For some time now, I have published an annual summer reading list assembled by Brennan Barnard. He is the director of college counseling at the private Derryfield School
in New Hampshire and college admission program manager of the Making Caring Common
project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
The list of recommenders is unusual: Barnard asks fellow high school college admissions counselors as well as college admissions deans for recommendations of books for students and parents to read. Some of the several dozen suggestions are related to the education world, and some are not.
Here is the 2019 list. There’s something on it for everyone.
By Brennan Barnard
It has, undoubtedly, been a most eventful year in college admissions.
There was the massive college bribery scandal called Varsity Blues, as well as a lawsuit against Harvard University alleging that the admissions process is rigged against Asian Americans. The College Board released a new tool to inform colleges about adversity that applicants face in their lives, and the Justice Department is conducting an antitrust probe into some early-decision programs.
Those of us trying to guide students of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances through the college search and application experience have needed to cut through the noise and focus on what really matters.
A number of books have helped me maintain perspective this year, chief of which was David Brooks’s “The Road to Character."
Through a study of great leaders and activists, Brooks invites us to consider the human condition and focus on aspects of character that really matter. He describes “eulogy virtues,” those qualities that we will always be known for — the contributions we make to others and the joy we bring to life. He contrasts these distinguishing characteristics with “resume virtues,” the list of achievements or awards that we may have won.
Too often, students applying to college focus on stuffing their résumé with a laundry list of activities and courses at the expense of the larger question of whom they want to be as a human. Summer provides a great opportunity to explore these questions and step back from the routine.
What book stood out to you this year? As summer begins, I asked my colleagues in high school counseling and college admission to recommend their favorite books from the year. Some titles can help students and families ask critical questions of character, and others will simply serve as an escape from more academic pursuits. Here are their top picks for you to enjoy in the summer months.
“The Privileged Poor”
by Anthony Abraham Jack — Recommended by:
Erica Johnson, vice president of enrollment management, Westminster College, Utah
OTHER GREAT READS
“Jerusalem: A Cookbook”
by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi — Recommended by:
Roland Allen, director of college counseling, St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, Calif.
“Born A Crime”
by Trevor Noah — Recommended by:
Mike Sexton, vice president for enrollment management, Santa Clara University, Calif.
“Waking Up White”
by Debby Irving — Recommended by:
Diane Campbell, director of college counseling, Liberty Common High School, Colo.
by Francesca Gino — Recommended by:
Anthony Franco, associate director of college counseling, St. George’s School, R.I.
“Beartown: A Novel”
by Fredrik Backman — Recommended by:
Emily Roper-Doten, dean of admission and financial aid, Olin College of Engineering, Mass.
by Zachary Lazar — Recommended by:
Jeff Schiffman, director of admissions, Tulane University, La.
by Mohsin Hamid — Recommended by:
Matt Cohen, senior associate director of admissions, Skidmore College, N.Y.
by Rudy Francisco — Recommended by:
Kortni Campbell, senior associate dean of admission and financial aid, Davidson College, N.C.