Some universities and colleges have a “Common Read” requirement for incoming freshmen. The chosen book becomes the catalyst for writing and discussion during orientation or throughout the year in the First-Year Seminar classes.
Here are my Top Ten from books freshmen are reading for the Fall, 2018 semester.
Have you read any of them?
- Tufts University – Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
- Mt Holyoke College – The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez
- University of Pennsylvania – The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder
- University of Maryland – The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
- Johns Hopkins University – The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It by Jo Ann Robinson
- University of Massachusetts Amherst – Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
- University of Cincinnati – Radioactive by Lauren Redniss
- University of Arizona – On Trails by Robert Moor
- University of Oregon – The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
- Princeton University – Speak Freely by Keith Whittington
Click here to find your alma mater and the book freshman are reading for the Fall.
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:
When a good friend, and an alumna of Mt. Holyoke, mentioned Americanah as the college’s choice for the incoming freshman class, I wondered what other books were on the agenda for freshmen. At most colleges new students come to campus ready to debate and analyze the book. Here’s a short list –
See your school? Read the books? Have one to add?
Freshman Summer Reads
- Duke University: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
- Tufts Univeristy: Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel
- Cornell University: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- University of Pennsylvania: The Big Sea by Langston Hughes
- Columbia University: The Iliad by Homer
- Johns Hopkins University: The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Pennsylvania State University: The Boom by Russell Gold
- University of Maryland: Head Off and Split by Nikky Finney
- University of Vermont: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
- New York University: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
and Berkelely has a Summer Sampler – books not required but a great recommended list: http://reading.berkeley.edu/
Remember the summer reading lists when you were in grade school? And the book you read the day before school started?
By the time you got to college, you’d figured out how to read enough to get by. The freshman year experience usually orients new students to college with a course around a book. The book that was to catapult me to new vistas of understanding and an easy transition to college life was Siddhartha. I don’t remember the discussion, but I do remember the book.
In the New York Times Book Review section, Jennifer Schuessler lists some of the books ivy-covered and brick-and-mortar institutions of higher learning are requiring for entering freshmen – Inside the List. Have you read any of them?
- Eating Animals by Jonathan Foer
- Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John
- Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
- Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
- Hamlet’s Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age by William Powers
- The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain by Nicholas Carr
- Homer and Langley by E. L. Doctorow
Wondering what other freshmen are reading?
Mount Holyoke’s required summer reading was Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Tufts freshmen are discussing Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat. The National Association of Scholars has a recommended list of 37 books for discussion.
One of my alma mater’s is requiring The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – have you read it yet?