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

The 2020 FYS Summer Reading Book

The 2020 summer read is Exit West by novelist Mohsin Hamid. The book will be discussed in the Opening Convocation video released on Tuesday, 1st September.

Ramapo College Celebrates Good Writing!

Our summer reading essay contest has come to an end and produced three winning essays on Exit West written by Danielle Bongiovanni, Bobby Ciarletta, and Solie Kang. Each student winner received a $200 Amazon gift card as a prize. They were responding to the following questions:

Essay Question

Exit West tells the story of Saeed and Nadia as they flee the unrest in their country and must adjust to new places where they are not welcome. Reflect on your own experience adjusting to new places where you may not have felt welcome by referencing the experiences of the characters in Exit West.


Exit West explores issues around migration and the experiences of refugees. The novel uses the device of magical doors that can transport people through space. What is the effect of using this magical device in an otherwise realistic novel? What does Hamid gain through this innovation?

Below are excerpts from each of the winning essays from the class of 2024:

Danielle Bongiovanni

The doors demonstrate the world’s complicated relationship with aiding refugees, teach lessons about how humanity is defined by connections that override time and distance, and keep the plot from ever dragging in one setting for too long. Hamid’s doors remind readers that divisions cannot matter “in a world full of doors,” and though this reality may not contain the ones in his book, anyone is capable of creating their own version through a kind word, a brave act, or an open heart (114).

Bobby Ciarletta

The world changes rapidly and feels surreal. Pandemics surge, the natural world deteriorates, and conflicts displace people. Though normalized, these events are jarring to the individual. When militants cause war and disarray in Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exit West, opaque, otherworldly doors emerge everywhere. Therefore, people like refugees can escape and go anywhere, as disorderly as that is. Nadia and Saeed fall in love as they leave their city behind, and they encounter these doors along the way. Additionally, Hamid highlights doors and people outside the main plot. The doors serve to dramatize moments when people make decisions and life evolves; sometimes this is uplifting, while other times the doors show the more unfortunate realities about people and the world.

Solie Kang

In Exit West, Mohsin Hamid explores the lives of two protagonists, Saeed and Nadia, as they flee their war-torn country through magical doorways. Although these mystical passages allow the characters to transcend the physical boundaries of nations, the social division created through beliefs, ideals, and fear becomes an invisible border that limits the couple’s movements. As the characters confront expectations of their fracturing society, xenophobic attitudes towards migrants, and the unification of migrants of different cultures, I was able to reflect on my own experiences of proliferating racism as an Asian-American during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congratulations to our winners!

Class of 2023 Essay Contest Winners:

Danielle di Pentima, Caitlin Kovacs, and Matthew Wikfors

Past essay winners:

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

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 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