NEHS Common Reader

The Bontanist's Daughter, by Kayte Nunn

The NEHS Advisory Council is happy to announce that the text chosen as the 2023-2024 Common Reader is Kayte Nunn’s The Botanist’s Daughter.

This historical novel was originally suggested as a Common Reader contender by NEHS alum Maria Quiroz Abascal. Maria was enthralled by the text from the outset and "didn’t want the book to end, but at the same time needed to know where and how it concluded. It was a true adventure story!" This sentiment is echoed by many respondents to the NEHS Common Reader Survey who enjoyed that it combines a "Thrilling story, history, science . . . all three in one!"

The novel, which knits together the stories of two fictional female botanists investigating the same life-saving plant, won the 2020 Winston Graham Historical Fiction Prize. The plot moves between nineteenth century Britain and Chile, and twenty-first century Australia in a tale filled with discovery, desire, and deception.

Indeed, it was the "wrapping together of history, science, narrative fiction, and place," which appealed to the Chapter Advisors who voted for the novel. The comparisons and contrasts between science and literature, and the evolution of scientific writing during the past two centuries were also of interest, with one survey respondent noting that their interest was piqued by the "interweaving of science—and women’s place in the field—with history and letters."

Educators around the world were intrigued by the possibilities of bringing together "the theme of a relationship with nature, as well as the embracing of multiple perspectives, [which is] a valid, important concern for young adults today." Others were impressed by the opportunity to encourage NEHS students with interests outside the humanities to read the text, and to use the botany discussed within the text to foster cross-curricular connections with other subjects in their schools.

The Botanist’s Daughter is the first novel by an Australian author chosen as the NEHS Common Reader since the very first Common Reader, The Book Thief, by Markus Zuzak almost fifteen years ago. Author, Kayte Nunn said, "I couldn't be more delighted by this selection, and hope that NEHS students are transported back in time and across the globe by this story of adventure, discovery, botany and determination."

The NEHS Advisory Council is also happy to announce that author Kayte Nunn will be participating in a webinar for graduating seniors working on essays about The Botanist’s Daughter for the NEHS Scholarships competition. Kayte will also be writing one of the essay questions for the scholarship.

  • Essay Prompts will be posted on November 1.
  • Scholarship Applications accepted: December 11, 2023 - January 8, 2024.