Beach Books Roundup

Tessa Carter

On August 19, the NAS released Beach Books 2012-2013: What Do Colleges and Universities Want Students to Read Outside Class? and began a conversation on college common reads and the relevance of classic texts to the contemporary university.

Go here to read the report, and then join the discussion below. You can also read the previous two NAS reports on college summer reading here and here, and you can check out the NAS list of recommended common reads here.


Where Did Moby Dick Go?
August 30, 2013
HuffPost Live

"Assigning a 'common reading' book to freshman is a staple for 309 colleges in the U.S. But of those colleges, just 8 schools assigned a book that was published before 1990. But the push towards modernism doesn't come cheap."

The Reader's Progress
August 28, 2013
By Ashley Thorne – First Things

"We shouldn’t underestimate the value of giving children child-sized versions of important books. Not that it is impossible to come to a challenging text young. Louisa May Alcott had the March sisters reading The Pilgrim’s Progress at a precocious age. But some of us need a stepladder....When the time comes to finally open the original, there is pleasure in reading something you know a little already."

Readers Weigh In on Teaching the Classics
August 27, 2013
National Association of Scholars

“You cannot possibly understand the literature of your day if you do not understand the literature of your parents. An education in literature without a deep knowledge of the Western canon is just a reading group. […] I still remember how utterly insulting it felt that my teachers would grasp around for reasons that Shakespeare 'related' to my life. As if I couldn't understand another person’s experiences, or just merely enjoy the beauty of a thing.”Un

The Devolution of the University's Common Reading
August 27, 2013
By Gracy Howard – The American Conservative: The State of the Union

"Instead of espousing classical literature, schools often turn studies into an opportunity for acculturation. The widespread ideology amongst America’s colleges strives to re-create students according to its own understanding of race, gender, and class theory."

Why Are American Universities Shying Away from the Classics?
August 25, 2013
By Ashley Thorne – The Guardian

"For American college students, 1990 appears to be a historical cliff beyond which it is rumored some books were once written, though no one is quite sure what. Why have US colleges decided that the best way to introduce their students to higher learning is through comic books, lite lit, and memoirs?"

Obama's Secret Weapon: Henrietta Lacks
August 19, 2013
By Stanley Kurtz – National Review Online

"Reports like 'Beach Books' and the controversies they raise, can’t easily transform the tenured professoriate. Yet they can give students the message that they are being cheated out of something precious: the opportunity to understand the true choices before them, including the strengths and weaknesses of the doctrines they themselves profess."

The Compromised Life of Common Reading Programs
August 19, 2013
By Peter Wood  – The Chronicle of Higher Education: The Conversation

"What is lamentable is the scant attention to important books, let alone classics; the relentless emphasis on the short-term and easily accessible; and the dominance of books that emphasize personal perspectives over efforts to know the world as it really is. Literature is not entirely neglected but is overshadowed by what are now called (courtesy of the Common Core Standards) 'informational texts.' Taken collectively, the readings are uncommonly light for students about to undertake a college education."

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