All incoming first-year and transfer students are expected to read the book over the summer and participate in small group discussions on the Monday before fall 2016 classes begin. The book is available for purchase in the campus bookstore.
Being Mortal was selected as the 2016 Carolina Summer Reading book by a nine-person committee consisting of faculty, staff, and students. Over the last several months, the Committee narrowed down the initial pool of 169 book nominations to seven finalists. Out of the seven finalists, Being Mortal was the Committee’s unanimous first choice.
UNC-Chapel Hill explained that they selected Being Mortal for a variety of reasons, including that the book is “well-written, it honors human diversity and success, and it is a celebration of life that challenges readers to respect human dignity.” However, the school’s committee ultimately chose this book because they felt that it addresses issues in medical and health sciences with a multidisciplinary lens that makes it relevant for a variety of majors, and it tackles topics that have not received enough opportunities for dialogue.
The school also felt that the book is an important read for students because it touches on universal topics that transcend generational divides, economic status, sexual orientation, racial identities, and gender identities. Tim Marr—distinguished associate professor of American Studies and chair of the Committee—explained that the Committee hopes that reading Being Mortal will help students confront death (the book’s primary theme) by “encouraging open discussion about important matters faced by every family for which medicine can ultimately provide no answer.”
The Carolina Summer Reading program aims to stimulate critical thinking outside of the classroom, and give new students common intellectual ground. It is used as an academic icebreaker, and it encourages students to engage with the scholarly community and come to their own conclusions about the material.
The UNC-Chapel Hill community was already familiar with Atul Gawande because he was the school’s 2014 Commencement Speaker. His Commencement speech confronted the graduating crowd with a story of children suffering from cancer. Yet, his message ultimately focused on the resources of strength and resilience people find to flourish in life—despite adversity—by connecting with a purpose larger than themselves that aids others.
Being Mortal • Metropolitan Books • 304 pages