Spring 2024 /The Value of the Liberal Arts/

Books and More Books

Books and More Books

Several readers wrote to note that the tradition of a common book for first-year students to read together began before 2003 (“The Full Stack: 2003-2023,” Fall 2023). Among earlier selections were Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Julia Alvarez’s Yo, Gregory Williams’ Life on the Color Line, Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient and Naguib Mahfouz’s The Palace Walk.

Ann Quinley, Pomona’s dean of students from 1992 to 2007 and an emerita professor of politics, led the first-year book selection for some time with a committee of students and faculty, often reading 20-plus books a year and planning accompanying talks.

“It was my favorite project that I looked forward to every year,” Quinley says, noting that the effort was once the victim of a prank.

“One year, a student—I don’t remember who it was and I don’t think I’d tell you if I did—managed to get hold of the list and add another book. It was one of those bodice-rippers, and then I began to get calls. Students, they are just so creative.”

As for future nominations, Elizabeth Pyle ’84 writes to suggest H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal and a classic, Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion.

Incoming first-year Sophie Park ’28 is excited to find out what her class might read. “I’d like to suggest A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace as my class’s orientation book,” she writes, calling the title essay “one of the most profound yet accessible pieces I know.” She adds: “Even if the essay collection isn’t chosen as the orientation book, ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again’ is short and an incredible standalone and I would cry if I came to school with all my classmates having read it.”