Updates and Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Skip to main content

KNOXVILLE – The summer reading assignment for the University of Tennessee’s incoming freshmen will be a detective novel that is set in rural Africa.

“The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” is this year’s selection for the “Life of the Mind” program for first-year students, Dr. Anne Mayhew, vice chancellor for academic affairs, said. At Welcome Week this fall, UT’s freshmen will participate in a one-hour discussion about the book.

“The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” this year’s “Life of the Mind” book selection

“We chose this book because it is fun to read, but it also provide many topics for discussion and exploration during the Welcome Week events and throughout the entire academic year,” Mayhew said.

This is the second year of the Life of the Mind program. Last fall, freshmen read “The Color of Water,” the story of a woman who raised 12 children and sent them to college while battling racism and poverty in Harlem.

Faculty and staff volunteers lead the discussion sessions. Students are asked to write a one-page summary of the book and bring it to their sessions.

“Life of the Mind is designed to engage students in the university’s intellectual environment at the beginning of their college experience,” Mayhew said. “It also affords them exposure to our outstanding faculty.”

In “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” Alexander McCall Smith writes of the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people
with problems in their lives.”

Ramotswe is Botswana’s only female private detective, and in relating her entertaining adventures Smith also explores life and the culture of the country.

Mayhew said the university hopes to bring Smith to campus during fall semester to talk about this and his other books. He has written more than 50 books, ranging from children’s stories to scholarly works.

James McBride, author of “The Color of Water” and a jazz musician, came to UT last fall for a lecture and a concert.