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Each summer I publish a summer reading list with recommendations from college admissions counselors and deans, compiled by Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling at the Derryfield School in Manchester, N.H.

Here is his 2018 list of nearly 40 fiction and nonfiction books, with some titles that can appeal to just about everybody.

By Brennan Barnard

I try to heed author C.S. Lewis’s advice that “one must read every good book at least once every 10 years.”

Recently I dusted off Ron Suskind’s “A Hope in the Unseen,” which was first published in 1998, and Lloyd Thacker’s 2004 compilation, “College Unranked: Affirming Educational Values in College Admission.” Both books ask that readers consider the greater culture surrounding higher education, access and purpose — decades later, they are each just as applicable as when first written.

This past school year I have also read a number of other great books, including “Immunity to Change:  How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization,” by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, and “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-lived, Joyful Life,” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

As summer approaches, I wonder what other great books I am missing. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” So with this in mind, I asked my colleagues in high school counseling and college admission to recommend their favorite books from the year, and here are their top picks.

Here’s the list:


Books Related to Education


Make Your Home Among Strangers” by Jennine Capó Crucet

Recommended by: Elena Becker, admission officer, Whitman College, Washington state

“Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education” by Nathan D. Grawe

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

“iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, and What That Means for the Rest of Us” by Jean M. Twenge

Recommended by: Shondra Carpenter, school counselor, Cherokee Trail High School, Colorado

“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Recommended by: Karen Mason, director of college counseling, Germantown Academy, Pennsylvania

“What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen” by Kate Fagan

Recommended by: Bernadette Condesso, director of college counseling, Solomon Schechter Westchester, New York


“Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by Matthew Desmond

Recommended by: Tina Brooks, senior assistant dean of admissions, Pomona College, California

“My (Underground) American Dream: My True Story as an Undocumented Immigrant Who Became a Wall Street Executive” by Julissa Arce

Recommended by: Ginger Miller, associate director of college counseling, Landon School, Maryland

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

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

“The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours” by Marian Wright Edelman

Recommended by: Anne Richardson, director of academic advising and college counseling, the American School in London

“Matching Students to Opportunity Expanding College Choice, Access, and Quality” by Andrew P. Kelly, Jessica S. Howell and Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj

Recommended by: Marie Bigham, director of college counseling, Isidore Newman School, Louisiana

“When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness” by Tim Bono

Recommended by: Barbara Sams, co-director of college counseling, Whitfield School, Missouri

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

Recommended by: Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling, Derryfield School, New Hampshire


“A Day in the Life of the English Language” by Frank L. Cioffi

Recommended by: Jeff Durso-Finley, co-director of college counseling, Lawrenceville School, New Jersey

“Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover

Recommended by: Justin Fahey, associate dean of admissions, Bowdoin College, Maine

“The Diversity Bargain: And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities” by Natasha K. Warikoo

Recommended by: Jamiere Abney Sr., assistant dean of admission, Colgate University, New York

“Enough As She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy, and Fulfilling Lives” by Rachel Simmons

Recommended by: Deb Shaver, dean of admission, Smith College, Massachusetts

“Colleges That Change Lives” by Loren Pope, revised by Hilary Masell Oswald

Recommended by: Barbara Tragakis Conner, director of college counseling, Foxcroft School, Virginia


“Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race” by Debby Irving

Recommended by: Jami Silver, director of college advising, Kingswood Oxford School, Connecticut

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

Recommended by: Bruce Barton, director of college counseling, Holderness School, New Hampshire

“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell

Recommended by: Dayna Bradstreet, associate director of undergraduate admission, Simmons College, Massachusetts

“Call Me By Your Name” by André Aciman

Recommended by: Michael Brosseau, admission counselor, Emerson College, Boston

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

Recommended by: Meghan Farley, director of college counseling, Pingree School, Massachusetts

Other Great Reads

“Soulful Simplicity: How Living With Less Can Lead To So Much More” by Courtney Carver

Recommended by: Morgan Phillips, director of college counseling, Saint Mary’s School, North Carolina


“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson

Recommended by: Tim Neil, assistant director of admission, Sewanee: The University of the South, Tennessee

“Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro

Recommended by: Cory Zimmerman, college counselor, Taipei American School

“Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island” by Will Harlan

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

“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Recommended by: Whitney Soule, dean of admissions and financial aid, Bowdoin College, Maine

“I’ll Give You The Sun” by Jandy Nelson

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

“A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki

Recommended by: Blythe Butler, co-director of college counseling, Catlin Gabel School, Oregon

“Chasing the Scream: The Opposite of Addiction is Connection” by Johann Hari

Recommended by: Mike Schell, director of academic and college counseling, Catholic Memorial School, Massachusetts

“10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — A True Story” by Dan Harris

Recommended by: Jeff Schiffman, director of admission, Tulane University, Louisiana, and by Kortni Campbell, senior associate dean of admission and financial aid, Davidson College, North Carolina


“Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese

Recommended by: Matthew Hyde, dean of admissions, Lafayette College, Pennsylvania

“A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles

Recommended by: Ted McGuinness, college counselor, Archbishop Molloy High School, New York

“The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems” by Billy Collins

Recommended by: Corie McDermott-Fazzino, director of college counseling, Portsmouth Abbey School, Rhode Island

“A Long Way Gone — Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” by Ishmael Beah

Recommended by: Sue Willard, associate director of admissions, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New York

“The Refugees” by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Recommended by: Mark Moody, director of college counseling, Shanghai American School

“The Book That Changed America; How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation” by Randall Fuller

Recommended by: Matt Cohen, senior associate director of admissions, Skidmore College, New York

“Spring” by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Recommended by: Jeremy Dickerson, associate vice president for enrollment and director of admission, Hendrix College, Arkansas

There’s a lot to read this summer! Let’s not forget the wise words of Henry David Thoreau:

“A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.”