The graduating seniors of Wake Forest University’s Sigma Omega Chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honors society, will leave their mark in Tribble Hall in the form of a book. Last spring, the honors organization established a shelf in Ammons Lounge where graduating classes of Sigma Tau Delta can leave copies of their favorite books. Each book is inscribed with the contributing student’s name and an explanation of the book’s personal significance to the student.
Sigma Tau Delta President Matthew Schlosser said, “This project is a wonderful reminder of why studying literature is such a meaningful practice. One student explained how novels can allow us to ‘gain comfort in the universality that you are not alone,’ while other students noted how these texts encouraged them to reflect on their character, consider how they may tackle contemporary moral problems, or develop a greater sense of empathy for our world community. Regardless of the genre or author, each student explained that in one way or another, engaging with these books provided them a stronger sense of hope and purpose. Despite leaving these books in the Ammons Lounge for future students to enjoy, I know that our graduating class will continue to carry the lessons from each of these texts with us for the rest of our lives.”
Here are some of the selections from the 2019 Sigma Tau Delta graduates.
Adam Bede, by George Eliot
This was the first novel by George Eliot that I read in my Individual Authors course with Professor Pyke. It is special to me because of the way that Eliot wrote about community, empathy, love, and loss. Through Adam Bede, I learned how to love all aspects of human emotion and see others through a forgiving lens. Thank you Dr. Pyke for teaching me and making me want to become an English minor!
Margaret the First, by Danielle Dutton
I encountered this book at a difficult time in my college career. I loved the English major, but I was finding it hard to stay motivated and encouraged. I was so interested in the material, but I just couldn’t get there (wherever “there” is), you know? I was feeling discontent and discouraged. That’s when we reached Margaret the First in our syllabus, and I have never been more thankful. Dr. Hogan really outdid herself with this class. We were able to connect this contemporary text to the writings of Margaret Cavendish and explore the creativity of Danielle Dutton. It was a dream. I was inspired, and my hope in my work was restored. Things were looking up, and I can’t help but think that this book had something to do with it. I think people will be pleasantly surprised when they pick up this book, and they certainly won’t regret it.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott
The section “Shitty First Drafts” was important in helping me view writing as a process that can sometimes be messy. I had previously been under the impression that good writing just seemed to flow and come easily to writers. This particular section of Lamott’s book helped me realize that it is okay (and probably even necessary!) to put forth a rough draft that gets all your ideas out on the page, that is all over the place, and that takes risks. This was very uncomfortable for me to do at first, but I feel that my writing ability improved dramatically after I started following this advice.
Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
I read Mrs. Dalloway as a freshman, and I read this book again as a junior when I was studying abroad in London at the Worrell House with Dr. Claudia Kairoff. The themes and characters in Mrs. Dalloway resonated with me differently when I re-read it, and I realized that my changing perceptions of Woolf’s novel could help me gauge my personal growth as a student. I know I can always come back to Mrs. Dalloway and still feel captivated and challenged by Woolf’s characters.
King Lear, by William Shakespeare
I had the privilege of reading this text for a second time while studying abroad, and I was just as inspired as when I picked it up for the first time in high school. The play urges us to recognize that “Ripeness is all,” a reminder that because this life is all we have, we should endure through hardship and devote our energy to lifting up one another through whatever pain we may be experiencing. Despite being a tragedy, I’ve always found hope in the play’s depiction of moral exemplars who sacrifice their pride and comfort in order to fight for what’s right, a model for character that continues to inspire me to become a better citizen, leader, and friend.
Crush, by Richard Siken
I have turned to this book at some of the darkest moments of my life and I have always found solace inside its pages. This book acts like a friend opening its arms with acceptance. It allows you to feel your emotions alongside its pages and gain comfort in the universality that you are not alone.
Dubliners, by James Joyce
Joyce has a well-deserved rep for being a tough read but this one is tough to put down. Dubliners is a collection of short stories that illuminate everyday urban lives with complexity and depth. The stories moved me to empathy and self-reflection and I look forward to returning to them again and again.
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
I read Never Let Me Go during my Senior Seminar and subsequently wrote my thesis on the text. I was incredibly moved by the story and the main characters, Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth’s relationship with one another. Never Let Me Go is a dystopian novel that depicts human clones who are created to donate their organs to other young adults. The text grapples with very current issues. Ishiguro offers insight into the complex nature of friendships, the human condition, morality, and the role art can play in perpetuating oppression.