The 2021 UM Common Read is World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, UM Professor of English and Creative Writing. This celebrated collection of essays is available as an eBook through the University of Mississippi Libraries. You will need to log in with your Ole Miss Web ID and password to access the book.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of World of Wonders as well as of four books of poetry, including, Oceanic, winner of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award. Other awards for her writing include fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Mississippi Arts Council, and MacDowell. Her writing appears in Poetry, the New York Times Magazine, ESPN, and Tin House. She serves as poetry faculty for the Writing Workshops in Greece and is professor of English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.
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.
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