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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.