Common Reading

What a better way to connect students than through a common book? Each year, a faculty committee selects a new common reading for the fall semester. Students will receive their books during New Student Orientation. The book is incorporated into the Fall Colloquium and WSEM courses.

A common reading experience is often seen as a great way for new students to embark upon the intellectual challenges of the college experience

2014 - 2015 Theme:  Age and Aging

Imagine a world in which we have stumbled upon a “cure” for aging, bestowing the ability to stop the process in its tracks and enabling people to choose to stay at their current age forever – unless illness, intentional harm, or accident strike them down.  In his novel The Postmortal, Drew Magary imagines that future, one that initially seems filled with limitless possibilities for John Farrell, the newly postmortal and now permanently 29-year-old protagonist.  But as John fills his many years with drinking, youthful celebration, and even decade-long walkabouts through exotic locales, the world begins to come apart.  Freed from the threat of death through old age, society begins to turn its back on conventional morality, and people begin to forego marriage and forsake bedrock beliefs.  As the world becomes ever more packed with people, the utopian dream of living forever becomes a dystopian nightmare, a sere landscape crowded with roving gangs of green-skinned thugs, cultists, and End Specialists – government-sanctioned men and women authorized to euthanize the suicidal and the criminal alike.  The Postmortal beckons readers to question the pursuit of eternal youth, and to look again at what they value most about living across all the stages of one’s life.

The efforts of scientists to unlock the very causes of aging may never render humans immune to time’s ravages, but many developed countries find the average age of their populations rising as an effect of sustained progress in the fields of sanitation, nutrition, family planning, and medicine.  This demographic transition has kindled discussion on a range of issues including the sustainability of Social Security and Medicare, the meaning and parameters of childhood, the evolution of retirement as a concept, end-of-life care, and the scope and organization of the healthcare sector of the economy.  Animal biologists continue to demonstrate that members of many other species besides Homo sapiens take on social roles as they age, performing crucial functions on behalf of the group.  For many reasons, Age and Aging should serve as a focus of rich collective inquiry to all members of the college community during the 2014-2015 academic year.  “[We] think that time ‘passes,’ flows past us,” wrote Ursula Le Guin, “but what if it is we who move forward, from past to future, always discovering the new?  It would be like reading a book…the universe would be a very great book, and we would be very small readers.”

The Steering Committee thus invites you to embark upon reading The Postmortal, by Drew Magary, along with the incoming Class of 2018.


 List of Previous Common Readings

















View previous common readings

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