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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 small group discussions of the reading

New to Smith Reads

On Cromwell Day 2022, the college announced that our Smith Reads program will collaborate with the Office of Equity and Inclusion in advancing their mission toward improving and enriching the educational work and experiences of everyone in the Smith community.

To that end, we anticipate that our choices moving forward will offer keen insight into the discrepancies of our everyday world and support OEI’s mission of opening hearts, minds and systems.

2023 Smith Reads Selection

The Book of Delights

by Ross Gay

Please join us in reading Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights (2019) our Smith Reads selection for fall 2023. Gay’s “Book” is considered “An altogether charming and, yes, delightful book,” (Kirkus Reviews)

From the Publisher: The New York Times bestselling book of essays celebrating ordinary delights in the world around us by one of America's most original and observant writers, award-winning poet Ross Gay. The winner of the NBCC Award for Poetry offers up a spirited collection of short lyrical essays, written daily over a tumultuous year, reminding us of the purpose and pleasure of praising, extolling, and celebrating ordinary wonders.

Book cover for the Book of Delights by Ross Gay

Past Readings

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 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:

  • enjoy a shared intellectual experience upon their arrival at Smith
  • join a facilitated conversation about topics of intellectual, social and/or ethical significance with their house peers
  • interact with critically acclaimed authors, scholars and artists as well as with Smith faculty and teaching staff who are invested in their learning

Following is an abbreviated history of past books for Smith Reads.

The Book of Form and Emptiness, Ruth Ozeki

Exit West, Mohsin Hamid

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 ’80—award-winning author, filmmaker, Zen Buddhist priest, and Smith College professor of English language and literature—discusses her writing process; how Smith has impacted her life and career; and her latest novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness. The book has been awarded the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction, one of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious literary awards.

Contact Office of the Class Deans

College Hall 101
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-4915 Email:

If you have a suggestion, please submit a nomination for Smith Reads for Fall 2024.