Past NYU Reads Selections
Fall 2021: Braiding Sweetgrass
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (2013) was our NYU Reads selection for Fall 2021. Braiding Sweetgrass is a remarkable collection of essays seeking to reconcile science with traditional cultural knowledge. The author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and is a Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where she also serves as Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. Woven together, the individual threads of Braiding Sweetgrass form a rich and lyrical meditation on our place in the natural world. Kimmerer’s book tells us how science and traditional cultural knowledge can complement each other as we strive to better understand the environment in which we live.
Spring 2021: Exit West
Exit West: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid (2017) was 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. 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.
Fall 2020: Just Mercy
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (2014) was 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.)
Fall 2019: Educated
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (Random House, 2018) was our inaugural NYU Reads selection in Fall 2019. It is the story of a woman who was raised in a survivalist family in rural Idaho and whose early instruction was not only informal but, in her own words, “erratic and incomplete.” Isolated from mainstream society, she stepped foot into a classroom for the first time at age seventeen and thereafter embarked on a quest for knowledge, teaching herself enough to be admitted to Brigham Young University. Though her first year of college was a challenge on several fronts, Westover succeeded in overcoming the gaps in her education and the difficulties of adapting to a starkly different environment: not only did she graduate magna cum laude from Brigham Young but she went on to earn a Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University. This remarkable and beautifully written memoir explores the transformative power of education; the impact of knowledge on an individual’s search for identity and self-expression; the experience of learning about difference, home, and the world; the pull of family ties; and the value of determination and resilience.
NYU Reads Event Recordings
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.
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.