What is Smith Reads?
Smith Reads is a first-year reading experience for all students new to Smith College. This includes first-year students, Ada Comstock Scholars, and visiting and transfer students. The program consists of three essential components:
- Reading the assigned text before your arrival at Smith
- Attending the guest author’s speaking engagement
- Participating in the in-house discussion of the reading
The Smith Reads Selection for 2022-23
The Book of Form and Emptiness: A Novel
By Ruth Ozeki
A brilliantly inventive new novel about loss, growing up, and our relationship with things, by the Booker Prize-finalist author of A Tale for the Time Being.
“Inventive, vivid, and propelled by a sense of wonder.” —TIME
“If you’ve lost your way with fiction over the last year or two, let The Book of Form and Emptiness light your way home.” —David Mitchell, Booker Prize-finalist author of Cloud Atlas
“Ozeki writes with great compassion and insight about love and loss…” —The Guardian
Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction
“No one writes like Ruth Ozeki—a triumph.” —Matt Haig, New York Times bestselling author of The Midnight Library
Ruth Ozeki, ‘80 is Professor of English Language & Literature and Grace Jarcho Ross 1933 Professor of Humanities.
Why Smith Reads?
Smith Reads enables new students to consider the college’s essential capacities, which are designed to guide your education. Close readings enhance the attributes we espouse as a liberal arts college, where we value critical thinking, respectful conversation, attentive listening and articulating ideas and thoughts.
Reading closely and deeply serves as a tool—a means—not an end in itself. Reading prompts participants to reflect on their own background, beliefs and experience. Engaging in reading with others provides all readers with a commonality to anchor further conversation.
While books comprise the basis of most first-year reading experiences, other forms of “texts,” such as paintings, photographs, film, poetry and works of art are also considered valuable as potential and future reads.
As a community initiative, Smith Reads operates so that all incoming students:
- are provided with a shared intellectual experience upon their arrival at Smith
- may engage in a facilitated conversation about topics of intellectual, social and/or ethical significance with their house peers
- are offered an opportunity to read and personally interact with critically acclaimed authors, scholars and artists can interact immediately with Smith faculty and teaching staff invested in their learning
The first-year reading program at Smith has been in place since 1999. Since its inception, the program’s mission has been predicated on the awareness that co-curricular activities are vital to a student’s overall academic success and residential experience. Following is an abbreviated history of past books for Smith Reads.
Exit West, Moshin Ahmid
Educated, Tara Westover
How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate, Andrew Hoffman
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler
The Book of Unknown Americans, Cristina Henriquez
A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
The Collapse of Western Civilization, Naomi Oreskes
Whistling Vivaldi, Claude Steele
My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor
Dreaming in French, Alice Kaplan
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women, Nicholas D. Kristop and Sheryl WuDunn
The Green Collar Economy, Van Jones
Smith Reads Talks with Author Ruth Ozeki ’80
Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For the Time Being, was the Smith Reads selection for 2016. The book was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. For a glimpse of Ozeki's approach to writing and her work, enjoy the conversation featured below. This year, we read Ozeki again, with her latest, The Book of Form and Emptiness. Ruth Ozeki ’80 is currently the Elizabeth Drew Professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College.