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Colgate Reads: First-year students discuss Tenth of December

By Kellyann Hayes '16 on August 15, 2013
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The public is invited to join the Colgate Reads discussion for free. Click the image above to learn more.

Colgate Reads: read a book, discuss the book. The program is a way of facilitating discussion, sharing thoughts, and sparking literary curiosity. A quick visit to the program’s online forum proves that its goal has been achieved, but you can also see its influence in more surprising venues – Facebook, for one.

Discussion of George Saunders’ Tenth of December has jumped right out of the program’s forum and taken on a life of its own as readers try to gain clarity and a better appreciation for the book. Colgate’s own Class of 2017 group on Facebook has been lively with activity surrounding Tenth of December, the first-years’ assigned summer reading.  Among the standard questions about residence hall rooms, schedule changes, and searches for fellow snowboarders, an initial post by Meagan Herlihy ’17 about the book prompted others to respond.

More than 60 comments later, a full-fledged debate and discussion was formed, in which the newest members of the Colgate community offered their opinions, insights, and struggles with Saunders’s thought-provoking stories.

One Facebook post has facilitated much discussion of the book. Is it modern? Post-modern? Avant-garde? How does Saunders’s writing compare with classic American cynicism? With Twain? And what about his characters? Are they moral? What do they show us about humanity?

The incoming students have taken these questions fit for a classroom and begun to tackle them on the popular social network. They’ve debated and discussed what they liked and didn’t like, whether or not they felt Saunders’ writing was effective, and his use of characters, to name a few subjects.

But one thing most did agree upon was the value of discussion and sharing. Hannah DeGarmo ’17 conceded, “I do feel as though I’ll either like or appreciate the book more after discussing it – getting to hear what other people took from stories or how they saw the characters … I just tend to like books more after having discussed them with people.”

Alex Pustelnyk ’17 chimed in, “In my personal view the best books are the ones that are discussed and shared amongst people.” Pustelnyk later confided that after the discussion the group felt more like a cohesive class, and he made several friends through it, “showing the importance of Colgate Reads, coupled with new technology, in bringing people together.”

These incoming students have taken the initiative in getting involved and sharing ideas, even before arriving on campus. They are now participating in an even bigger discussion on the Colgate Reads online forum, where alumni, parents, staff, and friends are discussing the short story “Tenth of December.”

Saunders visits campus September 10, and will give a public reading at 4:30 p.m. in the Memorial Chapel. The Class of 2017 has joined the discussion. Now, will you?

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