lifelong learning

2022–2023 UW Alumni Book Club Archive

Personal stories, timely topics, transformative fiction… We love to dig into amazing books together! Below is an archive of the books and related events from the 2022–2023 reading season. The UW Alumni Book Club is a collaboration between UWAA, the UW Libraries, the University Book Store — and passionate readers like you.

2022-2023 Reading List

Free Speech by Jacob Mchangama

Reading Period:
Aug. 5–Oct. 7, 2022

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Reading Period:
Oct. 14–Dec. 16, 2022

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

Reading Period:
Jan. 6–Mar. 10, 2023

The Half Known Life in search of Paradise by Pico Iyer

Reading Period:
Mar. 18–May 20, 2023

"The Overstory" book cover

Reading Period:
May 27–July 29, 2023

2022-2023 UW Alumni Book Club Archive

“Free Speech: A History From Socrates to Social Media” by Jacob Mchangama

We teamed up with our partners at UW Impact to delve into a very timely topic! From the lawyer and human rights advocate who brought us the “Clear and Present Danger” podcast comes “Free Speech: A History From Socrates to Social Media.” This debut book traces the first recorded glimmers of free speech in ancient history. Follow its progress (and setbacks) through conquests, revolutions and changing technology. Why has free speech so often has led to societal panic and brutal backlash throughout the course of history?

“A vivid, highly readable account of how today’s most pitched battles over free speech reflect tensions and impulses that are as old as history itself.”
― Suzanne Nossel

Recorded Event


“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley

We threw it back to 1818 — just in time for Halloween! “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus” is an acclaimed gothic novel with elements of both horror and science fiction. Behind the lumbering monsters and dramatic murders, Mary Shelley’s story has a deeply political and philosophical slant. What are the consequences when scientists are not willing to take responsibility for their creations? Who is the real monster here: the irresponsible researcher determined to play God, the strange creature reanimated on stormy November eve, or the society that universally responds to difference with fear and rejection?

“Learn from me… at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge.” —Victor Frankenstein

Related Readings

“The Book of Form and Emptiness” by Ruth Ozeki

We dove into the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2022! Awkward teenager Benny Oh starts hearing the voices of inanimate objects after his father’s death. The noisy clutter of his mother’s hoarding drives him to take refuge in a local library, where at least the books know how to whisper! This complex, offbeat and magical story will have you thinking about the roots of creativity — and the ways we try to fill the empty spaces in our lives — in all new ways.

““This tale of a mother and son finding their voices… is both deeply affecting and uplifting.” —The Guardian

Recorded Event and Related Readings

Book Cover: The Half Known Life, In Search of Paradise“The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise” by Pico Iyer

UW Alumni Book Club partnered with UW Alumni Tours to read the latest from acclaimed travel writer Pico Iyer. From mountain-tops to mosques, from remote beaches to silent cemeteries, what does it mean to search for paradise? The author has journeyed around the world for decades and written extensively about travel, history and philosophy. In “The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise,” Iyer explores ideas of where we might discover utopia. Weaving insights from his travels across Asia, Europe and Australia, Iyer looks for meaning in holy places and war zones alike. This is a surprising and lovely exploration of whether inner peace can be found in our earthly lives.

“In his guise of travel writer, Iyer has really been our most elegant poet of dislocation.” —The Guardian

Portrait of Richard Powers next to "The Overstory" book cover“The Overstory” by Richard Powers

Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction!
The tree under which you met your wife. The tree you planted when your child was born. The tree that reminds you of your family farm. The tree that, amazingly, saved your life. Nine unrelated characters (engineers and artists, college dropouts and war veterans…) all have a deep connection to their own personal trees. What would happen if fate pulled them together to protect forests on a larger scale? And how will their idealism hold up in the face of life’s harsh realities?

“This is a gigantic fable of genuine truths.”
–Barbara Kingsolver

Campus Connections

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Submit your ideas to our Book Club Suggestion Form.

Check out the books that have already been suggested.

The UW Alumni Book Club is a collaboration between UWAA, the UW Libraries, the University Book Store—and passionate readers like you.

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