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Smith Reads

A selection of popular covers from books that were featured in the Smith Reads program

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 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

Smith Reads 2019 Selection

The Smith Reads selection for 2019 is coming soon. Stay tuned!

Why Smith Reads?

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. 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 long-form written texts (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

Smith Reads enables new students to consider the college's essential capacities that are designed to guide their education. Close readings of the chosen text enhance the attributes we espouse as a liberal arts college, where we value critical thinking, respectful conversation, attentive listening and articulating ideas and thoughts.

Smith Reads Talks with Author Ruth Ozeki ’80

Learn more about Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For the Time Being, which was the Smith Reads selection for 2016. The book was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Ruth Ozeki ’80 is currently the Elizabeth Drew Professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College.


Past Readings

  • 2018: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler
  • 2017: The Book of Unknown Americans, Cristina Henriquez
  • 2016: A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki '80
  • 2015: The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway
  • 2014: Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us, Claude Steele
  • 2013: My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor
  • 2012: Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, Alice Yaeger Kaplan
  • 2011: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
  • 2010: Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  • 2009: The Green Collar Economy, Van Jones
  • 2008: Native Guard, Natasha Trethewey
  • 2007: Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  • 2006: Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, Tracy Kidder
  • 2005: Kettle Bottom, Diane Gilliam Fisher
  • 2004: The Gangster We Are All Looking For, Lê Thi Diem Thúy
  • 2003: Atonement, Ian McEwan
  • 2002: Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich
  • 2001: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman
  • 2000: My Year of Meats, Ruth Ozeki
  • 1999: Respect, Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot