Award-winning writers Michael Chabon (“Wonderboys,” “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” and “Moonglow”) and Zadie Smith (“White Teeth,” “On Beauty, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays” and “Swing Time”) delivered the University of Utah’s Tanner Lecture on Human Values at Libby Gardner Concert Hall, Oct. 19, 2017.

In a conversation format, they addressed topics such as as creativity, argumentation, narrative, style and anger. They discussed the role of the novel and the essay in contemporary American life and the pressures of writing historical fiction. They also reflected upon the existential impact of reading and how exposure to diverse voices in literature can increase the scope of our imagination and enlarge our ideas about what it means to be human.

The full discussion can be viewed here.

The following day, Smith and Chabon met with graduate students and faculty from the Department of English in the Tanner Humanities Center. They provided theoretical insight into mixed-genre writing, character development, narrative skill and depth, and cultural community. They also shared frank and practical advice about reading critically, conducting research, setting writing goals, recognizing life’s limitations and opportunities and revising wisely.

“We were honored to bring to campus such engaging writers of this caliber and reputation,” said Bob Goldberg, director of the Tanner Humanities Center. “They spoke eloquently about the role that literature and the humanities play in connecting readers to worlds different from their own, shaping human understanding and developing empathy.”

Sponsors and partners for these events included the Tanner Lecture Endowment, the Tanner Humanities Center, the College of Humanities, the Department of English, Utah Humanities and the King’s English Bookshop.


Media Contacts

John Boyack | Marketing & Communications, Tanner Humanities Center
Office: 801-587-8879 

Jana Cunningham | Communications Specialist, University Marketing & Communications
Office: 801-581-3862 


Michael Chabon studied at Carnegie-Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at UC Irvine, and has spent most of the past two decades in California, with brief sojourns in Washington State, Florida, and New York State. Random House published his third novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which was selected by the American Library Association as one of the Notable Books of 2000 and was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It won the New York Society Library Prize for Fiction, the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award, the Commonwealth Club Gold Medal, and the Pulitzer Prize. Chabon’s novella The Final Solution (2004) was awarded the 2005 National Jewish Book Award and also the 2003 Aga Khan Prize for Fiction by The Paris Review.  Michael Chabon recently accepted the position of chairman of the board of directors at the MacDowell Colony. In March 2012 he was voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Michael Chabon’s novel, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, became a New York Times bestseller immediately upon publication and was nominated for an Edgar Award; it also won the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2008. His most recent novel is Moonglow (2017).


Zadie Smith’s acclaimed first novel, White Teeth (2000), won a number of awards and prizes, including the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book), and two BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Awards (Best Book/Novel and Best Female Media Newcomer). It was also shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Author's Club First Novel Award. 

Zadie Smith's The Autograph Man (2002), a story of loss, obsession and the nature of celebrity, won the 2003 Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize for Fiction. In 2003 and 2013 she was named by Granta magazine as one of 20 'Best of Young British Novelists'.  On Beauty won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction and her most recent novel NW was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Women’s Prize for Fiction and was named as one of The New York Times ‘10 Best Books of 2012.’ Zadie Smith writes regularly for The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. She published one collection of essays, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays (2009) and is working on a book of essays entitled Feel Free. Her new novel is Swing Time (November 2016). 

Zadie Smith is currently a tenured professor of Creative Writing at New York University. 

The Tanner Lectures on Human Values initiates educational and scientific discussions relating to human values. Distinct Tanner Lectures are delivered annually at Oxford University, Cambridge University, Harvard University, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of California - Berkeley, University of Michigan, University of Utah, Yale University, and other educational facilities around the world. Since 2006, we have hosted Isabel Allende, Spike Lee, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Margaret Atwood, Siddhartha Mukherjee, and Barry Scheck, among others.


Last Updated: 11/9/17