‘The Boom’ chosen as Penn State Reads 2015-16 common text

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. —  “The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World” was chosen as the common book for the 2015-16 Penn State Reads program, a collaborative initiative for first-year students at University Park and other campuses that choose to participate.

The 2015 incoming Penn State class will join “Boom” author and Wall Street Journal senior energy reporter Russell Gold in exploring the rise of fracking in the U.S., how it impacts everyday citizens, where energy will come from in the future and what price it may cost.

“Fracking is an issue very relevant to Pennsylvania communities, and we thought it would be good to engage students, faculty and staff about something that’s going on right within our home state,” said Barry Bram, special assistant to the vice president of Student Affairs, who co-chairs the program with Jackie Edmondson, associate vice president and associate dean for Undergraduate Education. “Penn State Reads provides a shared reading experience to help facilitate conversation, connection and understanding among the University community, and we’re excited about branching out into a different direction in terms of a non-fiction science book next year. Fracking itself could touch upon almost every discipline at Penn State, so we’re eager to engage a large swath of the University.”

Past books include “Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times,” by Eyal Press for the 2013 program and “Americanah,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in 2014.

Administered by Undergraduate Education, Student Affairs, the University Libraries and the Office for Student Orientation and Transition Programs, the common reading program is in its second year and runs complementary to Penn State’s New Student Orientation. It supplies each first-year University Park campus student with a copy of the chosen book to provide a shared experience and aims to encourage intellectual engagement within and beyond the classroom, stimulate critical thinking and foster a deeper connection to Penn State’s mission and core values.

Concepts that are introduced at New Student Orientation over the summer are further explored during Welcome Week and beyond into students’ first year at Penn State. Events based upon the book’s themes, including a visit by the author, will be planned throughout the 2015 fall and 2016 spring semesters.

Gold, who has been recognized as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a recipient of the Gerald Loeb Award for his work, has traveled to fracking sites across the country to conduct thousands of interviews with individuals working in and impacted by the fracking industry and sifted through many engineering reports, lawsuit transcripts and financial filings. Bram said that Gold has a personal connection to the topic because his grandparents have land in Pennsylvania not too far from Penn State and were approached by a big oil company to turn it over to be fracked.

To choose each year’s common text, the Penn State Reads steering committee calls for University community members to nominate books. Once the nominations are narrowed to a short list, volunteers are asked to read the final selections and complete short surveys on their impressions of the books to be used in the final book selection.  Any member of the Penn State community can nominate a book by emailing pennstatereads@psu.edu.

“Everybody who read the book found it to be very balanced. We don’t foresee it as a book that articulates an argument in favor of or against fracking in general,” Bram said, adding that the selection committee vetted the book and its author through some faculty members in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. “It’s a book based on facts that allows readers to make some of their own decisions about the benefits and drawbacks of fracking.”

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Last Updated November 17, 2014