A unique summer reading list — from college admissions deans and counselors

There is no shortage to summer reading lists — for kids and adults — but here is a unique one, a collection of recommendations from college admissions officers and counselors. It was assembled by Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling at The Derryfield School in Manchester, New Hampshire, who annually asks college admissions deans and high school counselors to send him recommendations of books that are great summer reads for parents, students and everybody else. The list includes books about college, other non-fiction and great fiction. You can see last year’s list here, the 2013 list here in The New York Times, and this year’s, below, following an introduction from Barnard.


By Brennan Barnard

“No more pencils. No more books. No more teacher’s dirty looks.” In the immortal words of Alice Cooper, “school’s out for summer!” There is nothing more freeing than the last day of school each June, when months of laziness, long sunny days and lack of responsibility abound. Perhaps, sports, work and other commitments increasingly encroach upon the sacred institution of summer vacation, but nonetheless the end of the school year evokes joy among students and educators alike.

And then there is summer reading. Two words that can reduce even the most studious and intellectual engaged high school student to a sullen, bitter teenager. I can still recall the panic and spite I felt during the week before Labor Day as a young person. This was the annual moment when I finally owned up to my procrastination and opened the books that had been assigned by my teachers. I was not much of a reader and obligatory reading was especially painful. All I wanted to do was play outdoors with friends. As an adult, summer reading is a much more celebrated concept. It means an opportunity to hopefully complete the array of partially begun titles on my nightstand.

At The Derryfield School, summer reading has an interesting twist that would have been much more palatable for me as a high school student. Every faculty member chooses a favorite book and students can pick a title from this diverse list. Some students choose books based on their most adored teacher and some based on the brief summary provided. Then there are likely students (like I would have done) who choose the shortest book on the list regardless of topic. During the first week of school, faculty members gather with students who read their recommendation for an engaging discussion.

Inspired by this practice, I solicited summer reading recommendations from colleagues in college counseling and admission from high schools and colleges across the nation. Here is what they are reading:


“Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite” by William Deresiewicz

Recommended by: Timothy Pratt, Dean of College Advising, St. Paul’s School, NH

“Anxious Kids Anxious Parents” by Lynn Lyons

Recommended by: Courtney M. Skerritt, Associate Director of College Counseling, The Hockaday School, TX

“Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City” by Kathryn Edin and Timothy Nelson

Recommended by: Vicki Englehart, Dean of College Counseling & Guidance, Lake Highland Preparatory School, FL

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

Recommended by: Liz Pleshette, Director of College Counseling, Latin School of Chicago, IL

“Primates of Park Avenue” by Wednesday Martin

Recommended by: Rhody Davis, Director of College Counseling, Viewpoint School, CA

“David & Goliath: underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants” by Malcolm Gladwell

Recommended by: Jon Reider, Director of College Counseling, San Francisco University High School, CA


“Writing from the Heart – Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice” by Nancy Slonim Aronie,

Recommended by: Brennan Barnard, Director of College Counseling, The Derryfield School, NH

“One day in the life of the English language: A Microcosmic Usage Handbook” by Frank L. Cioffi

Recommended by: Jeffrey Durso-Finley, Director of College Counseling, Lawrenceville School, NJ

“The Thinking Student’s Guide to College: 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education” by Andrew Roberts

Recommended by: Mark C. Moody, Co-Director of College Counseling, Colorado Academy, CO

“Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be” by Frank Bruni

Recommended by: Jennifer Delahunty, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Kenyon College, OH


Education Related:

“The Opposite of Loneliness” by Marina Keegan

Recommended by: F. Sheppard Shanley, Senior Associate Director of Admission, Northwestern University

“Thinking Fast, and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

Recommended by: Morning Celeste Naughton, Senior Associate Director of Admission, Warren Wilson College, NC

“Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools” by Jonathan Kozol

Recommended by: Vernon Castillo, Senior Associate Dean of Admissions, Union College, NY

“Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within” by Kenney Werner

Recommended by: Susan Dyment, Director of College Guidance, Sant Bani School, Sanbornton, NH.

“The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities” by William D. Cohan

Recommended by: Matthew J. DeGreeff, Director of College Counseling, Middlesex School, MA

”The Road to Character” by David Brooks

Recommended by: Stephanie Balmer, Head of School, The Harpeth Hall School, TN

“Whistling Vivaldi” by Claude Steele

Recommended by: Martha C. Merrill, Dean of Admission & Financial Aid, Connecticut College, CT

College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be by Anthony Delbanco

Recommended by: Noel Blyler, Associate Director of College Counseling, Charles Wright Academy, WA

“Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined” by Scott Barry Kaufman

Recommended by: Joe Freeman, Assistant Director of College Counseling, Randolph School, AL

“A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life” by Brian Grazer

Recommended by: Mimi Csatlos, Director of College Counseling,Virginia Episcopal School, VA

“Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning” by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel

Recommended by: Susan B. Zarwell, Director of College Guidance, University School of Milwaukee, WI

“Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town” by John Krakauer

Recommended by: Jennifer Rohan Beros, Assistant Director of College Counseling, University School, OH

“Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” by Chip Health and Dan Heath

Recommended by: David S. Bonner, Director of College Counseling, King Low Heywood Thomas, CT


“Don’t Let Him Know” by Sandip Roy

Recommended by: Michael Stefanowicz, Assistant Director of Admission, Saint Michael’s College, VT

“Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits” by Kevin Roose

Recommended by: Peter C. Jennings, Director of College Counseling, Concord Academy, MA

“Bill Bryson’s Earth: A short history of nearly everything” by Bill Bryson

Recommended by: Corie McDermott-Fazzino, Assistant Director of College Counseling, Portsmouth Abbey School, RI

“Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach” by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner

Recommended by: Debra Shaver, Director of Admission, Smith College, MA

“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

Recommended by: Ryan Ricciardi, Assistant Dean of Admissions, Bowdoin College, ME

“Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” by Erik Larson

Recommended by: Matthew Cohen, Associate Director of Admissions, Skidmore College, NY

Uprooted by Naomi Novick

Recommended by: Alison Slater, Senior Assistant Director of Admission, Denison University, OH

“The End of College” by Kevin Carey

Recommended by: Stuart B. Titus, Associate Director of College Counseling, St. George’s School, RI

“American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence” by Pauline Maier

Recommended by: Paul Sunde, Director of Admissions, Dartmouth College, NH

“Redemption Road” by Lisa Ballantyne

Recommended by: Julie Ramsey, Director of Admissions, University of St. Andrews, Scotland