Arts & Culture

UPK author selected for Kentucky Humanities' 2024 'Kentucky Reads'

Fenton Johnson
The statewide literacy initiative centers on "Scissors, Paper, Rock" by Kentucky native Fenton Johnson. Courtesy University Press of Kentucky.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 18, 2024) — Kentucky Humanities has selected Fenton Johnson’s "Scissors, Paper, Rock" (University Press of Kentucky) for its 2024 Kentucky Reads. The novel will serve as a focal point for community-wide book discussions that promote a shared literary experience and celebrate the diverse voices and stories that shape Kentucky’s rich cultural landscape.

Kentucky Reads will offer scholar-led discussions of "Scissors, Paper, Rock" to community organizations throughout the Commonwealth. Any non-profit organization in Kentucky can host a discussion of "Scissors, Paper, Rock" for a booking fee of $50, and each host organization will be provided with 15 copies of the novel to share among participating members. Publicity materials to promote the discussion will also be provided. A list of scholars can be found at

"Scissors, Paper, Rock" delves into the complexities of human relationships, identity and the search for self-discovery. Fenton Johnson, an accomplished author and native Kentuckian, brings his unique storytelling prowess to illuminate the intricacies of life and connections that bind us together.

“We are thrilled to announce 'Scissors, Paper, Rock' as the 2024 Kentucky Reads book,” said Bill Goodman, Kentucky Humanities executive director. “Fenton Johnson’s narrative explores themes that resonate with our shared humanity, and we believe it will spark meaningful conversations and connections among readers across the state. We invite everyone to join us on this literary journey as we read and reflect on 'Scissors, Paper, Rock.'

“Through the power of storytelling, we hope to strengthen the bonds that connect us and celebrate the diversity of Kentucky’s cultural tapestry," Goodman added.

Fenton Johnson is the author of three novels and four works of creative nonfiction, most recently "At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life," a New York Times Editors’ Pick. At various times a contributor to National Public Radio, Harper’s Magazine and the New York Times Magazine, he has received numerous literary awards. He has taught in the nation’s leading creative writing programs and is professor emeritus at the University of Arizona. He continues to lecture and teach nationally.

Kentucky Humanities’ first edition of Kentucky Reads, in 2018, featured Kentucky native Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, "All the King’s Men." In 2020, Wendell Berry’s "Hannah Coulter" was chosen, followed by Crystal Wilkinson’s "The Birds of Opulence" in 2021, and Bobbie Ann Mason’s "Dear Ann" in 2022. Last year, Kim Michele Richardson’s "The Book Woman’s Daughter" was selected.

Kentucky Humanities, which serves as the Kentucky Affiliate for the Library of Congress’ Center for the Book, is a non-profit Kentucky corporation affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities. For information about Kentucky Humanities’ programs and services, including Kentucky Reads, visit

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.