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Summer Reading

Ramapo College has a summer reading program that is academically linked to the First-Year Seminar (FYS) course. Students read the book over the summer and come to campus prepared to discuss the book with their FYS classmates. They will also be assigned an essay question in their FYS class based on the book that asks students to exercise their critical thinking skills, their reasoning and analytical thinking skills, and their writing and communication skills.

The book is selected by a committee composed of students, faculty, and staff from the Ramapo College community. Committee members use selection criteria to ensure that the book that is chosen will:

  • Have a strong relation to Ramapo’s mission and/or strategic plan
  • Have literary merit
  • Demand appropriate academic rigor

    The Personal Librarian

  • Be engaging
  • Have a subject that will cause students to “stretch”
  • Present an underrepresented perspective

The 2024 FYS Summer Reading Book

The 2024 summer read is The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. The book will be featured in the Opening Convocation on September 3, 2024.

Ramapo College Celebrates Good Writing!

2023 Essay Winners with Drs. Grace M. Cho and Yvette Kisor

Past Essay Winners

Past essay winners:

  • Class of 2027: Demiana Ghattas, Sarah Glisson, Ryan Grompone
  • Class of 2026: Marina Gannon, Stefanie Viera, and Emma Wunder
  • Class of 2025: Aafnan Alam, Anne-Marie Daly, and Giovanna LaMonica
  • Class of 2024: Danielle Bongiovanni, Bobby Ciarletta, and Solie Kang
  • Class of 2023: Danielle di Pentima, Caitlin Kovacs, and Matthew Wikfors
  • Class of 2022: Gabriela Buniowska, Khalisah Hameed, and Taisei Miles
  • Class of 2021: Ashley Francis, Jessica Ryan, and Lauren Storch
  • Class of 2020: Natalie Dahl, Gunnar Hopson, and Rachel Loia
  • Class of 2019: Jose Carrillo, Amie Wuchter, and Scott Yunker, Jr.
  • Class of 2018: John Distefano, Victoria Tommasulo, and Matthew Earl
  • Class of 2017: Nathaniel Birrer, Emily Aurora Boyle, and Josephine Han
  • Class of 2016: Steven Bunin, Jennifer Paldino, and Max Zerbian
  • Class of 2015: Melanie Ciandella, Thomas Colella, and Jonathan Mangel
Fall 2023 Essay Contest: Deadline was August 13, 2023

Fall 2023 Essay Questions

Tastes Like War: A Memoir tells both Grace Cho’s personal story of growing up as a mixed race child in a rural community and imagines the experiences of her mother as a Korean immigrant who struggles with mental illness. What aspects of the story resonate the most with you?


Through her mother’s experiences, Grace Cho explores the effects of the Korean War and the cultural experiences of mental illness, all through the lens of food. How does the author conduct this research and what argument does she make about these historical realities?

Contest Parameters:

1) Make sure to reference the summer reading in your essay. You may use supporting evidence from other sources, but your primary source should be Tastes Like War.

2) Please consider the context of critical thinking when writing your essay.

3) Essays will be judged based on use of text, effectiveness of reflection, and use of supporting evidence.

4) Please limit your response to 1000 words to help us ensure that all submissions receive fair evaluation.

5) All work must be your original contribution.

6) All essays must be received by August 13th, 2023 at 5:00 PM. The three winning essays will be announced at the Opening Convocation.

7) Entries must be submitted to Prof. Yvette Kisor, Director of First-Year Seminar, by attaching your essay to an e-mail message and sending it to this address:

8) Please send your essay as a Word (.doc or .docx) or PDF file. You will receive an email acknowledgement of your submission.

Good luck!

Suggest a Book for the Next Summer Read

If you’ve read a book that you believe is a “must-read” for new students, please click on the button below and let us know! We’re always open to good suggestions.

Summer Read Suggestion Form

Previous Summer Reads
  • Fall 2023: Tastes Like War: A Memoir by Grace M. Cho
  • Fall 2022: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
  • Fall 2021: Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
  • Fall 2020: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  • Fall 2019: The Rent Collector by Camron Wright
  • Fall 2018: The Leavers: A Novel by Lisa Ko
  • Fall 2017: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
  • Fall 2016: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
  • Fall 2015: Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Héctor Tobar
  • Fall 2014: Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey To Reunite with his Mother by Sonia Nazario
  • Fall 2013: Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us by Andrew Keen
  • Fall 2012: American Nerd: The Story of My People by Benjamin Nugent
  • Fall 2011: Lies my Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
    by James Loewen
  • Fall 2010: Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
  • Fall 2009: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow
  • Fall 2008: The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier
  • Fall 2007: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  • Fall 2006: Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
  • Fall 2005: Reading Lolita in Teheran by Azar Nafisi
  • Fall 2004: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn