Honors One Read

Each year the Honors College selects an important book – fiction or non-fiction – as its One Read. The major theme or themes of the book then becomes the focal point of honors community activities, programming, and even courses and academic units of study, all intended to extend the discussions and the impacts of the ideas and lessons for our lives.

The impact of these works on our students and their academic performance cannot be understated; students have gone on to win awards with their essays based on these works and they have even changed their plans for academic study after coming into deep contact with the issues raised.


2023 Honors One Read:
Sequoia Nagamatsu, How High We Go in the Dark

In 2030, a grieving archeologist arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue the work of his recently deceased daughter at the Batagaika Crater, where researchers are studying long-buried secrets now revealed in melting permafrost, including the perfectly preserved remains of a girl who appears to have died of an ancient virus.

Once unleashed, the Arctic plague will reshape life on Earth for generations to come, quickly traversing the globe, forcing humanity to devise a myriad of moving and inventive ways to embrace possibility in the face of tragedy. In a theme park designed for terminally ill children, a cynical employee falls in love with a mother desperate to hold on to her infected son. A heartbroken scientist searching for a cure finds a second chance at fatherhood when one of his test subjects–a pig–develops the capacity for human speech. A widowed painter and her teenaged granddaughter embark on a cosmic quest to locate a new home planet.

From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead to interstellar starships, Sequoia Nagamatsu takes readers on a wildly original and compassionate journey, spanning continents, centuries, and even celestial bodies to tell a story about the resilience of the human spirit, our infinite capacity to dream, and the connective threads that tie us all together in the universe.

About the Author

Sequoia Nagamatsu is a Japanese-American writer and managing editor of Psychopomp Magazine, an online quarterly dedicated to innovative prose. Originally from Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay Area, he holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Southern Illinois University and a BA in Anthropology from Grinnell College. His work has appeared in such publications as Conjunctions, The Southern Review, ZYZZYVA, Fairy Tale Review, and Tin House. He is the author of the award-winning short story collection Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone and teaches creative writing at St. Olaf College and the Rainier Writing Workshop Low-Residency MFA program. He currently lives in Minnesota with his wife, cat, and a robot dog named Calvino.


One Read Honors Symposium (Required Event)

All incoming, first-year Honors College students are expected to read the selected book over the summer and attend the One Read Symposium during Welcome Week.


Extended One Read Course (GN_HON 1050H)

This seminar course is designed to allow first-year students the opportunity to read, think about, and discuss in greater depth the One Read selection for 2023: Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go in the Dark. Students will also have the opportunity to learn more about honors advising, studying abroad, applying for fellowships, and getting involved in research.
This course is open to all incoming freshmen but is required for those students receiving a scholarship through the Honors College.


One Read & Discord

Each week through June & July, we will be posting new discussion questions in the Discord. We will also have channels dedicated to any announcements and events surrounding the One Read.


One Read Essay Contest

Each year the Honors College supports and promotes deeper engagement with the One Read book through our sponsored essay contest, open to any first-year Honors student.

Essay Contest Gift Card Prizes

  • 1st Prize: $100
  • 2nd Prize: $50
  • 3rd Prize: $25
Previous One Read Selections & Essay Contest Winners
  • 2023: Sequoia Nagamatsu, How High We Go in the Dark, (William Morrow, 2022)
    • 1st: Maya Dawson
    • 2nd: Hannah Rice
    • 3rd: Roni Ogden
  • 2022: Kerri Arsenault, Mill Town, (St. Martin’s Press, 2020)
    • 1st: Lilley Halloran
    • 2nd: Brianna Iordan
    • 3rd: Michelle Woolridge
  • 2021: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Friday Black (Mariner Books, 2018)
    • 1st: Cam Bauman
    • 2nd: Emma McDougal
    • 3rd: Jacob Richey
  • 2020: Dr. Mona Hannah-Attisha, What the Eyes Don’t See (Random House, 2018)
    • 1st: Geoffrey Dean for “The Ignorant Roots of Flint’s Dirty Water”
    • 2nd: LeeAnn Nordstrom for “What the Eyes Do See: Civil Rights Abuse in Today’s Michigan”
    • 3rd: Bryson Ferguson for “The Silent Pandemic”
  • 2019: Rebecca Makkai, The Great Believers (Penguin Books, 2018)
    • 1st: Anna Nastasi for “Battle Scars”
    • 2nd: Morgan Erutti for “The Responsibility of a Legacy in The Great Believers”
    • 3rd: Annaliese Hermanson
  • 2018: Loung Ung, First They Killed My Father (Harper Perennial, 2001)
    • 1st: Allison Plogher for “Davi: Story of a Survivor”
    • 2nd: Alexandra Okeson-Haberman for “This is America”
    • 3rd: Rebecca Jackoway for “Thinking in Italics”
  • 2017: Louise Edrich, The Round House (Harper Perennial, 2013)
    • 1st: Carly Brown for “Tempering Passion”
    • 2nd: Samantha Smith for “Strong Women: On the Sidelines but Still in the Game”
    • 3rd: Karlee Adler for “The Morality of Characters in The Round House”
  • 2016: Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy (Random House, 2014)
    • 1st: Maxx Cook for “Just Mercy: A Prompt for Civil Discourse”
    • 2nd: Shoshana Dubnow
    • 3rd: Christian Cmehil-Warn for “Just Mercy: Dehumanization Exposed”
  • 2015: G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, Ms. Marvel: No Normal, v. 1 (Marvel Comics, 2015)

Planning & Symposium Committee

Those interested in joining the Planning and Symposium Committee should contact Dr. Rachel Harper.

The One Read Committee alternates between fiction and non-fiction in order to provide students with the best possible range of important and influential readings.

For 2022-23 the following are in charge of developing, planning, and carrying out the programming that makes the One Read a success:

  • Carly Gordon |International Studies
  • Grace Johnson | Plant Sciences
  • Aryahna Le Grand | Biological Sciences
  • Sami Seghal | Psychology
  • Abbie Sutton | Animal Sciences
  • Megan Boyer | Honors College
  • Maya Gibson| Honors College
  • Rachel Harper | Honors College
  • Phong Nguyen | English Department
  • Catherine Rymph | Honors College