UT Reads

UT Reads is a campaign for The University of Texas at Austin to build a learning community through sharing the experience of reading the same book. We hope to initiate constructive conversation throughout our community about important and enriching topics. 

UT Reads will provide a discussion guide for group discussions among departments and teams. If you are interested in forming your own virtual reading group, contact Learning & Development for help setting up a team room within MS Teams. 

There will also be a series of three panel discussions, starting October 29th, open to the whole UT community in a webinar format. The panel will be primarily made up of staff, but may also include faculty and students. Attendees can contribute questions and relevant comments though written Q&A.

The Sword and the Shield by Dr. Peniel Joseph

For our first campaign we will be partnering with UT Libraries and the LBJ Center for Race and Democracy to bring you The Sword and the Shield by Dr. Peniel Joseph.

This dual biography of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King upends longstanding preconceptions to transform our understanding of the twentieth century’s most iconic African American leaders.

To most Americans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. represent contrasting ideals: self-defense vs. nonviolence, black power vs. civil rights, the sword vs. the shield. The struggle for black freedom is wrought with the same contrasts. While nonviolent direct action is remembered as an unassailable part of American democracy, the movement’s militancy is either vilified or erased outright. In The Sword and the Shield, Peniel E. Joseph upends these misconceptions and reveals a nuanced portrait of two men who, despite markedly different backgrounds, inspired and pushed each other throughout their adult lives. This is a strikingly revisionist biography, not only of Malcolm and Martin, but also of the movement and era they came to define.

Buy the Book

Author Information

Peniel Joseph holds a joint professorship appointment at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the History Department in the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. He is also the founding director of the LBJ School’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy.

His career focus has been on “Black Power Studies,” which encompasses interdisciplinary fields such as Africana studies, law and society, women’s and ethnic studies, and political science. Prior to joining the UT faculty, Joseph was a professor at Tufts University, where he founded the school’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy to promote engaged research and scholarship focused on the ways issues of race and democracy affect people’s lives. 

LBJ's bio page on Peniel Joseph

The What, Why, and How of Reading Groups

WHAT is a reading group?

A reading group is an organized gathering of people that regularly discusses a book that all participants have read or are currently reading. Discussions within the group remain largely or entirely within the subject parameters set by the book.

WHY form a reading group within an organization?

Reading groups within an organization are an effective way to build rapport on a team, strengthen critical thinking, and improve communication. In turn, organizations may see improvement in problem solving, breaking down silos, increased engagement, and greater productivity.

Here are a of couple interesting articles about organization reading groups:

HOW do you form a reading group?

  1. Talk to your supervisor about approval to form the group. Be sure to discuss when the group can meet to discuss the book. Inquire if the department would like to sponsor the reading group by providing books for the participants.
  2. If forming a reading group is approved, send out an invitation to your organization. Here’s a sample:

Dear colleagues:

I would like to set up a reading group for the UT Reads campaign. You can find out more detail on this webpage: https://hr.utexas.edu/learning-development/programs/UT-Reads

If you are interested, please let me know by ______.

UT Learning & Development is providing a guide for the reading group, but we will should meet briefly to discuss logistics, like how often to meet and the format we will use meet (UT L&D can help us set up a group in MS Teams where we can create a chat board and have video calls). We will then schedule the times and dates for our discussions.

Thanks for your interest. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

  1. During your initial meeting be sure to decide on the following items:

I.  How often will you meet?

II. When will you meet?

III. What platform will you be using to meet?

  • MS Teams
  • Zoom
  • Conference call
  • Google Meet-up
  • In-person practicing safe social distancing, wearing masks, and strictly following all other guidelines established in Protect Texas.

IV. How will the books be acquired and dispersed?

  • Does each person have to acquire their own book?
  • Are the books being given to the participants or loaned to them?

V. Ground rules for having an open and constructive conversation (see the UT L&D Reading Group Guide for suggestions).

VI. Any special needs or accessibility issues for participants so that everyone feels encouraged to participate and welcome to the group.