What is NYU Reads?

NYU Reads brings the NYU community together around a single common reading, chosen by a University committee made up of faculty, student, and administrator representatives. Building on our undergraduate schools’ first-year reading programs, NYU Reads extends this dialogue beyond Welcome Week and opens it up to the entire University community.

In the 2020-21 academic year, NYU Reads programming will span across both semesters and will focus on two books, the first one in Fall 2020 and the second in Spring 2021.

Fall 2020: Just Mercy

Just Mercy cover image

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (2014) is our NYU Reads selection for Fall 2020. Bryan Stevenson is a professor of criminal justice at NYU School of Law and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). Since 1989 the EJI has provided legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons. Stevenson’s memoir Just Mercy, a film version of which was released in 2019, is both an account of his work with the EJI and a testament to the urgent need to challenge racial and economic injustice and to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable members of society. In the words of NYU Journalism Professor Ted Conover, writing for the New York Times Book Review, "The message of this book, hammered home by dramatic examples of one man’s refusal to sit quietly and countenance horror, is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made.” (This New York TImes article is also available in NYU Library databases.)

Spring 2021: Exit West

Exit West - by Mohsin Hamid

Riverhead Books, 2017

Exit West: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid (2017) is our NYU Reads selection for Spring 2021. Exit West tells the story of a young couple, Nadia and Saeed, whose escape from their war-ravaged city turns into a global odyssey thanks to a series of secret portals that whisk them away to unknown destinations. Their story opens up questions about borders, migration, love and loss, what it means to be human or a citizen, what it means to be part of a community, and what home means in multiple and shifting contexts. Our hope is that reading Exit West will prompt both new and continuing NYU students to reflect on their journeys to this point in their lives---from adapting to a new environment and finding community, to confronting ideas and experiences that challenge their worldview and shape new aspirations. And for all members of the NYU community, Hamid’s novel provides a vantage point from which to reflect on this particular moment in human history as we grapple with disruptions to our everyday lives.


Just Mercy and Exit West are thoroughly engaging books; they may, however, hit close to home for several readers. Just Mercy includes accounts of racism, racial injustice, violence against Black people, capital punishment, and violent crimes. Exit West contains a few descriptions of wartime violence in Nadia and Saeed’s home country. If you need emotional support while reading, or if you have concerns about reading a book in which such experiences are depicted, professional counselors are available to talk 24/7 through the Wellness Exchange hotline at 212-443-9999 or to chat through the Wellness Exchange app (available in the Apple App Store or Google Play).

How can I get copies of Just Mercy and Exit West from NYU Libraries?

For First-Year Students: By when should I have read the book?

Events and discussions will be taking place in the fall and spring semester, respectively. We recommend taking time this summer to read Just Mercy, before your school’s orientation. Similarly, you should plan to read Exit West over winter break, before the start of the spring semester. 

Past Events

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NYU Writes

November 18, 2019

An evening showcasing the world-class authors of the NYU Creative Writing Program. Jonathan Safran Foer, Terrance Hayes, Yusef Komunyakaa, Nick Laird, Sharon Olds, and Zadie Smith read from recent works of poetry and prose. Hosted by program director Deborah Landau.

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Panel on Inequality and Bias

November 25, 2019

This year’s NYU Reads selection raises compelling questions about access and belonging. Questions explored by a panel of distinguished NYU faculty who work in the areas of bias, poverty, and inequality in relation to education, health care, social policy, and diversity and inclusion. 

Panelists include Stella Flores, NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; Robert Hawkins, NYU Silver School of Social Work; Jonathan Morduch, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; and Eileen Sullivan-Marx, NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. The panel is moderated by Lisa Coleman, Senior Vice President for Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation.