First-Year Reading

During the summer prior to the start of your first semester at SLU, incoming students are required to read a common book. This year’s selection is Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.

You’ll get a free copy of SLU’s first-year reading book during SLU 101 summer orientation. All first-year students are required to read the book by Fall Welcome. It will be the topic of discussion then and in some of your classes during the fall semester. You’ll also have a chance to hear the author speak on campus in the fall.  

First-year reading books are a shared intellectual experience. Each book selected:

  • Provides opportunities for incoming students to talk with each other and with SLU’s faculty and staff.
  • Addresses questions and life issues being faced by incoming students.
  • Either implicitly or explicitly introduces you to academic life and the uniqueness of Jesuit higher education
  • Are reflective of SLU’s mission.

About the Book

SLU’s  2016 first-year reading book is Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. An unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted lawyer's coming of age and a moving narrative of the lives of those he has defended, the book is also an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.  

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn't commit. The case drew Stevenson into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination and legal brinksmanship — and transformed his understanding of justice and mercy forever.

Bryan Stevenson will speak at SLU's Center for Global Citizenship on Dec. 1, 2016 at 7 p.m.

First-Year Reading Essay Contest

First year students are asked to share their own stories of mercy, forgiveness, and/or redemption. Submit you response through any medium that helps to tell your story.

As part of your response, please include:

  • the impact that the first year reading selection had on you
  • how you will continue to seek mercy while at Saint Louis University

This contest allows for the creativity to choose how you would like to share your story. Examples include video, original poem, song, drawing, photography, essay, etc.

If you choose to submit a video, please keep the video between 2-5 minutes. All entries should include a 2-3 paragraph description of the connection to Just Mercy.

Entries will be evaluated base upon clarity, depth, creativity, and integration of the first year reading.

Questions and entries should be emailed to Kelly Herbolich, Program Director of Academic Support, at by Monday, October 31, 2016.

First Year Reading Contest Flyer

Past First-Year Reading Books

  • 2015
    Outcasts United by Warren St. John
  • 2014
    Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan
  • 2013
    Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle, S.J.
  • 2012
    Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario
  • 2011
    When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
  • 2010
    Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, in the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel
  • 2009
    Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder
  • 2008
    Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace - One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
  • 2006 and 2007
    Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-year-old Company that Changed the World by Chris Lowney