12 books campuses are reading right now

Colleges are choosing summer reading books this year that emphasize themes of diversity and tolerance, according to two recent reports.

One, an annual report from the conservative-leaning National Association of Scholars (NAS), covers selections from nearly 350 colleges and universities in the United States. The other comes from publisher Penguin Random House and includes survey responses from 315 colleges and universities.

According to the reports, several factors influence summer reading selections. One factor this year was campus current events. At a time when student activism is at record levels and debates about free speech rage on campuses, many schools selected works about diversity and tolerance.

Colleges also tend to choose contemporary works—most selections are less than five years old, according to the NAS. Administrators believe this will increase the odds of students actually reading them, according to Keith Goldsmith, executive director for academic marketing at Knopf Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House.

Writing for the New York Times, Dana Goldstein also notes that several of this year's selections reflect modern anxieties about technology, such as The Circle by Dave Eggers and So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson.

Popular selections for 2017 summer reading include:

  1. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  2. Make Your Home Among Strangers, Jennine Capó Crucet
  3. Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine
  4. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond
  5. Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, Amy Ellis Nutt
  6. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J. D. Vance
  7. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  8. The Circle, Dave Eggers
  9. So You've Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson
  10. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
  11. The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood, Richard Blanco
  12. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, Wes Moore

The University of California-Berkeley's reading list stands out for two reasons: first, in that it suggests 30 options for summer reading. Second, because one of the options is an audio recording—the soundtrack to Hamilton, sung by its Broadway cast (Depenbrock, NPR, 6/30; Goldstein, New York Times, 7/1).

Must-read summer books from college admissions experts


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