Start your college education with a common reading experience.

For decades, the Core Program has asked incoming Oxy students to engage with a Summer Reading before they matriculate in the Fall. In assigning this common reading, our goals have been to stimulate discussion and promote critical thinking on topics of contemporary relevance; to help introduce students to the Mission of the College; and to provide a way for new students to connect with one another through a common intellectual experience. In recent years, the Summer Reading Program has joined with the Community Book Program to allow the entire Occidental community to participate. 

Book cover for Braiding Sweetgrass featuring a braid of sweetgrass

For 2023, we have selected Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Braiding Sweetgrass is about the role of Indigenous knowledge as an alternative or complementary approach to Western mainstream scientific methodologies. The book explores reciprocal relationships between humans and the land, with a focus on the role of plants and botany in both Native American and Western traditions. 

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. In addition to Braiding Sweetgrass, she is the author of  Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses . She lives in Syracuse, New York, where she is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology. She is also the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.

All first-year students will be expected to read Braiding Sweetgrass prior to the beginning of August. There will be discussions about the book during New Student Orientation. Students can request a free e-book by sending an email to; you’ll be sent a code allowing you to download your copy at no charge. 

Request a free digital copy of Braiding Sweetgrass.

Students can request a free e-book by sending an email to You will be sent a code allowing you to download your copy at no charge.

Past Summer Reading Selections

2022-23: Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha
2021-22: The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee
2020-21: "The Struggle For/The Struggle Against" - an online multimedia collection of texts
2019-20: "Race, racism, white supremacy and intersecting forms of oppression" - an online multimedia collection of texts
2018-19: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid 
2017-18: Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil 
2016-17: Chávez Ravine, 1949 by Don Normark
2015-16: The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
2014-15: The Speech by Gary Younge
2013-14: The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman
2012-13: The Barbarian Nurseries by Héctor Tobar
2011-12: Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 by Anna Deavere Smith
2010-11: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
2009-10: Angels and Ages by Adam Gopnik 
2008-09: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
2007-08: Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
2006-07: Flirting with Dan by Siobhan Darrow
2005-06: Carlo Santana's Supernatural (compact disc) and Robert Walser's "Popular Music Analysis: Ten Apothegms and Four Instances" (essay)
2003-04: Readings in the Liberal Arts, Summer 2003 (collection of essays) 
2002-03: Readings in the Liberal Arts, Summer 2002 (collection of essays)
2001-02: Human Values for Global Citizens: Readings in the Liberal Arts (collection of essays)

student reading on campus

The Community Book Program

Contact the Core Program
Johnson Hall

Room 115

Edmond Johnson
Director of Advising, Core Program Coordinator, Affiliated Faculty in Music
Office: Johnson Hall 108