2023 Memphis Reads: His Name is George Floyd by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa” 

His Name is George Floyd Book Cover

Memphis Reads, the Memphis community common reading program based at Christian Brothers University and affiliated with CBU Reads, is pleased to announce its book selection for 2023. A book is selected each year that engages Memphians in issues that are relative to daily societal topics and themes, and this year’s selection — His Name is George Floyd by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa — does just that by revealing to readers “how a man who simply wanted to breathe ended up touching the world”.

The New York Times Book Review gave praise to this book by saying, “It is a testament to the power of His Name Is George Floyd that the book’s most vital moments come not after Floyd’s death, but in its intimate, unvarnished and scrupulous account of his life . . . a brilliantly revealing portrait of the structures of poverty, land theft and racism that shaped not only Floyd but also his kinship networks in the South. . . . Impressive.” His Name Is George Floyd won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction; was a finalist for the National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize; finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Prize; A BCALA 2023 Honor Nonfiction Award Winner.

CBU Reads Welcomes Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa 

Register today for your invitation to the livestreamed event!

Memphis Reads 2023 Events

  • Wednesday, October 25, 7:00 pm | Writers’ Talk
    Christian Brothers University | University Theater
  • Thursday, October 26, 6:00 pm | Communities in Conversation
    Rhodes College | McNeill Concert Hall
  • Thursday, October 26, 9:00 am | Writer’s Talk
    Whitehaven High School

2023 Partners and Sponsors

Sponsors include SouthArts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, FirstBook, Follet, Penguin Random House, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

This Presentation is funded, in part, by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tennessee Arts Commission.

The Memphis Reads/CBU Reads project is funded under a Grant Contract with the State of Tennessee.

Community Partners

Memphis Reads is a community partnership between Christian Brothers University, Rhodes College, The University of Memphis, City Leadership, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, City of Memphis, NOVEL Bookstore, Memphis-Shelby County Schools, Respect the Haven CDC, Memphis Museum of Science and History, Barth House Episcopal Center, Carpenter Art Garden, Brown Missionary Baptist Church, Junior League of Memphis, National Civil Rights Museum, Uplift Westwood CDC, and many others.

CBU Reads (originally Fresh Reads) is CBU’s first-year summer reading program and is the basis for the Memphis community common reading program, Memphis Reads. The program gives new students a common academic experience and connects them with the campus community, as well as the Memphis community. First-year students, upperclassmen, and faculty members read the same book and have numerous opportunities to discuss it throughout the school year at various First Year Experience events. 

CBU Reads

As you arrive at CBU and embark on a new chapter of your life as a college student, we hope that your CBU Reads book will move you to think about your life so far and the lives of those around you, motivating you to change, serve, respond, and consider. You will receive a rental copy of the book when you arrive on campus for Orientation. Other versions of the book can be acquired via the Plough Library or via our local partner, NOVEL Memphis

The Essay Prompt

In addition to reading the book before you navigate CBU, first-time freshmen will be required to complete an essay for their CBU 101 course, an assignment due the week of September 19th, 2023. The Top Three Essays will then be recognized on the night of October 25th, and the authors of those essays will receive a prize and their essays published in recognition of their efforts!

  • After reading His Name is George Floyd, write a short essay of at least 600 words discussing why George Floyd’s death caused a global response. What are three specific events/factors that these authors present to help readers to understand the situation/culture surrounding Floyd’s death? Explain how these relate to our current racial crisis in Memphis (for example, with respect to Tyre Nichols), the United States, and the world. Finally, and most importantly, what actions, however big or small, are you willing and interested in taking in response to reading this book?
  • Put a title at the top of your essay (something more interesting than CBU Reads Essay). Make sure to use specific quotes from at least three different chapters/parts from the book to support your points. Use parenthetical citations with the page number to cite your source. In your header, include your name, your instructor, and your CBU 101 Section.
  • Submit your essay as an MS Word document (.doc or .docx only) to your CBU 101 Canvas classroom by September 26. This essay will be graded and is required to pass CBU 101 (a general education orientation course required for graduation from Christian Brothers University).  Your essay will also be entered into the Top Three CBU Reads essay contest for 2023. Winners will be announced during the mandatory CBU Reads event with the book’s authors on October 25th at 7:00 pm in the CBU University Theater.
CBU Reads 2023 – Winning Essays Final Versions of Essays by Abigale Orendorff, Paxton Abeles and Makyah Malone

Previous CBU Reads Book Titles:

  • 2022: Noor by Dr. Nnedi Okorafor
  • 2021: Thick and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom 
  • 2020: We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • 2019: Memphis: 200 Years Together by a collection of Memphis authors
  • 2018: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • 2017: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • 2016: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
  • 2015: What is the What by Dave Eggers
  • 2014: The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
  • 2013: The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
  • 2012: The Noticer by Andy Andrews
  • 2011: The Soloist by Steve Lopez


Justin L. Brooks
Director, Center for Community Engagement