Cornell's incoming undergraduate class in fall 2007 will explore themes of identity, personal responsibility, human freedom and cultural and class differences in Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer's 2001 novel "The Pickup." The 2007 selection for the annual New Student Reading Project was announced by Michele Moody-Adams, Cornell vice provost for undergraduate education.
Set in post-apartheid South Africa, the novel centers on the relationship between a wealthy South African woman and an illegal Muslim immigrant she meets when her car breaks down. The novel challenges our ideas about who is a cultural "insider" or "outsider," and invites readers to reflect on the role of religion, importance of family and conflicts between responsibility and the satisfaction of human desire.
"The Pickup" has been widely recognized as an accomplished work of contemporary fiction. It was recently selected as a featured book for discussion by the Great Books Foundation, was awarded the 2002 Commonwealth Writers' Prize and was included on a shortlist for the 2001 Man Booker Prize.
Gordimer's book was chosen from a list of nearly 100 candidates submitted for consideration by faculty, administrators, students, alumni and others. From these, Moody-Adams compiled a shortlist of five books that also included Charles Darwin's "The Voyage of the Beagle," Jonathan Haidt's "The Happiness Hypothesis," Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies" and "The End of Poverty" by Jeffrey Sachs.
Cornell's annual reading project began in 2001 with Jared Diamond's nonfiction book "Guns, Germs and Steel." Incoming students are sent copies of the selected book to read over the summer, and campuswide discussions and related events engaging students, faculty and staff take place starting in August.