Summer Reading: Our First-Ever Virtual Book Clubs

While the bulk of us in Admissions are looking forward to the fall semester, we knew that we needed to something to continue our conversation with our incoming students throughout the summer. We came up with the idea to start online book clubs, in which incoming admitted students had the option to choose from a varying list of non-program books to read in small groups with other incoming Johnnies, to get to know each other better and to have a common experience before making their way to class this fall.

We brainstormed a number of books which would be fun reads, but also could inspire weighty conversation. The books range in genre and topics, and include philosophy, literature, physics, politics, and much more. See a complete list below!


The Razor’s Edge – A story of an American pilot who, after his experiences flying during World War I, undergoes an introspective journey which spans years. Included in this journey is a time spent in Chicago, Paris, Bombay. It was an early introduction to eastern philosophy and culture to the West.

Things Fall Apart – This debut novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe showcases pre-colonial life in southeastern Nigeria during the late 19th century, and follows the introduction of European colonists during that time. One of the most important African novels in modern English, it follows the protagonist Okonkwo and showcases the changes in Nigerian culture before and after the introduction of the white European colonists.

Blindness, by Jose Saramago – This portuguese novel tells the story of a random epidemic of blindness which occurs throughout an unnamed city. Beginning in an asylum where a cast of characters are held in quarantine, the characters quickly escape and find themselves working together to survive in their new degenerated society.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – This story tells the story of a father and son duo who traverse the rural northwestern american countryside making their way for the West Coast, all the while introducing and synthesizing various ways of thinking about various philosophical ideas. Included in this book is comparisons between romantic and classical ways of thinking, the relationship of the self to the other, and the true nature of quality.

All Systems Red – This science fiction novella follows the story of an artificial intelligence unit called MurderBot, in a dystopian alien planet, wherein the unit overrides it’s Government unit and achieves independence.

Like Water For Chocolate – this classic magical realist story takes place in Mexico, and follows a young girl named Tita through her life, and often connects the plot to dishes that Tita cooks throughout the novel. Each chapter, told over the course of a year, begins with a Mexican recipe. The story touches on the themes of family expectations, self-growth, love, and of course, food.

Seven Brief Lessons in Physics – This book, published in Italian in 2014, details seven short and accessible theories in post-newtonian physics. A few chapter titles include “The Quarta,” “The Architecture of the Cosmos,” and “Probability, Time and the Heat of Black Holes,” among others.

What should we read next? Don’t hesitate to send us an email and let us know!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Clara Christopherson says:

    Hello Admissions offers! What a great selection here. I only recognize the title “Things Fall Apart,” but the other books have certainly peaked my interest. This was just what I needed, as I’ve been in search for thought provoking books to read. I recommend the book titled “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman. It’s definitely not the hardest book to read, but I found it quite good. Thank you for the article!

    Like

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