“The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr will be the 2012 summer reading book for incoming students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A nine-member selection committee of students, faculty and staff selected the book from six finalists. Students on the committee described “The Shallows” as being able to bring the growing necessity of technology to attention.

Kevin Stewart, associate professor in the department of geological sciences and chair of the committee, said that “The Shallows” was relevant to the lives of many people today.

“The book causes the reader to think critically about how and why technology, particularly the Internet, has shaped our lives and the way that we think,” he said.

New students who will enroll next fall are expected and encouraged to read the book this summer and participate in small group discussions on the Monday before classes start in the fall. The program, now in its 14th year, aims to stimulate critical thinking outside the classroom and give new students intellectual common ground. An academic icebreaker, it encourages students to engage with the scholarly community and come to their own conclusions about the material.

Nicholas Carr (photo by Ian Churchill)

“The Shallows” (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010) describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind” and how our brains, revealed through historical and scientific evidence, change in response to our experiences.

The book was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction and for the 2011 PEN Center USA Literary Award for research nonfiction.

The other five finalists were “The Big Sort” by Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing; “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer; “Half the Sky” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn; “It Happened on the Way to War” by Rye Barcott; and “Garbage Land” by Elizabeth Royte. The committee considered fiction and nonfiction, although the finalists were all nonfiction

Since it began in 1999, UNC’s program has featured “There Are No Children Here” by Alex Kotlowitz; “Confederates in the Attic” by Tony Horwitz; “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadiman; “Approaching the Qur’an” by Michael Sells; “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich; “Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point” by David Lipsky; “Blood Done Sign My Name” by Timothy B. Tyson; “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri; “The Death of the Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions” by Sister Helen Prejean; “Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights” by Kenji Yoshino; “A Home on the Field” by Paul Cuadros; “Picking Cotton” by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton; and “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer.

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