A summer reading list from college admissions counselors

A summer reading list from college admissions counselorsHere is a rather unusual summer reading list. It was assembled by Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling at The Derryfield School in Manchester, New Hampshire, who asked college admissions deans and high school counselors to send him recommendations of books that are great summer reads for parents, students and everybody else. The list includes books about college, other non-fiction and great fiction.

Here is a brief introduction from Barnard and then the 2014 list with nearly 40 books. Last year’s list of 28 books was published by The New York Times, here.

By Brennan Barnard

It was late June 1991, and I sat upright on the edge of the plush chair in the admissions office, pictures of brick buildings and cheerful coeds adorning the walls. Nervously I fidgeted with my hands, being sure to make eye contact as my counselor had instructed. The admission dean fired off softball questions about my high school in attempt to put me at ease. I was on Day 5 of my first college tour and every campus was starting to look the same. As I sat in that office, much like the others before, my mind wandered. Was I in New York or New Hampshire?

I was jolted back to the moment, as the interviewer smiled and delivered the question. It was the one question that I still remember 20 some years later. “What is your favorite book?” A simple inquiry, but one that stopped me in my tracks. My mind raced. ‘What does she want to hear?’ ‘Should I go the intellectual route?’ ‘Should I try and be unique?’ ‘ Does this college count a famous author among their graduates?’ ‘Which college am I at anyway?’

I paused for what seemed like an eternity. “Mama Day” by Gloria Naylor, I offered. A story of race, family, tradition and relationships, it was the last book we had read in junior year before school let out for the summer, so weeks later it was the only one stuck in my mind.

It is with great clarity that I recall the answer I gave that summer day. Maybe because it is when I suddenly realized that college would be about books and studying, not just independence and fraternity parties. Or perhaps it was the first time I started considering what it means to be a thoughtful reader and when I appreciated the opportunity that the space and time that summer provides to explore fine literature.

What follows is a sampling of recommendations from college admission deans and high school counselors. Some are specific to college admission and others are just great reads. Everyone is sure to find something that keeps them turning the page this season. Enjoy and good wishes for a safe and restful summer.


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