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:
“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!
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.
Recommended by: Shane T. McGuire, assistant director of admissions, Vanderbilt University, Tenn.
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.
Recommended by: Tiffany Scott, director of college guidance, Church Farm School, Pa.
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.
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.
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.
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.
OTHER GREAT READS
“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.
Recommended by: Moira McKinnon, director of college counseling, Berwick Academy, Md.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recommended by: Peter Jennings, director of college counseling, Concord Academy, Mass.