2016 Common Reader
The Soul Thief
by Charles Baxter
Charles Baxter's novel, The Soul Thief, asks its readers a central question: what makes us who we are? Is it our clothes, our name, our ideas, or our work? What do we do when we find our identity challenged?
Publishers' Weekly describes The Soul Thief as an "assay into the limits of character, fictional and otherwise." The novel is written in two halves: the first centers on Nathaniel Mason's '70's era graduate studies in Buffalo, where he is drawn into a dangerous friendship with the flamboyant Teresa and her boyfriend Jerome Coolberg; in the second half, Coolberg re-enters Nathaniel's seemingly mundane life. Obsessed with Nathaniel and appropriating clothing, notebooks, and even anecdotes about Nathaniel's life, Coolberg is the "soul thief" of the title, and the dramatic effect of these thefts on Nathaniel opens up questions of personal identity and psychic wholeness.
The New Yorker describes Charles Baxter as a novelist with a "talent for creating uncanny settings and telling details." The novel delivers both dramatic tension and a final twist. Professor Baxter is the Edelstein-Keller Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota. The Soul Thief was published in 2008 by Pantheon. Also published by Pantheon, Baxter's newest work is There's Something I'd Like You To Do: Stories.
The Regents' Common Reader Awards provide an opportunity for individual chapters to organize and host a local event or activity based on The Soul Thief. Chapter members do not need to attend the convention to apply. Contact your Regent and you may receive $100 for your event or activity. View application guidelines.
Awards of up to $600 will be given at the international convention for critical essays or other genres of work that deal with the common reader. To be eligible, students indicate on the convention submission form that their work is in the common reader category (presentation type).