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 2021–22
Exit West: A Novel
By Mohsin Hamid
Finalist for The Booker Prize
10 Best Books of 2017, The New York Times Book Review
Winner of The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and The Aspen Words Literary Prize
“A breathtaking novel ... [that] arrives at an urgent time.”—NPR
“It was as if Hamid knew what was going to happen to America and the world, and gave us a road map to our future ... At once terrifying and ... oddly hopeful.”—Ayelet Waldman, The New York Times Book Review
“Moving, audacious, and indelibly human.”—Entertainment Weekly, “A” rating
A New York Times bestseller, the astonishingly visionary love story that imagines the forces that drive ordinary people from their homes into the uncertain embrace of new lands.
This book aligns with Smith’s themed Year on Democracies.READ A Q&A WITH THE AUTHOR IN THE GATE
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.
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
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.