lifelong learning

UW Alumni Book Club

Personal stories, timely topics, transformative fiction… Let’s dig into some amazing books together! All curious readers are welcome at the UW Alumni Book Club.

Together, we read a book about every two months. Choose just one or all five — whatever works for you.

The free online forum has suggested timelines and prompts for online discussion. Join us for special events that take the conversation to the next level!

“So often we think of reading as a solo activity, but with discussion it improves and elevates the experience.” —Marilyn Conover Watt, ’76, ’81

Now Reading:


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

Reading period: March 18–May 20, 2023

For our next selection, UW Alumni Book Club is partnering 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

Get your copy:

UW Alumni Book Club readers can save 10% on “The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise.” Use code UWAAIYER in-store and at (UWAA members: this discount DOES combine with your Pack Rewards discount for a total savings of 20%!)
*Some restrictions apply; visit for full details. Coupon code must be given to cashier to receive discount in-store; non-Pack Rewards members receive a 10% discount with this coupon code. Valid through May 20, 2023, in-store and at

More to explore:

Readers’ Voices 

Thurs. April 6  |  3–5 p.m. PST  |  online

The PBC Book Club forum is our online hangout, where readers can log in and discuss the book day or night.  Amy Goodloe, ’12, our longtime book chat moderator, hosts a live chat session on April 6 from 3-5 p.m. PT.  You’re invited to keep sharing your insights and observations about travel, philosophy, and more throughout the reading period!

Pico Iyer: In-Person and Online

Tues. May 2  |  7:30 p.m. PST
Town Hall Seattle and Online

Pico Iyer is coming to Seattle Arts & Lectures! Be there in-person or online to hear this prolific author speak about his newest work, “The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise.” Author Ruchika Tulshyan will lead the Q&A. UWAA members enjoy discounted tickets. UW Alumni Book Club readers can get their discount code in the online forum.

Coming to Town Hall Seattle for this event? Stop by the UWAA table in the lobby! Meet Kate Rickard, Director of UW Alumni Tours, and discover how you can learn about the world through our amazing travel program. Amy Goodloe, ’12, our friendly book chat moderator, will also be at the event to provide your literary fix. See you there!

Campus Connections

Throughout Spring  |  Online and In-Person

Does “The Half Known Life” make you want to explore the world? The UW can connect you to deep thinkers and amazing performers from around the globe through their online and in-person events! We’ve highlighted a few favorites below, but the events calendar has even more to choose from.

  • Fatoumata Diawara: Experience the captivating stage presence of one of Africa’s most vital musicians!
    Sat. April 15 at 8 p.m. PT  |  Meany Hall — Katharyn Alvord Gerlich Theater
  • Visions of the Katsura Imperial Villa: Ken Oshima discusses the architecture and gardens of this cultural treasure of Japan.
    Wed. April 19 at 7 p.m. PT  |  Online and at Gowen Hall  
  • Embosquecerse: This international collaboration explores new relationships with nature as dance melds with forest sounds.
    Wed. May 17 at 7:30 p.m. PT  | Meany Hall — Katharyn Alvord Gerlich Theater

Plan Ahead:

Reader’s Choice: “The Overstory” by Richard Powers

Reading Period: May 27–July 29, 2023

Dianne Harris, Dean of the UW’s College of Arts and Sciences, suggested three of her favorite books for our summer read. The readers’ votes landed on “The Overstory.” This novel presents interlocking fables about people who learn to see the world from the trees’ point of view. Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction!

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

Reading period: Oct. 14–Dec. 16, 2022

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

Reading period: Jan. 6–Mar. 10, 2023

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

Share Your Book Ideas!

Have suggestions for upcoming book club titles?
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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