January 27, 2022

The Book

The University of Mississippi‘s 2021 Common Reading Experience will focus on World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments,” a celebrated new collection of essays by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, UM professor of English and creative writing.

A New York Times Best Seller
Barnes & Noble 2020 Book of the Year
A Kirkus Prize Finalist for Nonfiction
A Southern Book Prize Finalist
An NPR Best Book of 2020
An Esquire Best Book of 2020
A BookPage Best Book of 2020
A New York Public Library Best Book of 2020
A Wall Street Journal Holiday Gift Pick for 2020
An Indie Next Pick, September 2019
A Publishers Weekly “Big Indie Book of Fall 2020”
A BuzzFeed Best Book of Fall 2020
A Literary Hub “Most Anticipated Book of 2020
A Ralph Lauren Summer Reading Recommendation
A Garden & Gun Summer Reading Recommendation
A Bustle “Best Book of Fall 2020
Named a “Most Anticipated Book of 2020” by The Millions
An Alma “Favorite Book for Fall 2020”
A Literary Hub “Recommended Climate Read for September 2020”
A Mpls.St.Paul Magazine Reading Recommendation for Fall 2020

As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted―no matter how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape―she was able to turn to our world’s fierce and funny creatures for guidance.
“What the peacock can do,” she tells us, “is remind you of a home you will run away from and run back to all your life.” The axolotl teaches us to smile, even in the face of unkindness; the touch-me-not plant shows us how to shake off unwanted advances; the narwhal demonstrates how to survive in hostile environments. Even in the strange and the unlovely, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world’s gifts.
Warm, lyrical, and gorgeously illustrated by Fumi Nakamura, World of Wonders is a book of sustenance and joy.

Previous Common Reading Experience Selections

2020 – What the Eyes Don’t See by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
2019 – Evicted by Matthew Desmond
2018 – Collected Stories by William Faulkner
2017 – Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
2016 – Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie
2015- The Education of a Lifetime by Robert Khayat
2014- The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Won World War II by Denise Kiernan
2013- The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education by Craig Mullaney
2012- Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
2011- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot