Review by: Amanda Golden

University of Texas at Austin

[email protected]

Many colleges and universities have implemented common reading programs to provide a feeling of community among new students (Ferguson, 2006). According to Ferguson, universities use common reading programs to create a shared experience among students who might not otherwise feel connected to one another. It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario is a book that will fulfill this goal while also encouraging students to reflect on issues they will encounter as they enter adulthood beyond college.


In her autobiography, Addario describes the experiences of individuals living in some of the world’s most dangerous climates. Some of these recountings include visiting refugee camps in Darfur, traveling to Afghanistan for the beginning of the 2001 war, observing the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and being kidnapped in Libya in 2011 during the beginning of the Arab Spring uprising. Additionally, Addario explores her career path, from discovering photography as a hobby to deciding to pursue photography as an occupation. Through all these stories, Addario presents many lessons that can inform how students are prepared to address professional and societal challenges after graduation.


Students entering college today are doing so in a global climate fraught with incomprehensible suffering. In order to educate students who are, and will continue to be, part of a global community it is important for institutions to train students to be empathic toward the circumstances of others. The challenges Addario witnessed as a war photographer are written so vividly that students who read the book will likely gain a more realistic view of the suffering many people are experiencing, including some of their peers or the family members of their peers. Thus, using It’s What I Do as a tool can help build greater understanding among students about the reality of the global climate they will be contributing to and helping to shape.


Additionally, institutions can use Addario’s book to help students explore topics such as major to career, work-life balance, and the use of values in making decisions about future goals. For example, Addario addresses issues relevant to young professionals, including her struggles with finding a work-life balance as well as identifying a partner who is supportive of her professional ambitions and their decision to start a family. Discussions on these topics would allow students the opportunity to reflect on their professional goals while also providing a way for advisors and professors to guide students through the growth and independence commonly experienced during college.


Addario’s book can provide students with a glimpse into what life is like for others while also helping students explore how they see themselves in society. Providing real-life examples of how others experience the world can build in students a stronger sense of self and a greater understanding of the experiences of others. Institutions successful in providing this opportunity will graduate students who are ready to be informed participants in the global society and who are also ready to independently pursue both professional and personal goals.



Addario, L. (2015). It’s what I do: A photographer’s life of love and war. New York, New York: Penguin


Ferguson, M. (2006). Creating common ground: Common reading and the first year of college. Peer         Review: Association of American Colleges and Universities, 8(3). Retrieved from:https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/creating-common-ground-common-reading-and-first-year-college

Book Review #1729 It’s What I do: A photographer’s life of love and war. (2015). Lynsey Addario, Penguin Books. 289 pp., $18.00, (Paperback), ISBN #978-0-12-312841-0, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/312770/its-what-i-do-by-lynsey-addario/9780143128410

Posted in: 2016 Book Reviews
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