Office of First-Year Programs
Ben Trapanick, Director, First-Year Programs
Dwight Hall Room 116
Ashlee Givins, Assistant Director, First-Year Programs
Dwight Hall Room 116
Each year a new title is selected as the Common Reading for that academic year. Students are expected to read the book during the summer prior to arrival in September and be ready to actively take part in classroom discussions. Many first-year courses from different disciplines will be incorporating the book into their curricula. Students should read the book with critical eyes, thinking about many of the themes that are present. Students should also consider how it relates to the life of an 18-year old student who is beginning life as a college student. Events will take place throughout the first semester related to the book.
The selection for the 2015-2016 year is "In the Heart of the Sea" by Nathaniel Philbrick.
The Common Reading Selection Committee is proud to announce the selection of In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick as the choice for the 2015-2016 Common Reading. This title has been chosen for several reasons, the first being that it is an outstanding book. It is well-written and the story itself inspired Herman Melville to pen Moby Dick. Second, it has many local ties as the crew of the Essex was originally from Nantucket, famous for its whaling industry. Third, a connection can be made to our first-year students because the story is about ethical decision making and the innate desire to survive. And lastly, this book could be adopted in many courses, not just first-year ones, across many curricula. It certainly focuses on history, but other topics include class, race, geography, and nutrition.
The story focuses on the whale-ship Essex based out of Nantucket. The story follows the crew as they leave their home for an extended whaling trip in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. At one point during the trip, they are rammed by a sperm whale, eventually causing the ship to sink and forcing the crew to survive in the tiny whaleboats. The story documents the depths to which the crew went to survive and how they dealt with the weather, hunger and eventually ethical decisions that no human hopes they will ever have to make. It is a fascinating read with ties to Massachusetts and will be appreciated by people interested in biology, nutrition, history, pyschololgy and so much more including topics such as leadership, race and class.
On-line information about "In the Heart of the Sea"
Nathaniel Philbrick "In the Heart of the Sea" website
New York Time book review, June 4, 2000
Reader's Guide and Nathaniel Philbrick interview