Common Reading 2015
Questions to Consider:
(taken from the Penguin Common Reading Resource Guide)
1. If you were offered the cure, would you accept it? Why? Why not?
2. Isaac Asimov once stated, "The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom." Given humanity's propensity for violence and inability to prevent inequality and oppression, would a cure for aging allow human beings to evolve and solve such persistent problems, or would it exacerbate them?
3. How does the unique structure of the narrative, constructed through blog posts, affect the reader's interpretation of the book? If the story was told in a more traditional fashion, would the reader perceive the narrative differently? Why? Why not?
4. Consider the various relationships that John has with other characters throughout the book. How do these relationships contribute to, or detract from, his growth as a character?
5. "Because they're all getting divorced. All of them. Every banker and hedge fund guy in this town is looking for a way out right now. And if they aren't looking for a way out, their wives are" (Magary 35-36). How does this cultural trend influence how John manages his intimate relationships? In reality, given the discovery of a cure for aging, do you think most married people would seek divorce? Why? Why not?
6. "I'm just looking for a gracious exit. A way back to your mom. And here it is. A tumor. A big, fat, lovely tumor. I could kiss the damn thing" (Magary 150). How does John's father's attitude about death contrast how others in the book perceive it?
7. "Test results for a 'home version' of the cure for aging produced by pharaceuticals giant Pfizer have been 'massively successful'...A single-injection version of the vector could be ready for the general public as soon as next year" (Magary 171). Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of such easy access to the cure. Would such a substance need to be tightly regulated, or would regulations undermine corporate profits and restrict something that citizens should be able to conveniently obtain?
8. "No one ever figured out how many people perished or how the fire began. No one cared. That's how cheap life is now. We get a surplus, and we burn it off" (Magary 195). Locate other examples of devalued life in The Postmortal. If the cure for aging were discovered in our would, would most people appreciate life more or less? Defend your answer.
9. "People are endangering the entire planet simply by sitting there and being. What I am doing is providing the only jolt of reality left. Everyone thinks they can't die now. Well, they can. And they will" (Magary 199). What motivates the different extremist grops mentioned in The Postmortal? Are any of their actions justified?
10. If you could ask Drew Magary one question about The Postmortal, what would you ask? Why?
Journal Assignment for Writing Classes -A Reading Journal assignment with prompts for every chapter of The Postmortal. Contributed by Sara Clark
Fact Sheet Assignment for The Postmortal - These fact sheets serve as an informational base to frame the public debate.
Contributed by Kevin Kondik
The Postmortal concepts/lessons/resources related to sustainability.
Contributed by David November
Profile Assignment - Addressing themes of the fear of death and aging and the dream of eternal youth.
Contributed by Luke Schlueter
History of Medical Cures Essay Assignment
Contributed by John Rasel
The Postmortal Value Line - A dynamic and inclusive way to engage students in cross-discipline discussions.
Contributed by Bridget Kriner
Exploring an Issue through Multiple Voices - Practice Magary's technique of exploring an issue/event from multiple perspectives.
"It's as if I haven't lived at all." - Responding to self-portraits in The Postmortal
Making the Most of Longer Lives - A summary/response assignment
Poetry and The Postmortal - A poetry writing assignment
Contributed by Lorrie DiGiampietro
Making connections between The Postmortal and "The End of Food" - Discussion and Essay Assignment
Contributed by Athena Merickso
Textual Analysis and Compare/Contrast Essay Assignment
Contributed by Amy Cruickshank
Visualizing The Postmortal through Ads- Discussion questions and mini-writing assignment that explore the values of a Postmortal culture.
Contributed by Rachel Kazmier
Immortalists Writing Prompts - Explore this featured documentary film through cross-discipline writing prompts. On-campus film showings can be found on the "EVENTS" tab.
Re-Imagining The Postmortal - Get involved in the college-wide event, where students reimagine a particular aspect of The Postmortal through a different medium. For more information about this special event, visit the "EVENTS" tab.
**NOTE TO FACULTY: For additional assignment ideas and other in-class activities, view the Faculty Postmortal LibGuide
Great Pacific Garbage Patch Overview. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"The Promise and Challenge of Aging Research." The President's Council on Bioethics. 2002.
"Should We Live to 1000?" by Peter Singer. Project Syndicate. 10 Dec 2012.
"10 Secrets of the Anti-Aging Industry." Market Watch. 13 Feb. 2014.
"This Old Man: Life in the Nineties "by Roger Angell. The New Yorker. 17 Feb. 2014.
"In Pursuit of Longevity, a Plan to Harness DNA Sequencing" by Andrew Pollack. The New York Times. 4 Mar 2014.
"Could a Pill Slow Aging? Geneticist David Sinclair Thinks So." Slate. July 2014.
"Enjoy Reality, Reject the Expensive Anti-Aging Fantasy" by Sidney Wolfe. The New York Times. 23 Oct. 2014.
"Science (and Quacks) vs. the Aging Process" by Tracey Samuelson. The New York Times. 18 Nov. 2014.
"Rate of Environmental Degradation Puts Life on Earth at Risk" by Oliver Milman. The Guardian. 15 January 2015.
Excerpt: The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America. Ai-Jen Poo. 2015.
"Starving for Wisdom." The New York Times. 16 April 2015.
“Medicine Shows Growing Potential to Repair and Regenerate Body Parts: Stem Cells and 3-D printing hold promise for sight restoration and organ replacement” by Diane Cole. The Wall Street Journal. 31 May 2015.
“How to Make the Most of Longer Lives: Scientists are pushing to extend our lives. But are we ready to fill those added days?” by Marc Freedman. The Wall Street Journal. 1 June 2015.
For additonal resource and study guides, view the Student Postmortal LibGuide.
The Longevity Genes Project at the Institute for Aging Research, Yeshiva University.
The Immortalists trailer
The Fountain of Youth. TED Radio Hour. 22 May 2015.
David Suzuki Speaks about Overpopulation. YouTube. 2010.
5Gyres.org (Overview of the plastic problem in our oceans)
SENS Research Foundation