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Common Summer Reading Program

Frequently Asked Questions

This is Water What is the Common Summer Reading selection for 2014?
The Composition Committee has selected a collection of graduation speeches by David Foster Wallace, Neil Gaiman, Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, and Kurt Vonnegut, which are available online. Students can purchase the book version of Wallace’s central speech, This Is Water, at the campus bookstore (Little, Brown and company 2009).

Why does the SUNY New Paltz Composition Program require first-year students to read over the summer?
SUNY New Paltz, like many colleges and universities across the country, has implemented a common summer reading program for several reasons. We want to reinforce the principle that engaging in critical reading is an important part of being a member of an academic community. To that end, we have posted discussion questions and writing assignments online to help students think about the speeches as they are reading. We also hope that this program will provide a means by which our incoming students become part of the academic community here at SUNY New Paltz. By encouraging first-year students to engage in critical reading, discussion, and thinking about rhetoric and their motivation for attending college—whether in their Composition classrooms or in extracurricular settings—the reading initiative invites dialogue among students as well as between students and faculty. We are currently coordinating extra-curricular programming (in previous years, we have sponsored a photography exhibit, author speaking engagements, film screenings, and residence hall discussion groups), to be announced in Composition classes this fall.

Does every first-year student read the selection(s)?
Almost. Those students enrolled in Composition I or Composition II in the Fall semester will be required to read the speeches. However, we encourage those students who are in General Honors English and Intermediate Composition to read them, too, and to take part in campus discussions and events.


Study Guide Click here for the complete study guide, which includes essential background on the graduation speech genre and selected authors, questions to consider while reading, writing prompts, and related resources.



About David Foster Wallace's Speech at Kenyon College, includes full text

J.K. Rowling at Harvard

Neil Gaiman at the University of the Arts

Toni Morrison at Wellesley College

Kurt Vonnegut at Bennington College (PDF Only)