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Greatbooks Blog

Daily Hampshire Gazette | Great Books in the News

Daily Hampshire Gazette | Great Books in the News

What they did on their summer vacation: At the Great Books program at Amherst College, reading is a joy, not a chore

At first glance, it looked like a scene from a typical day at Amherst College: about 100 students in a lecture hall, on tiered seating on three sides of the room, notebooks and digital devices like iPads at hand, while a professor stood in the well of the room, looking up at some of the young people seated above him.

The subject matter seemed a serious one. Discussion revolved at first around “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Harriet Beecher Stowe’s seminal anti-slavery novel that became a bestseller in the 1850s as the United States moved ever closer to civil war. “That was a time of growing division,” the professor said. “How different is our country today?”

In this case, though, it was early July, and the professor, Ilan Stavans, was wearing shorts and no shoes; as for the students, they looked a little young to be in college. They were, in fact, high school students, from their mid-to-late teens and from across the country and overseas, who had come to Amherst to do something not usually associated with summer camps: read.

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