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.

2013-2014 Selection

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This year's common book for the Humanities Reads series is Rebecca Skloot's work of recent historical journalism, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010). In it, Skloot traces the lineage not only of Lacks herself—a working-class African American woman who died, at the age of 31, in Baltimore, of cervical cancer—but also of the tissue samples and cell cultures that were collected from her body during treatment and have been used ever since for medical experimentation. Skloot's book raises questions of racial and gendered subjugation as well as scientific, economic, medical, and journalistic ethics.

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 2013 or Spring 2014 should email

Depending on demand and availability, faculty may be asked to schedule the use of the book in their courses to allow for text-sharing between sections.

Past Humanities Reads books have included:

  • George Saunders's In Persuasion Nation
  • Phoebe Gloeckner's Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace.
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