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Graphic is the Carolina Summer Reading Program Logo

Information about the 2003 Carolina Summer Reading Program will be available in early April.


The Carolina Summer Reading Program is designed to introduce you to the intellectual life of Carolina. Required of all new undergraduate students (first year and transfer), it involves reading an assigned book over the summer, writing a one-page response to a particular subject, participating in a two-hour discussion, and sharing your written response with others. The goals of the program are to stimulate discussion and critical thinking around a current topic, to introduce you to academic life at Carolina, to enhance a sense of community between students, faculty and staff, and to provide a common experience for incoming students. Some find they enjoy sharing the reading with members of their family during the summer.

This year's reading is Approaching the Qur'án: The Early Revelations, translated and introduced by Michael Sells. Although the summer reading is required, if any students or their families are opposed to reading parts of the Qur'án because to do so is offensive to their own faith, they may choose not to read the book. These students should instead complete their one-page response on why they chose not to read the book.

On Monday, August 19th, from 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m., all students are expected to attend and bring their one-page response to their small group discussions led by selected faculty and staff. This is an opportunity for you to connect with members of Carolina's learning community and to share a common academic experience with your new peers. Students can learn more about completing the written assignment and preparing for these discussions by referring to the Assignment and Study Questions sections of this website.

Anyone interested in finding out about previous book selections, may refer to the Other First Year Initiatives section of this website.

The Book

Photograph of the book cover Approaching the Qur'án: The Early Revelations, translated and introduced by Michael Sells, consists of thirty-five suras, or short passages from the chief holy book of Islam, that largely focus on the experience of the divine in the natural world and the principle of moral accountability in human life. Easily accessible to any college-level reader, these suras are poetic and intensely evocative, beautiful meditations, comparable in many ways to the Psalms of David and other classics of world literature. This book includes a CD with recitations in Arabic from the reading.

Michael Sells, the editor and translator of Approaching the Qur'án, is a distinguished professor of religion at Haverford College. A widely published author and highly regarded expert on Islamic literature, Sells provides clear translations of the original Arabic, brief commentaries on each sura, and a concise introduction to the Qur'án's literary and historical context. Relying on this material, students and discussion leaders from all backgrounds will need no additional preparation for discussing this edition.

Westerners for centuries have been alternately puzzled, attracted, concerned, and curious about the great religious traditions of Islam. These feelings have been especially intense since the tragic events of September 11. Approaching the Qur'án is not a political document in any sense, and its evocation of moral "reckoning" raises questions that will be timely for college students and reflective adults under any circumstances. The Carolina Summer Reading program is especially happy to offer a book of enduring interest this year that also offers the Carolina community an appropriate introduction to the literature and culture of a profound moral and spiritual tradition that many of us now wish to learn more about.

Purchasing Information: Approaching the Qur'án (White Cloud Press, © 1999, pp. 220) may be purchased at the Bull's Head Bookshop (Student Stores Building) for $16.46 plus tax (a 25% discount). You can order a copy from the Student Store's website with any major credit card. This book will also be available at early C-TOPS and TSOP sessions.

The Author

Photograph of Michael Sells (reprinted with author's permission)

Related Resources

Photograph of Qu'ran, dated 1828, from Persian Qajar Dynasty (permission to reprint granted by the Ackland Art Museum)

Related Events
Study Questions
Islamic Culture
New Students' Convocation Keynote Address
Related UNC-Chapel Hill Courses
Opportunities for Research

Other UNC-Chapel Hill First Year Initiatives

First Year Initiative Theme Housing
First Year Seminars
2001 Carolina Summer Reading Program
2000 Carolina Summer Reading Program
1999 Carolina Summer Reading Program

Resources for Book Discussion Leaders

Guidelines for Discussion Leaders
General Pointers for Leading Book Discussions

The Carolina Summer Reading Program developed from recommendations made by the 1997 Chancellor's Task Force on Intellectual Climate to improve the first-year student orientation experience. For more information about the Carolina Summer Reading Program, read the program overview.

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