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Coastal freshmen stay Close to Shore with summer reading

July 9, 2004

Incoming freshmen at Coastal Carolina University have a summer reading assignment for the first time.

Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916 by Michael Capuzzo, is the big read that new freshmen have been assigned as a shared intellectual experience.

Author Capuzzo, will be the featured speaker in a lecture and reading on Thursday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. in Wheelwright Auditorium. Its free, and the public is invited.

Published in 2001, the book is a nonfiction account of the first shark attacks on an American vacation resort. In the summer of 1916, four swimmers were killed by a rogue Great White shark in a series of attacks along the Jersey shore, prompting civic hysteria and a massive shark hunt. The book combines a cultural history of early American tourism with a chilling, thrilling shark story.

The decision to assign the same book to incoming freshmen originated with Lynn Willett, dean of Student Affairs and Lynn Franken, dean of the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts, who felt that students would benefit from the reading experience and subsequent group discussions on Aug. 16.

Most forward-thinking universities have a common text, says Franken. Coastal students often gather together to socialize or attend sports events, she explains, but there is no shared intellectual pursuit built into the curriculum that an entire class can embrace as a group.

A selection committee read and considered a number of possible books before arriving at a short list, including The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, The Things They Carried by Tim OBrien and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.

Close to Shore, was suggested by English professor Nelljean Rice, who cited the books literary merit, its appeal to college age readers and its relevance in a summer beach resort setting. Rice will address Coastals first Freshmen Convocation on Aug. 15 at Brooks Stadium.

We're all very excited, says Franken. Were doing something new, we're starting a new tradition, and we're redefining the student cultural environment in a way that everyone should enjoy.