When the Sunday New York Times offered a short summary of books on the summer reading list for freshman, I wondered what my alma maters and those of my friends has assigned for stirring the synapses of the new generation of college entrants. Aside from requiring a book as an assignment for a class (usually freshman comp), college administrators are no more successful at guaranteeing the book will be read than are book clubs (unless the host threatens a quiz with strips of questions to be publicly answered). For someone to read the book, it must be engaging.
Topics for required freshman reading range from diversity and tolerance to best sellers. Sometimes the nature of the institution reflects the choice, for example, “A Few Good Men” has been a popular choice over the years for The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina. Berkeley’s 2017 summer reading list includes “What Can We Change in a Single Generation?” and the score from Hamilton, while this year a number of colleges, including one of my alma mater’s, picked “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson – the memoir of an attorney representing poor clients in the South, as he follows a client on death row for killing a young white woman in Alabama.
I was happy to see one of my favorites on the Stanford Three Books List as well as the pick for Connecticut College – Homegoing by Yaa Ghasi. I have yet to read Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, but the University of Wisconsin has identified it for its freshmen – a strange pick for a liberal university.
Tufts University is asking its freshmen to read “The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility” by Tufts political science professors Jeffrey M. Berry and Sarah Sobieraj. Mount Holyoke College has chosen “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine as the 2017 Common Read. The incoming Penn State class will join MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynsey Addario in exploring her passion for photography and how it shaped her personal and professional life by reading “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War.” The 2017 University of Pennsylvania freshman read is Walter Isaacson’s “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.”
What about the classics? Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” was the only one I could find – for Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.
Do you remember the book(s) you were required to read as an entering freshman? For me, it was Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha” – and I doubt I understood its implications until I read again many years later.
For More Freshman Read Titles, check: