The New Student Reading Project began in the fall of 2001 and was designed to build intellectual and social rapport among students, faculty and staff. During the summer, free copies of the reading are distributed to incoming students. At orientation, New Student Reading Project events include a large assembly with a panel discussion and smaller follow-up discussion groups of faculty and students.
In subsequent years the Ithaca community and Cornell alumni participated in the project and in 2005, New York State high school students will be reading Things Fall Apart.
2004: The Trial by Franz Kafka
The Trial is Kafka's prescient masterpiece that raises fundamental questions about the nature of justice and the role of the state. New students, alumni and the Ithaca community took part in this year's events including a debate hosted by the local bar association on The Trial.
2003: Antigone by Sophocles
Antigone is a timeless text. The Tompkins County Public Library and Cornell continued the tradition, the annual town-gown celebration of reading and of having conversations with each other about ideas that began with Frankenstein. Reading groups took sides in the Antigone-Creon debate over the limits, if any, to an individual's obligation to obey civil authority. This year, Tompkins County 10th-grade students were recipients of copies of Antigone and were treated to David Feldshuh's brilliant new translation and adaptation of Antigone performed at Cornell's Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts.
2002: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
In 2002 Cornell selected Frankenstein, a book that raised important questions on ethics, creativity and the nature of our humanity. Cornell gave over 1,500 free copies of Frankenstein to the Tompkins County Library, to county high schools, to senior citizens centers and to other civic organizations thus beginning the "tradition" of the "town-gown" read.
2001: Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
The Cornell New Student Reading Project began in 2001 with Jared Diamond's Pulitzer-prize winning book, Guns, Germs and Steel. This provocative work explores the differences in rates of development among races, societies and world cultures as a function of geographical and environmental circumstances.