Composition Program Common Summer Reading 2016

Frequently Asked Questions (Click here for full document)

What is the Common Summer Reading selection for 2016?
The Composition Program has selected a collection of TED Talks (short for Technology, Entertainment and Design) and corresponding articles focused around the common theme of “Thinking like a Human.”

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 text. 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. Check with your instructor if you have questions.

Do students need to complete any assignments before they arrive to campus?
Not formally. We have created a Study Guide to help you as you read and reflect on the talks and articles. Click here to access the 2016 Summer Reading Study Guide!

You do not have to fully answer all of the questions before you arrive, but do write down some responses and questions you have related to the main talks so you will remember these ideas when you begin to attend your composition course.

Note: ALL students do write an ungraded essay the first day of class, and most instructors assign at least one question about the Summer Reading.


About TED Talks

“On Being Wrong” by Kathryn Schulz; Playlist of TED talks on Failure, and “The Essay, an Exercise in Doubt” by Phillipe Lopate

“Language as a Window into Human Nature” by Steven Pinker (concentrates on the difference between innuendo and direct language in particular rhetorical situations for distinct audiences); “Why Do Humans Need Euphemisms, And What Do They Do To Us?” by Esther Ingliss-Arkell

“Do Schools Kill Creativity" by Sir Ken Robinson “How to Discover your True Talents”  by Dan Schawbel, with Sir Ken Robinson (who has also written on the need to reform education and Common Core)

The Uniqueness of Humans” by Robert Sapolsky (Evolution, Social, and Psychological examples; two graphic images, and a section about empathy); “This Is Your Brain on Metaphors” by Robert Sapolsky

“Three Ways to Speak English” by Jamila Lyiscott; “Hearing Skin Color” by Nic Subtirelu; “Racial Bias, Even When We Have Good Intentions” by Sendhil Mullainathan

The talks and articles below are optional, but may be assigned in the fall by individual instructors. You are encouraged to explore those topics below that most interest you.

“Txting Is Killing Language. JK!!!” by John McWhorter; “How the Internet Is Changing Language” by Zoe Kleinman; “Tweets and Reddit Posts Give Snapshot of our Changing Language” by Hal Hodson

“How Social Media Can Make History” by Clay Shirky; “Connected but Alone” by Sherry Turkle; “Social Media’s Small, Positive Role in Human Relationships” by Zeynep Tufekci


“Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” by Amy Cuddy; “Amy Cuddy Takes a Stand” by David Hochman

The Puzzle of Motivation” (discusses creativity and motivation in the context of business and economics); “What Makes Employees Work Harder: Punishment or Pampering?” by Derek Thompson