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Each year, the faculty chooses a summer reading text to use as a common starting point for the next school year. Summer reading provides us an opportunity to look at University’s core values through the lens of different characters and stories. Students should come to school prepared to discuss the reading during Seminar Days and in their English classes during the first weeks of school.

Why This Book?

Sea of Tranquility spans 600 years. It begins in early 20th century Canada, travels to several moon colonies in the 23rd and 25th centuries, and ultimately wraps up in a version of the American Midwest where giant robots harvest farm crops and airship terminals move people between planets. The characters in it grapple with global pandemics, old-school colonialism, post-modern electronic music, time travel, and the quintessential science-fiction question of whether life is just a simulation. Throughout all this, they contemplate ways in which we can retain our individual humanity, compassion, and sense of purpose in a world that is both increasingly complex and also shockingly familiar.

Questions to Consider

  • This book covers centuries. What has changed about society over time in the novel? What has stayed the same?
  • At one point, a character in the novel tells Olive, “I was so confused by your book. There were all of these strands, narratively speaking, all these characters, and I was waiting for them to connect, but they didn’t ultimately.” Do you feel the characters in this book were connected in real ways? Why or why not?
  • Gaspery is determined to help Olive at great personal risk. Why? Would you make the same choice?
  • Are we supposed to see the events of the novel as corrupt files in a simulation? Or as a disruption to the time continuum because of Gaspery’s travels? Does it matter?
  • Are all cats time travelers?

Extra Opportunities

Here are some ways to build on the ideas of this book depending on your interests. Are you interested in…

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