The Nature of College by James Farrell

Reader’s Guide

One must be an inventor to read well. As the proverb says, `He that would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry out the wealth of the Indies.’ There is then creative reading as well as creative writing. When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion. Every sentence is doubly significant, and the sense of our author is as broad as the world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

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The Nature of College is generally a reader-friendly book, but it moves pretty quickly and sometimes the analytical elements can get lost in the narrative. It’s also easy to fall into the trap of reading as a passive pastime, and not as a practical activity that makes a difference in our real lives. So I’m working on a couple of reader’s guides that help us to be creative readers, focusing on some of the larger issues addressed in the book. This guide is intended to help readers engage the book not just as a story “out there,” but also as a challenge to our own thinking, values and habits.

The guide for each chapter includes a section on “Coming to Terms,” with some of the concepts and ideas that are most important to understand. As you discuss these terms, think about the ways they help you understand the world better (or not). The guide for each chapter includes a set of “Some Questions for Consideration” as well, helping readers to focus on important issues in the book, but also helping readers to connect the book to their own lives, to the cultural patterns in which they live, and to the new and improved cultural patterns that might characterize a sustainable society.

The first guide is for college students, and you can find it here.