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Summer Reading for Frosh-and Alumni

Breathe Under Water

Recipe for intellectual dialogue: take three top-notch books; bring their authors to Memorial Auditorium; add 1,700 incoming Stanford undergraduates. Stir.

Mountains Beyond Mountains

The Three Books program, now in its third year, aims to provide all frosh and transfers with a “common book” experience. Previously, each Resident Fellow would select a book for new students to read over the summer and discuss during New Student Orientation. This fall, students will come together in MemAud to listen to Julie Orringer, former Stegner fellow and author of How to Breathe Underwater, Tracy Kidder, author of Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, and Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner. After a conversation moderated by English professor Tobias Wolff, who helped select the books, students will adjourn to their dorms for more discussion.

Kite Runner

Orringer’s prize-winning debut collects nine short stories, several of them about girls acquainted with tragedy and young women on the verge of self-discovery. The bestselling debut novel by Hosseini, a physician who was born in Kabul and grew up in San Jose, describes childhood friends whose fortunes are divided by political turmoil in Afghanistan. Kidder profiles MacArthur “genius grant” winner and humanitarian Farmer, an infectious disease specialist whose work in Haiti is a beacon for others who combat global poverty. “Most of the books can be characterized as having ‘coming of age’ themes,” says Julie Lythcott-Haims, ’89, dean of freshmen and transfer students. “The best part is the looks on the faces of the students as they listen to these literary masters speak so candidly, insightfully and humorously about their lives, their work and the craft of writing.”

For the first time this year, incoming students were provided with copies of the three books free of charge. Also new this year: an invitation for alumni to read along with the new students. The Stanford Alumni Association has added the books to its Summer Reading list, part of the Stanford Book Salon.

“We thought it would be a great way for alumni to connect with our incoming students,” says Alumni Association president Howard Wolf, ’80.

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