At The Daily Beast, academics and writers were asked to name “one book that [college] students shouldn’t escape campus without having read.” MIT professor and Pulitzer Prize winner, Junot Diaz, picked Toni Morrison’s Beloved because it “stabs straight at the heart of the American experience,” but he also spoke to the role of books in the lives of college students generally:
All college students should have to read a couple hundred books before they graduate, […]
A couple hundred. I agree. If we teach college students, we are totally failing them if we’re not putting passionate and intensive reading front and center in our classes (talking about books, close reading passages, assigning lots of reading, etc.).
Close reading trains the eye and ear to what good sentences and paragraphs look and sound like, and so indirectly teaches writing as well. It also exercises one’s critical thinking “muscles,” and increases intellectual and cultural literacy. It contributes to everything that is centrally important to college.
I like the way Ben Yagoda starts Part I of his most recent book, How to Not Write Bad (Riverhead 2013). He titles Part I, “How to Not Write Bad: The One-Word Version,” and beneath the title puts before the reader a simple, four-letter word:
That’s it. Do it.