The Department of English is thrilled to congratulate Assistant Professor Ramona Ausubel, University Distinguished Professor Camille T. Dungy, and Visiting Assistant Professor Vauhini Vara, whose books were recently named among the best of the year by multiple outlets—including NPR, The New Yorker, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and more!


The Last Animal by Ramona Ausubel

Recognized by NPR, Oprah Daily, and Kirkus Reviews as a best book of the year, The Last Animal “takes readers on a wild, entertaining, and refreshingly different kind of journey, one that explores the possibilities and perils of the human imagination on a changing planet, what it’s like to be a woman in a field dominated by men, and how a wondrous discovery can best be enjoyed with family. Even teenagers.” (W.W. Norton, 2023)

On selecting the novel as one of the best of the year, Oprah Daily said, “This compulsively readable story begins in Siberia, where a recently widowed paleobiologist, Jane, has lugged her two teenage daughters on a research trip. A startling discovery lands the grieving trio in a castle in Italy, trying to implant a woolly mammoth embryo into the womb of an eccentric couple’s pet elephant. A wildly entertaining adventure and a meditation on what it means to love your children in the ‘Age of Extinction.'”


Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden by Camille T. Dungy

Celebrated by NPR, Hudson Booksellers, Library Journal, Powell’s, Rewilding Magazine, and Booklist, Soil is “a seminal work that expands how we talk about the natural world and the environment…Definitive and singular, Soil functions at the nexus of nature writing, environmental justice, and prose to encourage you to recognize the relationship between the peoples of the African diaspora and the land on which they live, and to understand that wherever soil rests beneath their feet is home.” (Simon & Schuster, 2023)

Noting its inclusion as one of the best nonfiction books of the year, Library Journal said, “Dungy’s touching reflections on her life and heritage are intertwined with her vivid descriptions of her garden in Fort Collins, CO, and it’s the latter that drives the commentary and themes of restrictions, resistance, and revelation. Dungy’s poetic verve is displayed on every page as she centers environmental justice and urges readers to understand the rich value of one’s roots and their grounding effect.”


This Is Salvaged by Vauhini Vara

Named a best book of the year by The New Yorker, Publisher’s Weekly, Vox, and the New York Public Library, This Is Salvaged “explores the nature of being a child, parent, friend, sibling, neighbor, or lover, and the relationships between self and others…The characters in This Is Salvaged, unmoored in turbulence, are searching fervently for meaning, through one another.” (W.W. Norton, 2023)

Recognizing it as a best fiction book of the year, The New Yorker said, “The narrator of the title story in this collection is an unappreciated artist who beholds a warming planet and wishes to express that the precariousness of life is, among other things, darkly funny. This thesis propels the stories that follow. A teen-age girl avoids processing her brother’s death while working above her favorite eggroll shop at an operation that sells everything from phone sex to gardening magazines. A boy who doesn’t fret about technological advancements that pose a risk of alienation fantasizes about owning a car in a driverless future. The exuberant optimism of Vara’s characters allows the author to approach heavy topics—predatory bosses, globalization, class difference—with levity.”


Congrats to all on these wonderful achievements! To learn more about the English department’s award-winning faculty, visit