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The Boom is the 2015-2016 Penn State Reads Book

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The Boom, How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World, by Russell Gold, Senior Energy Reporter for The Wall Street Journal

In a world of growing energy consumption and diminishing resources, hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") has become an increasingly prominent method for extracting energy from the planet we live on. In The Boom, Russell Gold tells the story of the rise of fracking and discusses its implications for society, communities, and how we will find, and pay for, resources to satisfy the world's energy needs. The Boom will challenge your perspective on energy and help you consider the critical questions of powering our future.

Read more about The Boom on the author's website


Introduction to The Boom from Professor Terry Engelder

Essay contest for first-year students

Penn State Reads invites first-year students to participate in an essay contest in order to further engage with the themes of the 2015 Penn State Reads selection, The Boom by Russell Gold. Responses to one of the prompts will be judged based on connection to the Penn State Values, a demonstrated ability to think critically about the prompt, responsiveness to prompt, literary style and grammar. The top two submissions will be displayed on the Penn State Reads website. Winners will receive a prize of a $100 Amazon gift card as well as the opportunity to meet Gold when he is on campus October 12-14, 2015. Responses should be no longer than 1,000 words and can be submitted as an attachment to by the deadline of September 11. First year-world campus students are also invited to submit an essay to the contest.

Additional guidelines:

  • One-inch margins, Times New Roman, 12 point font, 1,000 word maximum, and double spaced
  • Essays should be entirely original pieces responding to one of the following prompts
  • Cover page: Include name, creative title, prospective major, Penn State email, phone number, and essay prompt number selected

Essay prompts:

  1. In the book, Gold mentions a number of personal stories, anecdotes, and vignettes about people who have had personal contact with fracking and its impacts. What do these stories mean for discussions about the benefits and drawbacks of hydraulic fracturing? To what extent should personal anecdotes and experience influence your thinking about broad social issues? What are the ethical implications of incorporating these stories into your thoughts about social issues?
  2. Energy independence is defined as when "...the US economy and foreign policy could no longer be manipulated by countries that sell us energy (p. 162)." Is the US currently energy independent? Are there other definitions you might use (and if so, what are they)? Why would energy independence be a desirable goal? What evidence would you use to support your position?


Help Choose the 2016/2017 Penn State Reads Book!

Penn State Reads is looking for volunteer readers to help screen books from our shortlist for the 2016/2017 common text selection. Readers close to the University Park campus can pick books up in 417 Old Main or on the 5th floor of Paterno Library. Readers across the commonwealth should contact their local campus' library to help them find the books. After reading any (or all!) of the eight books on the short list, be sure to fill out the survey to let us know what you thought!