NerdScholar’s 2013 College Summer Reading List Picks

summer reading lists

For those incoming and current college students, summer is the time when there is time to read books that are actually appealing and that you’re not forced to read. You get to read books that might change your life, your view on society, or even your view on your own future. Whether you are interested in reading the classics, delve into a little economic theory, or get some personal growth, the summer is the time to get your reading done and who better than your college to inspire some literary exploration?

As Aldous Huxley, author of a Brave New World, put it, “Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the way in which he exists, to make his life full, significant, and interesting.” In other words, reading gives you the power to build a more solid learning foundation, regardless of what discipline you are studying. So get your reading on!

To help future and current college students launch their summer reading, NerdScholar lists the best of the best college reading lists out there. Enjoy!

Best reading list recommended by recent graduates

University of California at Berkeley

UC Berkeley’s 2013 graduates gave their incoming freshmen a great parting gift—their very own recommendations on what they should read and how it could impact them. They share their what their majors were and a synopsis of how each book would affect a students’ thinking.

From Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness about how and what makes humans happy to Jonathan Foer’s Eating Animals about the food system, the now alumni share what books have made an impact on them. In the past, UC Berkeley has asked their staff and professors to provide recommendations but we laud their bold move to change it up a bit this year and have college seniors share their favorite books before entering the real world! We find this list to be one of the most diverse, smart, and holistic summer reading lists out there.

Best summer reading list that encourages a broad liberal arts education

University of Notre Dame

As Notre Dame’s faculty put it, “One of the differences between high school and college is the degree to which you actively educate yourself, and your summer reading can be a part of your transition to greater engagement in your own education.” In other words, reading will make you way smarter. Take note!

Notre Dame’s recommended summer reading list is grouped by discipline, and its thoughtful recommendations are specific to the nuances, stage, and societal impacts of various fields.  For example, for fine arts, the Library recommends as much viewing and listening as reading and includes movies, jazz and classical music.

Notre Dame’s list is highly personal to the university as well, and includes an essay and booklist from a former University President and current professor of theology; it also makes recommendations of up and coming authors like Junot Diaz, who will actually be visiting campus in October.

It also recommend such books like Allen Guelzo’s historical rendition Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President and George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia to revive that historical knowledge you need to cultivate over the summer. Students are also highly encouraged to read Making the Most of College: College Students Speak Their Minds to get a good idea of what successful college students do to make the most of their higher education.

Best fiction summer reading list from college librarians

Appalachian State University

The librarians at Appalachian State University put together their very own recommendations to their college students with simple one-sentence reasons why you should read the books.

They recommend everything from Los Alamos, which is a murder-mystery story about the making of the atomic bomb to Keeping the Castle, dealing with the story of an 18-year old beauty who must find a rich husband to prop herself up. All in all, this reading list is diverse, full of fiction novels, and a lot of drama to fill your summer at the beach with unpredictable twists and turns.

Best summer reading list for the campus community

Swarthmore College

The Swarthmore College community and library unified forces to share the books they plan to read this summer. Lauren Farmer, in the political science department, recommended East of Eden by John Steinbeck, a must-read story about the biblical story of genesis through the lives of two California families. It is a true piece of great American Literature.

From the President’s office, Maurice Eldridge suggested A Mercy by Toni Morrison, a book set in the 17th century featuring slaves, indentured workers, and a strong black man highlighting the plight and complexity of America during that period.

Additionally, Michelle Hartel, from the Kohlberg Coffee Bar, suggests Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow, a quick read about a 19-year old’s view of life where she learns to rise above her misery and dispel her pre-conceived notions. Surely these books will inspire Swarthmore’s college students to read with the wider campus community.

Best summer reading list with coming of age stories

Wake Forest University

We all know that young people like to read and panic about the coming of age.  So it is no surprise that Wake Forest University students will be doing some major reflecting by reading stories that force them to re-examine themselves, society, and their place in the world. Among Wake Forest University’s recommendations is The Rules of Civility, a novel about twenty-five year old Katy Kontent’s journey navigating the New York high society. Another good coming of age story is The Perks of Being a Wallflower, detailing the hard experience it is to go through first dates, family drama, and new friends through high school and beyond. Additionally, they highly recommend College: What it Was, Is And Should Be, which gives an account of how a college education is becoming a privilege for only those who are rich. All these books will definitely cause students to reflect and grow.

Betsy Chapman, Director of Parent Programs at Wake Forest, said the following about the reading list, “At Wake Forest, we have increased our efforts to engage and inform parents and families about their students’ college experience. In that spirit, we write a series of online weekly columns for first year students’ families that talk about one aspect about life on campus. For our final column of the academic year, we send the families off with a suggested summer reading list that has been recommended by our colleagues within the faculty, administration, and our talented Z. Smith Reynolds librarians. This can be a wonderful way for students and families to have their own personal book club, or read things together over the summer.”

Best summer reading list from the English Department

Albright College

Albright College’s summer reading list comes from their English Department. Associate Professor Teresa Gilliams, Ph.D. recommends reading Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis, a book that will make you confront the big questions concerning what  life is really about and help you to live more moment to moment. According to Professor Gilliams, the book made her “more inspired, more centered about what really matters, less concerned about life issues over which I have no control, and consciously more self loving and other-affirming .”

Another good recommendation comes from the departments’ lecturer Samantha Roy—The Road by Cormak McCarthy. It tells the story about what the extremes that humans can endure shedding light on the capacity of human existence. This and the rest of the departments’ book recommendations are a true testament to the timeless liberal arts education and innovative, unique, interdisciplinary curriculum that are the hallmarks of Albright College.

Best reading list to tackle before going to college

Harvard University

Harvard University’s College Admissions Reading List gives future college students a really long list of summer reading suggestions but they make the perfect preface to a successful college career. For example, one of the books suggested is Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, which talks about events that have vast societal impact. Another good one is Composing a Life by Mary Bateson, which is meant to show how discontinuity and change are the actual source of strength and growth in one’s lives.


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