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Common Reading Program Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement

WSU Selects Braiding Sweetgrass as Next Common Reading for Students

Cover of the 2022-23 common reading book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

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,

WSU Common Reading Offers Exam Copies of New Book to Faculty for Classes, Programs

Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation. Edited by John Freeman.

PULLMAN, Wash.—Requests from faculty are now being accepted for digital exam copies of Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation, the 2021-22 common reading book, said Karen Weathermon, director of First-Year Programs, of which the Common Reading Program is a part.

“Anyone considering using the book for courses or programming aimed at students is encouraged to complete the online request for a digital exam copy,” she said.

» More …

WSU’s Next Common Reading Is ‘Tales of Two Americas,’ edited by John Freeman

Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation. Edited by John Freeman.

PULLMAN, Wash.—The Washington State University Common Reading Program has announced the 2021-22 book to be used by first-year and other students in classes and beyond is Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in Divided Nation, edited by John Freeman.

Electronic desk copies will be made available soon to faculty who might wish to incorporate topics from the book into their courses.

Selection by the Provost

Each year since 2007, a volunteer committee reviews book nominations submitted by the university community. Its top choices are sent to the provost and executive vice president for a final selection. Provost Elizabeth Chilton, who joined WSU in August, chose Tales of Two Americas.

“This book’s topic is critically important, and every student at WSU should have the opportunity to join the 36 contemporary writers in examining life in a deeply divided America,” she said in a letter to Karen Weathermon, director of the Common Reading Program.

» More …

WSU Common Reading Selects as Next Shared Text Comedian Trevor Noah’s Book Born a Crime

Book cover for the 2020-21 Common Reading "Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood," by Trevor Noah.

PULLMAN, Wash.—The Washington State University Common Reading Program has announced that the 2016 book by television star and comedian Trevor Noah, titled, “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood,” will be used as the 2020-21 shared read for students.

The book describes several of Noah’s experiences growing up as the son of a white Swiss father and black Xhosa tribe woman under an apartheid government. At the time, being of mixed races in that country was illegal. That was the basis for the book’s title.

“This selection will provide a rich field of topics from which the Common Reading Program will draw for year-long classroom discussion, programming, and guest expert lectures,” said Karen Weathermon, director. “The book will provide a platform for examining issues of inequalities as they occur in a variety of different contexts as well as issues of race, identity, family, and the power of storytelling.”

» More …

WSU Common Reading Book Refuge Focuses on Global Refugee Policy

Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World, by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier.

Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World, by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier.Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World, by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier.Pullman, Wash.—The book selected as the Washington State University common reading for first-year and other students in 2019-20 is Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World, announced Karen Weathermon, director of first-year programs in WSU Undergraduate Education.

Refuge will be used at the Pullman, Tri-Cities, Spokane, and Global campuses. Published in 2017 by Oxford University Press, it co-authored by Oxford alumni and professors, Alexander Betts, 39, a political scientist, and Sir Paul Collier, 70, a development economist.

» More …

Screening of “He Named Me Malala” film hosted by WSU Common Reading April 18

The Washington State University Common Reading Program presents an encore screening of the award-winning documentary “He Named Me Malala” Tues., April 18 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Todd 116. The public is welcome at this free campus event.

The 2015 film directed by Davis Guggenheim is an intimate portrait of Malala Yousafzai, author of this year’s common reading book for WSU students titled I Am Malala. Yousafzai is the youngest recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize, awarded for her efforts speaking out for women’s education in her home country of Pakistan. To stop the schoolgirl’s work, she was shot by the Taliban, but survived to carry on with her campaign and her own education.

» More …

Sci-fi, dystopian novel Ready Player One selected as 2017-18 common reading for five WSU campuses; non-fiction Spare Parts chosen by WSU Vancouver

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University has announced that two books are the 2017-18 common readings for thousands of students in first-year courses: Ready Player One, for Pullman, Tri-Cities, Spokane, Everett, and the Global Campus; and Spare Parts, for WSU Vancouver.

Both award-winning books were nominated soon after the call went out in September from the WSU-wide Common Reading Selection Committee. Its 14 members read and evaluated 34 books in total, all of which align with the program’s two-year theme of “frontiers of technology, health, and society.” Members recommended three finalists in February to WSU Provost and Executive Vice President Daniel J. Bernardo for the final selection.

» More …

WSU common reading becomes system-wide shared initiative for 2016-17

PULLMAN, Wash.—What connects two books, six campuses, dozens of faculty from diverse disciplines, and thousands of first-year students at all Washington State University campuses?

Answer: the institution’s common reading program, or programs, to be precise.

While student learning and engagement has benefited for more than a decade thanks to common readings, the upcoming academic year will see more collaboration and cohesion among efforts at multiple campuses.

“Common reading programs across the WSU system have long had many touchpoints with each other in terms of books and programming, but we are embarking on an initiative for 2016-17 that represents a very focused, shared initiative,” said Karen Weathermon, program co-director at the main campus and director of First-Year Programs.  “This is an evolutionary milestone that we believe will have even more impact on students and their education.” » More …

WSU Common Reading Book for 2013-14 is “Being Wrong” by Kathryn Schulz

PULLMAN, Wash.—The Washington State University Common Reading Program announces that the book selected for 2013-14 is “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error,” by journalist Kathryn Schulz.

“We are quite pleased that President Floyd chose ‘Being Wrong’ as the next common reading for our students,” says Susan Poch, co-director of the Common Reading Program and head of the selection committee, and associate dean of the University College. “It is a most interesting inquiry into the multitude of subjects surrounding human errors and our perceptions of them.

“Our selection committee this year studied 30-plus books nominated by the WSU community and ultimately had a field of three finalists. Provost and Executive Vice President Warwick M. Bayly, who typically makes the final selection, was on leave at the time, so our president chose the book. We commend the nominators, the committee, and President Floyd for their efforts on behalf of our students.”  [http:/]

Student Paula Tilson, serving on the selection committee, was enthusiastic about the book, which will be used in several courses for first-year students.

“It’s very readable for freshmen and I think they will want to read it,” says the junior accounting major from Olympia. “Coming in from high school, they will find they are expected to perform at a higher level in college and they think they have to be right all the time. But the sooner they learn there’s no way for them to be perfect all the time when it comes to academics, the better. This book will help them realize they can learn from their mistakes and build on that. And not to give up after being wrong but deal with it and work to improve.”

The other two finalist books are “The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water,” by Charles Fisherman, and “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight about Animals,” by Hal Herzog.

“Being Wrong” was nominated by Adam Williams, administrative manager in the Dept. of Entomology, who first heard it favorably cited by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Upon learning it was chosen as WSU’s next common reading book, he said he was pleased and that it will stimulate critical thinking in readers.

What does he hope students get out of the book? “I’d like students’ take away to be that, for any number of reasons, it’s OK to be wrong and recover from it. It’s humbling sometimes, but a way to get grounded as they go on into the world.  I hope students view error differently from this book and use experiences as growing opportunities to promote open perspectives.”

Common Reading Co-Director Karen Weathermon organizes the Common Reading Tuesdays guest lecture series that provides information and insight from thought leaders and researchers from the WSU as well as the external community.  At weekly events, these experts present topics related to subjects raised in each year’s common reading book.  She also works with faculty who are teaching courses as part of the Freshman Focus learning community.

“’Being Wrong’ presents an interesting perspective on research, which is an important activity at our land-grant, top tier research university,” says Weathermon. “How we advance our understanding of all fields is by investigating the questions where we don’t have a full, complete, or ‘right’ answer.”

As in years past, desk copies of ‘Being Wrong’ will be available to Pullman faculty members who are considering using the book in with their courses, Weathermon says.  Those interested should contact her at for a copy.  They will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

CONTACT: Susan Poch, Associate Dean and Co-Director of the Common Reading Program, University College at WSU, 509-335-6037,

Karen Weathermon, Co-Director of the Common Reading Program, University College at WSU, 509-335-5488,

MEDIA: Beverly Makhani, Communications Director, University College at WSU, 509-335-6679,