First Pages

First Pages

Each summer, all incoming Northeastern students read a selected literary work to prepare for their first academic experience in college— an experience that they will all share and that will serve as common ground as they form relationships and friendships with one another.

During Welcome Week, first-year students come together at Matthews Arena where they will hear the author personally present their work. The author will respond to students’ submitted questions through a moderated Q&A session. Students will have the opportunity to have their book signed by the author at the conclusion of the event.

While several Northeastern courses incorporate the First Pages selection as part of their curriculum, additional events and programs are offered over the Fall and Spring semesters to keep the conversation going—and to enable students to delve more deeply into the themes raised in the book and, as appropriate, support students’ efforts as they explore how the themes pertain to their own lives and those in the communities that neighbor Northeastern. In some cases, students’ explorations lead them to partner with community organizations to assist with advocacy, service, and social action. Each year, a host of relevant resources are made available to students by the Northeastern University Library.

The selection of the First Pages book is coordinated by the University Honors Program and the First Pages Committee, composed of faculty, staff, and students members committed to identifying high-quality literary works of broad interest. Consideration is given to books addressing compelling contemporary topics or issues presented within a multi-disciplinary framework.

Learn more about the First Pages Mission and Learning Objectives. 

2020-2021 First Pages Selection

Book Cover for Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas

The University Honors Program and the First Pages Committee are proud to present Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas as the First Pages selection for the 2020-2021 academic year. As Vargas explains:

“This is not a book about the politics of immigration. This book is not about immigration at all. This book is about homelessness, not in a traditional sense, but in the unsettled, unmoored psychological state that undocumented immigrants like myself find ourselves in. This book is about lying and being forced to lie to get by; about passing as an American and as a contributing citizen; about families, keeping them together, and having to make new ones when you can’t. This book is about constantly hiding from the government and, in the process, hiding from ourselves. This book is about what it means to not have a home.

After 25 years of living illegally in a country that does not consider me one of its own, this book is the closest thing I have to freedom.”

Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and Tony-nominated producer. A leading voice for the human rights of immigrants, he founded the non-profit media and culture organization Define American, named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company. His best-selling memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, was published by HarperCollins in 2018. Most recently, he co-produced Heidi Schreck’s acclaimed Broadway play What the Constitution Means to Me, which was nominated for two 2019 Tony awards, including “Best Play.”

Previous First Pages Selections

What the Eyes Don’t See by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha examines her journey as she and a group of dedicated community leaders discovered lead in the Flint, MI water supply. The fallout from this discovery revealed how misguided austerity policies, broken democracy, and callous bureaucratic indifference placed an entire city at risk. And at the center of the story is Dr. Mona herself—an immigrant, doctor, scientist, and mother whose family’s activist roots inspired her pursuit of justice.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Dr. Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City examines issues of poverty, economic exploitation, and housing insecurity in American cities.

MacArthur “Genius,” attorney Bryan Stevenson, presented his award-winning volume, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, at First Pages 2017. Stevenson recounted his pioneering work on criminal justice reform in the United States, addressing a contested set of issues that provoke questions about race, class, and equal treatment by the law.


2006: Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

2007: Easter Rising by Michael Patrick McDonald

2008: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

2009: Beautiful by David Sheff

2010: Zeitoun by David Eggers

2011: Better by Atul Gwande

2012: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

2013: Beyond the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

2014: Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

2015: From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilverry

2016: Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder