75 Books for CMC’s diamond year

Marycarmen Montarez ’22 holds open a book while sitting on a bench from Artist Chris Burden’s Meet in the Middle public art sculpture.

Marycarmen Montanez ’22 knows she can’t possibly read every book on her personal wish list.

CMC’s new 75 Books project certainly feels like the next best thing. 

As student manager of the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies, she’s thrilled to be leading a small student team on an ambitious adventure through the bookshelves of CMC students, faculty, staff, and alumni. For the project, the Gould crew is recording a series of one-minute video interviews with 75 different community members, to then be shared on the 75 Books Instagram account throughout the academic year. Each subject will reveal why a book has personal meaning or has left a significant impression on them. 

“I’m a big book nerd, so this project really speaks to me,” said Montanez, a psychology and history major from Anaheim. “There are so many books that I want to read, and I know it’s impossible to get to them all. But doing this project will help me learn more about books and how people have been impacted by them—which feels even more special.”

The inspiration for 75 Books came from religious studies professor Gary Gilbert, who thought “a celebration of books, the ideas they contain, and the influence they have had on human thought and experience” would be a great way to commemorate CMC’s 75th Anniversary. Philosophy professor Amy Kind, who directs the Gould Center, immediately knew it was the perfect opportunity for a student-led project at her research institute.

“It’s been so exciting and gratifying to see this project come together under Marycarmen’s skilled leadership,” Kind said. “She and her student team have been working so hard all summer to get 75 Books up and running, and I can’t wait to see the fruits of their labor. And I also can’t wait to see what books people choose!”

In addition to the videos, Montanez said she and her team plan to create more content to engage the wider CMC community, be it an online compilation of favorite book quotes or helpful synopses to add further context to recommendations. She also would like to host on-campus events that get students to talk about their favorite books together.

By the end of the academic year and the 75th Anniversary, she hopes that 75 Books will have helped the CMC community explore the uniquely personal relationship between a book and its reader; appreciate how books help us think critically; and gain a greater understanding of how books shape who we are, who we dream of becoming, and how we view the world and ourselves.

“A mutual appreciation and discussion of books is a great way to connect with someone,” Montanez said. “In the outreach we’ve already done, I’ve had the chance to learn more about our community—especially by talking to alumni and learning about what’s important to them. I really want this project to reflect the diversity of CMC, not just with current students, but throughout the years.”

The 75 Books student team includes Axel Ahdritz '22, Yaqin Zhang '23, Flora Li '23, Nic Burtson '24, Andrea Posada '25, and Fai Tangkaravakoon '25. Follow 75 Books on Instagram or visit their Gould Center page to watch interviews from the series.

Thomas Rozwadowski


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