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Each summer I publish a summer edition of great reading with recommendations from college admissions counselors and deans, compiled by Brennan Barnard,  director of college counseling at the Derryfield School in Manchester, N.H., and a contributor to this blog. Here is a unique list of 50 fiction and nonfiction books with some titles that can appeal to just about everybody.

By Brennan Barnard

If you are like me, the pile of unread books has once again reached a tipping point, and the titles and subjects are broad and deep. Every year at this time I like to take this opportunity to suggest a few books for graduating seniors who will be starting the next chapter of their educational lives.  The theme of my book list is mindfulness; in a world where we are increasingly distracted — we run from one commitment to another, often connected to a device but not ourselves or each other — it is important to pause and be aware of the experience of living.  But if mindfulness doesn’t interest you, there is, too, a longer list of fiction and nonfiction books recommended by college admissions counselors and deans from around the country. Enjoy!

Here are a few titles that I am recommending for our soon-to-be alumni:

10% Happier” by Dan Harris

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There” by Sylvia Boorstein

Mindfulness for the Next Generation: Helping Emerging Adults Manage Stress and Lead Healthier Lives” by Holly Rogers and Margaret Maytan

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence” by Daniel Goleman

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman

I asked colleagues in high school counseling and college admission to recommend their favorite reads from the year, and here are their top picks.  Happy reading!

Education related:

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald

Recommended by: Michele Koenig, associate director of college counseling, Proctor Academy, N.H.

Dear Committee Members” by Julie Schumacher

Recommended by: Jim Mahoney, associate director of college counseling, Blake School, Minneapolis

Recommended by: Heath Einstein, dean of admission, Texas Christian University, Tex.

Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA” by Joe Nocera

Recommended by: Colin Dunnigan, director of college counseling, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Jackson, Miss.

A Hope in the Unseen” by Ron Suskind.

Recommended by: Elizabeth Lightfoot, co-director of college counseling, St. Paul’s School for Girls, Md.

Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South” by Andrew Maraniss

Recommended by: Shane T. McGuire, assistant director of admissions, Vanderbilt University, Tenn.

Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education” by Murray Sperber

Recommended by: Corie McDermott-Fazzino, director of college counseling, Portsmouth Abbey School, R.I.

Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape” by Peggy Orenstein

Recommended by: Rachel Mallory, associate director of college counseling, Mercersburg Academy, Pa.

Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League” by Jeff Hobbs

Recommended by: Tiffany Scott, director of college guidance, Church Farm School, Pa.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain

Recommended by: Paul E. Sunde, director of admissions, Dartmouth College, N.H.

How to Raise an Adult: Break free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” by Julie Lythcott-Haims

Recommended by: Cynthia Crum, director of college counseling, the Episcopal Academy, Pa.

Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Recommended by: Mike Dunn, director of college counseling, AIM Academy, Pa.

The Gilded Years” by Karin Tanabe

Recommended by: Matt Mettille, director of college counseling, Menlo School, Calif.

Untangled: Guiding Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood” by Lisa Damour

Recommended by: Jennifer Beros, director of college counseling, University School, Ohio

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults” by Frances E. Jensen

Recommended by: Mike Sexton, vice president for enrollment management, Santa Clara University, Calif.

What Does It Mean to Be White?: Developing White Racial Literacy” by Robin DiAngelo

Recommended by: Lauren Cook, dean of college and gap-year advising, Jewish Community High School of the Bay, Calif.

College: What It Was, Is, And Should Be” by Andrew Delbanco

Recommended by: Catherine McDonald Davenport, dean of admissions, Dickinson College, Pa.

A Perfect Mess: The Unlikely Ascendancy of American Higher Education” by David Labaree

Recommended by: Aaron Fulk, director of college counseling, Marin Academy, Calif.

College of the Overwhelmed” by Richard Kadison and Theresa DiGeronimo

Recommended by: Beth Ann Burkmar, director of college counseling, George School, Pa.

Hold Fast to Dreams: A College Guidance Counselor, His Students, and the Vision of a Life Beyond Poverty”  by Beth Zasloff and Joshua Steckel

Recommended by: Deb Shaver, dean of admission, Smith College, Mass.

At What Cost?: Defending Adolescent Development in Fiercely Competitive Schools” by David L. Gleason

Recommended by: Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling, the Derryfield School, N.H.

Letting Go (Fifth Edition): A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years” by Karen Levin Coburn

Recommended by: Tom Medlock, college counselor, the Pembroke Hill School, Mo.


Home Tonight” by Henri Nouwen

Recommended by:  Mike Schell, director of college counseling, Catholic Memorial, Mass.

Homegoing” By Yaa Gyasi

Recommended by:  William Ouellette, co-director of college counseling, Catlin Gabel School, Ore.

The Mothers” by Brit Bennett

Recommended by: Kate Jacobson, associate dean of admission, Franklin & Marshall College, Pa.

Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen

Recommended by: Moira McKinnon, director of college counseling, Berwick Academy, Md.

Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time” by Susan Scott

Recommended by: Mimi Csatlos, director of college counseling, Virginia Episcopal School, Va.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson

Recommended by: Elizabeth W. Almeter, college counselor, Calvert Hall College High School, Md.

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk” by Ben Montgomery

Recommended by: Rick Clark, director of undergraduate admission, Georgia Tech, Ga.

Conflict Without Casualties: A Field Guide for Leading with Compassionate Accountability” by Nate Regier

Recommended by: Joe Freeman, director of college counseling, Beacon Academy, Ill.

The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett

Recommended by: Tracy Stockard, director of college counseling, Gilmour Academy, Ohio.

The Secret Lives of the Four Wives” by Lola Shoneyin

Recommended by:  Chemeli Kipkorir, director of university guidance, African Leadership Academy, South Africa

The Other Wes Moore” by Wes Moore

Recommended by: Matt Cohen, senior associate director of admissions, Skidmore College, N.Y.

Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid

Recommended by: Janelle Holmboe, vice president for enrollment and marketing, Warren Wilson College, N.C.

The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande

Recommended by: Matthew DeGreeff, dean of college counseling and student enrichment, Middlesex School, Mass.

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds” by Michael Lewis

Recommended by: Peter J. Quagliaroli, head of upper school, St. Anne’s-Belfield School, Va.

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” by Tim Ferriss

Recommended by: Art McCann, dean of college counseling, Crossroads: School for Arts & Sciences, Calif.

The Gene: An Intimate History” by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Recommended by: Suzi Nam, director of college counseling, Germantown Friends School, Pa.

Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You” by Sam Gosling

Recommended by: Eric Ahlstrand, assistant director of admission, Furman University, S.C.

Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel

Recommended by: Jean Rutherford Wall, director of college counseling, Tampa Preparatory School, Fla.

The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead

Recommended by: Vicki Englehart Thompson, dean of college counseling, St. Mary’s Episcopal School, Tenn.

No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon” by Erik Weihenmayer

Recommended by: Jody Sanford Sweeney, associate director of college counseling, William Penn Charter School, Pa.

A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara

Recommended by: Connor Weis, assistant director of admissions, St. Lawrence University, N.Y.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah

Recommended by: Peter Jennings, director of college counseling, Concord Academy, Mass.