Humanities Reads

Faculty teaching courses in the humanities, or courses with a central humanities-related component, are invited to consider adopting this year's common humanities text as part of their assigned reading and discussion material.

2014-2016 Selection

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

This year's common book for the Humanities Reads series is Leslie Jamisons's collection of essays, The Empathy Exams (2014), a winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and named in Publisher’s Weekly Top Ten Essay Collection of Spring 2014.

 Jamison explores questions about how we understand each other, excavating human experiences to reflect on the significance of pain, empathy, and embodiment. Jamison draws on her own experience of working as a medical actor, paid to act out symptoms for medical students, to expose the deep-seated human need and desire to feel. The result is a volume that covers everything from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, reality television to incarceration, with Jamison elucidating powerful insights about the human experience along the way.

 On Thursday, November 19th 2015, Leslie Jamison will be on campus at Drake University to read and speak as part of the Susan Glaspell Writers and Critics Series. Mark your calendars for what promises to be a rich and engaging evening.

 The Center has purchased copies of the Humanities Reads selection for use in classrooms and discussion groups. Faculty interested in making use of these books during Fall 2015 or Spring 2016 should email


Past Humanities Reads books have included:

  • Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks
  • George Saunders's In Persuasion Nation
  • Phoebe Gloeckner's Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace.
ArtSci News
August 23, 2016
Lisa West, associate professor of English, is one of several faculty members across different universities participating in a scholarship and pedagogy project designed to re-integrate little known authors and out-of-print texts into the classroom.