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Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again
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Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  82 ratings  ·  33 reviews
The idea of reliving youth is a common fantasy, but who among us is actually courageous enough to try it? After surviving a deadly cancer against tremendous odds, college president Roger H. Martin did just that--he enrolled at St. John's College, the Great Books school in Annapolis, Maryland, as a sixty-one-year-old freshman. This engaging, often humorous memoir of his sem ...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published January 18th 2010 by University of California Press (first published September 2nd 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 154)
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Beth G.
I love quirky memoirs about people taking on a possibly-ridiculous adventure. Couple that with my ongoing fascination with St. John's and its Great Books program (the college counselor back at my high school told me to apply, but I didn't), and this book seemed tailor-made for me.

Alas, it was disappointing. After surviving a dramatic battle with metastatic melanoma, Martin decides to take a sabbatical from his position as College President at Randolph-Macon and enroll at St. John's as a freshman
Bonnie Irwin
Part memoir, part treatise on the value of the liberal arts, Racing Odysseus takes us into the freshman experience at St. John's, through the eyes of a man old enough to be the father (almost grandfather) of his classmates. The author, president of Randolph-Macon, does what all college presidents should do for a while, step into student shoes. This book is a nice complement to the more anthropological study, My Freshman Year. One thing that is readily apparent from reading both books is that the ...more
Kellie Porter
If I hadn't gone to St. John's, I don't think I would have made it through this book.
This book was a small disappointment to me. When I read the book jacket, I got very excited. When I was a high school senior applying to colleges, I heard about St. John's College and its Great Books program. It wouldn't have worked for me at the time, but I thought then, and still think now, that, if I had the financial freedom and no family responsibilites, this would be a dream experience. I wanted to be vicariously pulled into the St. John's experience here, but I wasn't.

The book is not as
I liked this book and I didn't like this book. I didn't like this book because most of it is dedicated to the author trying to relive his glory days as an athlete, and that wasn't why I picked it up. Also, it weirded me out a little about how interested he was in hanging out with teenagers. I didn't think he was a dirty man, but I wanted to think he was.
Dr. Martin is a college president who after overcoming life threatening cancer decides to enroll as a freshman at St. Johns which is a liberal
Dec 25, 2011 Susan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers interested in liberal arts education
Shelves: non-fiction
The long-time president of a small liberal arts college, Roger Martin spends a semester of his sabbatical at another small liberal arts school, auditing a freshman class and rowing on an eight-person team. The school he visits is St Johns College, the so-called "Great Books" school, and the class he audits is the freshman seminar, reading Homer, Aeschylus, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato and other Greek classics. In the process, he explores memories of his own freshman year of college and his recen ...more
this book was a disappointment.
while it was fun to revisit some of my favorite college haunts through the eyes of another, i simply found it too great a stretch that someone thinks they could get the freshman experience at sjc by just taking seminary and participating in crew. martin acknowledges that he missed out by not taking freshman chorus, but really he missed out by not participating in the bulk of the freshman program. euclid's geometry and studying greek are just as important to the fre
I liked this book overall as I am an English Lit girl. I would have loved to hear more about St. Johns College and definitely wish I had known about this college when I set out to get my degree. I felt the author wasn't as immersed into St. John's as a "real" student in that he couldn't participate in classes and I felt it left out information about what it was really like to be a student there. It seems to me the author couldn't give an accurate account without being a real student. I found it ...more
I was fascinated to learn more about St. John's and its Great Books education but struggled to find the point of this book. For one semester, Roger Martin enrolls in one seminar - as an observer, not a participant - and lives off campus with his wife. The bulk of his "freshman experience" appears to be going out for crew and trying to form relationships with other students, which, when successful, consist of him being in the role of father confessor or mentor. College freshman he is not!

I know that my reading of this book was influenced by the fact that I know the author. My husband works at the college where Dr. Martin was president. I am glad to hear what happened during Martin's sabbatical.

I wish I had known about Great Books colleges when I was choosing my undergraduate education. I may not have gone to this type of college, but I didn't even know they existed.

I am glad to know more about St. John's College and the semester that Martin spent there. I think his time was used
I gave it a three because of my personal excitement about learning about the Great Books and St.Johns. I feel obliged to warn others that the author's description of his experiences going out for crew slow the pace of the book and tend toward redundancy. While I love the idea of the student-athlete and encouraging young adults to embrace the life of the amateur excitedly, the author's personal narrative was just that - a narrative, far from engaging. His role is simply as an observer and when he ...more
It’s not a new premise as far as retired college professor, etc passing on life lessons, dealing with terminal illness, but what I liked about the book is how Roger Martin is never condescending and also how he expresses his insecurities. I could also relate to the book a little bit, even if it is from the opposite perspective. He has to get
along with 18 year olds; in my writing group, I have to communicate and hold my own with people who are double my age and older. I enjoyed the discussion of
I remember hearing about St John's when I was a senior in high school, and again after I transferred. I think maybe I was too intimidated to apply - although, I was pretty cocky at the time, so that seems hard to believe in retrospect. This was a good read for me - gave me an insight into what I had missed out on by not applying. Had I applied, and been accepted, I think I would have done very well in that environment. I didn't really learn how to study until college, but, in a lot of ways that ...more
Caleb Taylor
College presidents are usually just used car salesman/lobbyists wiht PhDs, but this one is cool.
Lee Ann
This is a book everyone should read!!!!!!!!!
I've always been curious about St. John's College in Maryland, where the curriculum draws solely from the "Great Books" canon. This memoir, by the 61-year-old past president of Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, details his semester attending the school as a freshman after having endured cancer treatment. I enjoyed the book; it was a fast read. The author shared his own high school and college experiences throughout the book, and describes the St. John's experience well.
This is a great memoir on a unique college (one of the CTCL), through the interesting perspective of a 62 year old college professor, enrolled at St. Johns as a freshman. St. Johns has a set curriculum (no majors or minors, everyone takes the same classes) which focuses on the Great Books. It's a very small liberal arts college, and Martin's interesting perspective in this book shed light on the academic ad social aspects of life at the school. Great school, great book.
Jeremie Arthur
An interesting account of a college president who survives a cancer scare and elects to revisit the college experience by attending St John's College and taking part in its Great Books curriculums. The author's interactions with students, while sometimes awkward, are interesting and as someone who appreciates the intellectual rigour of the Great Books curriculum, I found this book to be quite interesting.
Nov 02, 2008 Judith rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Judith by: library
This is an intellectual's dream. For those who love Great Books and can't get enough you'll want to read this book.
I think every senior in high school should check this out before choosing college. And all the baby boomers can get a feel for both sides of the coin. It's a clean book. The author also took up a sport that he never tried and seeing him pursue it with the curriculum helping him through was so fun.
"My own feeling is that in an era of increasing specialization and vocationalism, we still need the kind of generalists who founded our country more than two hundred years ago, people who have an appreciation for the complexities and interrelatedness of society, the courage to ask difficult and penetrating questions, and the inquisitiveness to seek intelligent and innovative answers."
A great memoir of a semester spent at awesome St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland. Martin unfortunately spends a bit more time writing about his exploits in rowing than the many facets of a St. John's education but still a wonderful book about a wonderful school and about going back and reliving youth and the trials and exploits faced by all college students.
Margaret Sankey
Martin reacted to a cancer scare by going on sabbatical as a college President and signing up as a freshman at St. Johns (notable for its Great Books curriculum and required sports). He is attempting to make the case for the virtues of liberals arts, but also comes off as a self-indulgent old guy.
This book shares the experiences and inner thoughts of a college president from Virginia who enrolled for a year as a freshman at a college in Maryland. This book was interesting and made me want to go back to college myself, although that was not the author's intent!
Back to St Johns. I wasn't an Annapolis attendee, but I've been there. Maybe a prospective student or alum would read it -- unfortunately that narrows the audience down to a couple hundred.
Unexpectedly inspiring and revealing. I am always a sucker for literature illuminating life experiences, but this touched something very personal.
Somewhat facilely written, I expected both better writing and more insightful thoughts from a Ph.D and college president. Easy to pass over.
ej cullen
Reading about St. John's (Maryland) itself, and its academic mission was interesting. The rest of the book is surprisingly pedestrian.
Lorri Culhane
My 16 year-old son has some interest in St. John's College Annapolis so I think I will read this to see what it is all about.
An interesting story about an experiment by a college president, but did not quite meet my expectations. A quick read.
Cute story! Not spectacularly well-written but he does a good job of telling the tale. A quick read.
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