Summer Reading

At Lafayette, we try to find a book selection that will introduce you to conversations either already occurring on campus or that we plan to have in order to orient you into our intellectual community. This summer’s reading focuses on extinction – a theme that will be woven into the 2014-2015 school year through a myriad of presentation, gallery installations and speakers.

The book chosen is Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. You may purchase the book from local or online booksellers. During orientation, you will meet in small groups with a faculty leader to discuss the book.

See below for a description of Kolbert’s book found on

A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes

Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind’s most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.


Class of ’19, We Want to Tell the World about You!

Contact Us

Christopher Selena
Assistant Dean of Advising & Co-Curricular Programs and Director - ATTIC
(610) 330-5080

Paul J. McLoughlin
Dean of Students