Summary and response essay

Write a summary and response essay for ONE of the topics above

Directions: Before embarking on Essay #2, you’ll need to choose and read one (1) of the readings below as the basis of your summary and response. So have a look at them. You don’t have to read them all entirely (!) but I’d suggest that you at least read the first few paragraphs and scroll through each of them to get a sense of the length and subject matter. It’s always more fun to write about something that’s interesting to you.


NOTE ABOUT YOUR READING CHOICE: You’ll observe that the six readings on the list vary in terms of subject matter and length. Any one of them is acceptable for the assignment. Pick the one that is most interesting to you, and that will give you a good challenge without overwhelming you.

To help you decide, here is a bit about each one FYI:

A. “The Really Big One” by Kathryn Schulz – This article grabbed the attention of the entire Pacific Northwest when it was published in 2015. It’s about the massive earthquake and tsunami that our region is overdue for—something that was totally unknown to scientists just forty-five years ago. This piece, which won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Magazine Award, is a sobering and fascinating bit of science and culture writing.

B. “What it Takes to Put Your Phone Away” by Jia Tolentino – This 2019 piece from The New Yorker is an interesting combination of book review and personal narrative. It explores our relationships to our smartphones which clamor for our attention, often leading to regret and dependency. The article explores how social-media companies track our preferences and our personal data and then sell this to advertisers; it does so while reviewing a book on digital minimalism and another calling for resistance to the so-called attention economy. Anyone with an iPhone and a troubled mind will find this highly relevant.

C. “Offensive Play” by Malcolm Gladwell – With Super Bowl LV almost upon us, this is timely. Back in 2009, before the movie Concussion starring Will Smith and before the term C.T.E. (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) was widely known, Gladwell wrote this provocative article. It explores the dangers of head injuries in football, while comparing the brutality of the sport with the inhumane and illegal practice of dogfighting. People interested in sports, medicine, and popular culture might enjoy this.

D. “The American Indian Wilderness” by Louis Owens – This short but dense piece from 1994 combines both narrative and philosophy as the author seeks to challenge the prevailing American idea of “wilderness” which has been a staple of our cultural understanding since at least the 1960s. Those with an interest in American history, Native American studies, or nature will find something of importance here.

E. “Pets Allowed” by Patricia Marx – This article was published in 2014 about a topic the country has since become more familiar with: Emotional-Support Animals (E.S.A.s). Marx uses humor to make her point as she “test drives” five unusual animals—including an alpaca—through public places in New York City and beyond, illustrating the public confusion about laws regulating E.S.A.s and traditional service animals. Lovers of animals, and those who appreciate the power of pets to heal and console, will find this interesting.

F. “Christmas in Prison” by Kenneth E. Hartman – This 2014 article (a memoir, really) is written by a man who was serving life in prison without parole in California for murder. Hartman describes the lives of prisoners and suggests that the U.S. correctional system over the last three decades has become more and more dehumanizing. If you have an interest in criminal justice, psychology, or mass incarceration, this might be something you’d like.


Once you pick one, I’d suggest printing it out so you can annotate it — mark it up, highlight, make comments, underline, etc. — and so you can have a hard copy in front of you when you begin to write your essay.

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