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the water planet
the san marcos river
texas state aquatic resources

goodbye to a river
john graves
supplemental texts

2006-2007: protest & dissent
2005-2006: courage
2004-2005: hate

2007-2008 CE co-sponsors

Summer Reading Program: 2007-2008
The Water Planet: A River Runs Through Us

mission | book | pre-reading


Texas State University's new students are encouraged to read a critically acclaimed book over the summer and prepare to participate in campus-wide conversations on the book during the next academic year. Texas State's Reading Program joins similar programs at hundereds of universities and colleges in the effort to engage and prepare students for discussion both at the university and with members in the community.

The goals of University Seminar's Summer Reading Program are three-fold:

  • To create a "Common Academic Experience" for all new students,
  • To enhance students' participation in the intellectual life of the campus through discussion and critical thinking on a current topic, and
  • To enhance a sense of community among students, faculty and staff.

The Summer Reading Program initiative has the strong support of the University Seminar office, US 1100 Group Leaders, and Dr. Ron Brown, Dean of University College. As many departments and offices of the university as possible are invited to participate in the Common Experience. Each year US 1100 purchases 5,000 copies of the chosen Summer Reading Book to support the program.

The Book


As a theme for the Common Experience, the subject of water has particular relevance for our university. The unique, spring-fed San Marcos River that runs through campus is a constant visual reminder of the many dimensions and roles that water plays in our lives. The nexus of the Common Experience parallels this literal flow: it fosters students‚ confluent thinking where discovery in one area will lead them to discovery in another.

This year's selection, Goodbye to a River, is the story of John Graves' 1957 canoe journey down the Brazos River. The book is part history, part memoir, and part travellogue. Goodbye to a River, like many Texas narratives, uses the journey for structure, and the journey takes on symbolic significance as well. This journey is a personal process, a trip to recover a wanderer’s sense of history and place. By returning to places that have meaning, the persona-narrator demonstrates how one regains a rootedness that gives life meaning.

Graves explores themes and emotions that evolve from the relationship between humans and the natural world in the context of his trip down the Brazos River: how places have meaning, responsibility, solitude and community, innocence and experience, good and evil, humanity and inhumanity, conservation. Arguably the central theme in much of Graves’ work concerns how humans relate to and find value in nature. The relationship between humans and nature, particularly the significance of rivers, offers a relevant, challenging, and inspiring theme for the Common Experience.

The 2007-2008 Common Experience theme is The Water Planet: A River Runs Through Us.

Before Reading the Book: Information for Students

Contemplate what you are about to read; think about and make journal entries about such questions as these:

  • Have you ever heard anything about this book or its author?
  • What meaning does the title of the book evoke?
  • What impression does the picture on the cover make?
  • How does any information contained on the front or back of the book influence you?
  • How does the fact that the book has been assigned influence you?

To get the most out of this experience, follow the steps below:

  • Complete the assigned reading.
  • Critically read and think, taking notes on what interests or disturbs you, what you disagree with, want to challenge, or do not understand.
  • Complete the exercises and questions and reflect further on your thoughts and feelings in response to the same in a journal.
  • Meet in class (or discussion group) and participate fully in discussion (critical listening and articulating).
  • Write a journal entry that integrates your thoughts and feelings from the readings and group discussions.
  • Collect all your completed journal entries in a folder or portfolio as a record of your ongoing experience.

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