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Alumni Education offers three community reading programs

"Discovering Dickens: A Community Reading Project" is just one component of a yearlong series of pilot programs known collectively as Stanford Reads.

Spearheaded by the Alumni Association, the programs are designed to connect Stanford graduates through the reading and discussion of common books.

"We've tried to figure out a program that allows alumni -- no matter where they are -- to stay connected to Stanford from an academic standpoint," said Holly Haley Knapp, director of Alumni Education.

But participation in Stanford Reads also is free and open to the public, Haley Knapp said.

The first program, "One Book," takes a look at Wallace Stegner's masterwork, Wolf Willow: A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier. The program includes a panel discussion scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 9:50 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, in Building 320, Room 105. The event is part of Stanford's Reunion Homecoming Weekend.

Stegner, an acclaimed novelist and founder of the university's Creative Writing Program, wrote the genre-crossing book -- it combines essay, memoir, history and fiction -- based on memories of his boyhood home in Saskatchewan, Canada.

The panel will be moderated by award-winning author Diane Middlebrook, professor emerita of English, and will feature Sharon Long, the Vernon R. and Lysbeth Warren Anderson Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences and the William C. Steere Jr.­Pfizer Inc. Professor of Biological Sciences; Nancy Packer, the Melvin and Bill Lane Professor in the Humanities, Emerita; and Kenneth Fields, professor of English.

An audio file of the panel discussion will be available Oct. 28 on the Stanford Reads web page (

The third pilot program, the online "Stanford Book Salon," was the brainchild of Middlebrook. "I occasionally get invited to speak at book salons, and I've been very interested in seeing how they work," Middlebrook said. "They're sort of a lifeline into a larger intellectual community."

The salon, which kicks off in January, features an online, threaded discussion. Like the other programs, it is free and open to the public. (To sign up, visit the Stanford Reads web page.) One book is designated each month for five months.

The reading list follows:

  • The Dive from Clausen's Pier, by Ann Packer ­ January
  • The Bondwoman's Narrative, by Hannah Crafts, ed. by Henry Louis Gates Jr. ­ February
  • The Book of Genesis (from the Bible) ­ March
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon ­ April
  • Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard ­ May

"The selections cover a range of genres, and each book was chosen both for its lively interest and its relevance to the Stanford context," Middlebrook said.

Middlebrook will join the online discussion, and readers' postings will remain archived on the website. At the end of each month, she will host a closing discussion in the Living Room of the Arrillaga Alumni Center. The discussions are free and open to the public.


By John Sanford

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