My summer reading assignment

The Glass Castle on Oval bench

It’s summer—a time for carefree days at the beach—but here I am in Columbus, Ohio, with no beaches in sight.

Not that I mind.

I’ve been at Ohio State for nearly a year now and every day I congratulate myself on my good fortune.

There is just one thing that was gnawing at me—and that’s my summer reading assignment—not one of those typical “beach books” that everyone publishes as fun “must reads” from March on.

And since I know there will be “a test,” I decided I’d better not procrastinate.

I just finished a book that a lot of folks have been reading—The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls—a book that has been a New York Times best seller for more than four years. It is the Buckeye Book Community’s 2014-2015 selection and will have been read by 7,000 new Buckeyes by the time they arrive on campus in August.

Critics describe it as “extraordinary,” “incredible” and “riveting.” It is, indeed, all that. It also is hard to put down. I cannot help but wonder what our new students are thinking as they are reading about the lives of the Walls children.

I hope they realize that this is about more than reading an assigned book during the summer. It is about sharing an experience and building community through conversations that the book will engender all across campus in all sorts of settings—including the College of Arts and Sciences Executive Dean’s Office.

The book will be fodder for several thousand thoughtful discussions, none of which will revolve around typical beach-book themes—all of which will require one to actually have read the book and to have thought about it. I will be leading one of those discussions in a first-year survey class during autumn semester. I cannot wait to hear what our students say about this book.

And, it is good to have another thing crossed off my new academic year to-do list.

In the meantime, though, I think I’ll hit the beach next month—just to clear my head for that discussion.

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