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2021 Summer Reading

How we emerge from the pandemic-marked school years matters, and it is for this reason that we have chosen World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments for our 2021 summer reading. What World of Wonders does beautifully is remind us as we begin to reenter the world to look up, to look around, and to look for beauty. It allows us to see ourselves through the lens of nature, to think about what astonishments have been part of our lives and have marked our identities. It reminds us in its subtle way that we too are astonishing. 

Download the PDF guide to our 2021 summer reading. As a reminder, all students should plan to read this book before the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 16. 

A quick note about language in the book: In telling her stories as a multi-racial American, Nezhukumatathil recounts some examples of hate speech and racial slurs used against her and her family. University High School condemns the use of hate speech by our community members, but we recognize that such language can appear in works of academic merit such as this one.

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Questions to Consider As You Read

Here are a few questions to consider as you read World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments:

  • What wonders from the book stand out to you?
  • What little things bring you joy? What experiences in the world cause you to feel a sense of awe?
  • What did you love as a little kid? What did you talk about or collect or draw? How does that connect to who you are today? How do you imagine it connecting to the you of the future?
  • How do you personally connect with the messages in the book?
  • Has an experience with nature changed you, perhaps even how you view something?
  • If you were writing an essay about something in nature that resonates with you, what would you write about? How would you relate that aspect of nature to your own life?
About the Author

Aimee Nezhukumatathil (neh-ZOO / KOO-mah / tah-TILL) has four previous poetry collections, and her most recent chapbook is LACE & PYRITE, a collaboration of epistolary garden poems with the poet Ross Gay. Her writing appears twice in the Best American Poetry Series, The New York Times Magazine, ESPN, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, and Tin House.

Honors include a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pushcart Prize, a Mississippi Arts Council grant, and being named a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry. In 2021, she became the first-ever poetry editor for SIERRA magazine, the story-telling arm of The Sierra Club. She is professor of English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.