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2007-2008 Penn Reading Project—
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
May 8, 2007, Volume 53, No. 33

The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Provost, the Council of Undergraduate Deans, and the Office of College Houses and Academic Services (CHAS) are pleased to announce that Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals will be the text for the 2007-08 Penn Reading Project (PRP). On the afternoon of Sunday, September 2, 2007, groups of first-year students and faculty leaders will join together to discuss the book as part of New Student Orientation for the Class of 2011.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma confronts what its author terms a “national eating disorder” that we have so many choices–and those choices can be so important to our health, and so emotionally fraught—that every meal can be a source of anxiety. Michael Pollan confronts this anxiety by exploring the history of four different meals, from the origins of their ingredients through preparation and consumption. The journey of these four meals takes us from farms to laboratories, from hunting grounds to fast food restaurants.

Structurally, one might describe The Omnivore’s Dilemma as a book about economics and nutrition; Mr. Pollan often weighs the actual cost of food against the long-term costs, both financial and physical, of our health. But it is equally a book about American history, agriculture, anthropological traditions, and psychology. In fact, Penn professor of psychology Dr. Paul Rozin originally coined the term “the omnivore’s dilemma.” The breadth of the book’s subject matter lends itself ideally to the PRP. CHAS plans to follow up with additional programming on the subject of food and its place in our culture.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma was one of The New York Times’ Best Books of 2006. Michael Pollan’s previous books include The Botany of Desire (2001) and A Place of My Own (1997). His writing on food and agriculture has received numerous commendations, including the James Beard Award. Mr. Pollan is the Knight Professor of Journalism at the University of California–Berkeley. For more information about the author and his book see: www.michaelpollan.com/omnivore.php.

PRP, now in its 17th year, was created as an introduction for incoming freshmen to academic life at Penn. Past PRP books include Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, The Quiet American (Greene), Things Fall Apart (Achebe), Candide (Voltaire), Metamorphosis (Kafka), The Woman Warrior (Kingston), Frankenstein (Shelley), Arcadia (Stoppard) and The Tipping Point (Gladwell). Information about the Penn Reading Project and its history can be found at: www.collegehouses.upenn.edu/prp/.

Faculty Discussion Leaders

Faculty members in all 12 schools are invited to take part as PRP discussion leaders. A copy of the text will be sent to discussion leaders and students in July, along with additional information about the Reading Project.

For more information, and to volunteer as a leader, contact: David Fox, director, Penn Reading Project, (215) 573-5636, dfox@english.upenn.edu.

Almanac - May 8, 2007, Volume 53, No. 33