Summer Reading List

2020 Summer Reading List for Glynn First-Year Scholars.


This list of three books is guaranteed to provide intellectually stimulating and even provocative engagement. Links are provided to suggested editions on Amazon. Books can also be accessed at the public library or through an interlibrary loan. As a way to get to know one another in a more relaxed setting, and to kick-start your semester, Glynn First-Years meet for an evening colloquium during the first week of classes to discuss the summer reading. This one-time event is both social and intellectual – like a large book group with dozens of your new best friends. You’ll also get to know better the directors of the program at this event. Since there are just three books on the list, we strongly recommend reading all of them so that you can better participate in the discussion.


The Known Citizen

Sarah Igo’s The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America explores the
increasingly important notion of privacy, by which we usually mean the boundary we define
between our public persona and the identity we express to our closest friends or perhaps only to
ourselves. How much privacy should we expect — or even want? How did the idea of privacy,
which might seem strange in close-knit agrarian societies, become so important in modern
society? And what will the violations of our privacy imply for our future — after all, Google
now knows that you will be reading this book — and why should we care? Igo’s book is an
exploration of the multi-faceted notion of privacy and its implications in our modern world, be
they legal, ethical or simply practical.

The Nickel Boys

The summer of 2020 has seen the US grapple not only with the pandemic of COVID-19, but
also, following the maltreatment and death of George Floyd, with the longstanding social
pandemic of structural racism and supremacy for which, as one NY Times op-ed noted, there is
no vaccine. Colson Whitehead’s fictional narrative in The Nickel Boys does not merely rehash a
tale of racial injustices, here based on a 2014 archeological revelation of torture and murder at a
real-life Florida reform school. Through Whitehead’s masterful storytelling we ask, what do
freedom and truth really mean in the United States of America? How do institutions, practices,
and ways of thinking knowingly – and perhaps worse, unknowingly – promote and foster
historical amnesia regarding human rights and the privileges we prize from being American
citizens? Or perhaps as Langston Hughes once tellingly noted, what happens to a dream
deferred? In this case, the protagonist’s own dream-deferment occurs when his experience as a
victim of brutality leads him to question even the philosophy of his personal hero and guiding
light, Martin Luther King, Jr. Rather than prematurely soothing the ragged edges of the
American experience, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel keeps us in the only place from which
just and authentic change can be effected: the present moment wherein past failures have come
to light.

Stories of Your Life and Others

And now for what may seem to be an exercise in escapism, read Ted Chiang's Stories of
Your Life and Others
. You may already be familiar with what is virtually the title story in this
collection, "Story of Your Life", since it was the basis of the film Arrival. All of the stories in
this collection are imaginative and thought-provoking, whether the subject is personal
immortality or human enhancement. Another reason we're reading it is that Chiang will be in
residence at Notre Dame's Institute for Advanced Study for part of the year, and we'll have the
opportunity to attend some of his public events. Reading some of his stories will get you ready.