed the selection to 20 books.
  • The Common Book Project Committee analyzed the top 20 and selected three books for committee members to read in full for a final review, ultimately selecting “The Heart and the Fist.”

“The goal of the Common Book Project is for all students to learn from the same text, regardless of their academic discipline, background, political affiliation, personal interests, and all of the other things that make Virginia Tech a diverse and interesting community,” said Megan O'Neill, associate director for first year experiences. “The committee felt that ‘The Heart and the Fist’ strongly linked to Virginia Tech’s core values and mission of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) that resonate with our community.”

“I believe that all of the core values were touched upon during some part of the book, but two stood out,: mutual respect and a commitment to diverse and inclusive communities,” said Natalia Gonzalez of Sterling, Virginia, a sophomore University Honors student majoring in nanoscience in the College of Science, who served as a book reviewer. “With Greitens traveling to so many countries and giving us a glimpse of different cultures, it's impossible to say that this book has not fostered a higher sense of respect from me over the differences we contribute to our communities.”

Student reviewers thought the book was relatable, while showcasing diverse opinions.

The book demonstrates similar struggles we all face, but it also shows us how people may have different cultures but fundamentally want the same rights and freedoms, Gonzalez said. “I think it gives a perfect sense of many of the perspectives we have as a collection of young people but also adds extra insight into diverse voices around the world as well as from the people he encounters in his personal life,” he said.

The Common Book is distributed to all first year and transfer students. Faculty members who teach those students are encouraged to integrate the Common Book into their curriculum through class discussions and projects. They may request a copy of the book by sending an email to

The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research will host “Engaging Students with the New Virginia Tech Common Book” workshops at the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skeleton Conference Center.

  • April 15, 2-4 p.m.
  • April 21, 2-4 p.m.
  • April 22, 10-noon

Register through the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research website.

“The Heart and the Fist” is the university’s ninth Common Book.

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