WSU Selects Braiding Sweetgrass as Next Common Reading for Students

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University has selected as its 2022-23 common read for first-year and other students the book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Cover of Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Published in 2013 by Milkweed Press, it features essays that convey scientific knowledge as well as indigenous lore and reflections on subjects such as the relationship between humans and the land, sacred traditions, agriculture and land use, environmental threat and regeneration, climate change, and more. The book is divided into five sections: planting, tending, picking, braiding, and burning sweetgrass.

“I am very excited about the possibilities this selection offers in terms of topics, its utility across multiple disciplines, access, and connection with university initiatives and with our local region,” said Karen Weathermon, director of First-Year Programs, which includes the 16-year-old Common Reading Program.

WSU Provost and Executive Vice President and WSU Pullman Chancellor Elizabeth Chilton selected the book from four nominations submitted by an evaluation committee.  She said, “I think this book will dovetail superbly with our faculty cluster hire focusing on Native and Indigenous communities.”

“This beautifully written collection of essays addresses many topics that are of national and global interesting: ecology, climate change, sustainability, cultural heritage, and, most importantly, how do we know what we know?,” said Chilton.

“This book will be of broad interest across many disciplines in the arts and sciences, and connects directly to our land-grant mission and our collaboration with Tribal Nations in the State of Washington.”

About the Author

Robin Wall Kimmerer.
Photo by Dale Kakkak.

Kimmerer is described as a mother; scientist/botanist; author; enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation; Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in Syracuse, New York; and founder and director of SUNY ESF’s Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.

According to her website, “as a writer and a scientist, her interests in restoration include not only restoration of ecological communities, but restoration of our relationships to land.” She earned a B.S. in botany from SUNY ESF, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in botany from the University of Wisconsin.  In 2015, she addressed the general assembly of the United Nations on the topic of “Healing our Relationship with Nature.”

Her first book is the award-winning Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses.

Book, Weekly Updates Availability

Weathermon said that the book is available at no cost to all students, faculty, and staff thanks to WSU Libraries’ license for unlimited ebook access to the publication. Users can simply download the book.

Weathermon said that faculty should contact her if they wish to be on a weekly email distribution list for common reading events and opportunities throughout the year.

Three Additional Nominations

Every year since 2007, a volunteer committee review book nominations submitted by the university community. Its top choices are sent to Chilton for a final selection. The other books sent to Chilton for consideration this year are:

  • Klara and the Sun: A Novel, by Kazuo Ishigura, a story about an artificial friend
  • Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, by Adam Grant, which explores intelligence as the ability to think and learn—and rethink and unlearn
  • Resetting the Table: Straight Talk About the Food We Grow and Eat, by Robert Paarlberg, which offers a look at the changing worlds of food and farming

Common Reading Program

Braiding Sweetgrass will be used during the sixteenth year of the Common Reading Program at WSU. Each year, first-year and other students use topics from a shared book in classes across several disciplines, sparking discussions with professors and among students and building a community of learners. In this current year, 2021-22, the book Tales from Two Americas has allowed the program to host and partner with 19 other units across the university to host 92 events or exhibits that have carried common-reading credit. Students could typically select from three-to-five events per week to enhance their knowledge relating to book topics.

Media contacts: Karen Weathermon, Director, Common Reading Program, part of First-Year Programs, 509-335-5488,

Beverly Makhani, Director, Communications and Marketing, WSU Division of Academy Engagement and Student Achievement, 509-432-3430,