If you love to read as much as I do, youíre always looking for the next best book.
For a long time, I recommended The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, as a must read. Now you can see the film and skip reading it. (But is the movie ever better than the book? Thatís a discussion for another day.) Full disclosure, the reading I do is for relaxation, so you wonít find too many serious volumes on my nightstand. I gravitate toward fiction by women authors. My guilty pleasure is reading frivolous Danielle Steel novels, mostly because I can read them cover to cover in a day. But I also love to learn about a culture, relationships, and solve a mystery or two.
This month, incoming first-year college and university students around the country are cramming to read the books on their summer reading lists. Usually itís one book that will tie the class together and be followed by discussions in first-year seminars. Other campuses choose books that relate to their own history. In her review of a number of reading lists, Dana Goldstein of The New York Times, gives the example of The Citadel which required Aaron Sorkinís 1989 play, ďA Few Good Men,Ē which you may recall from the movie is about a death from hazing in the US Marines Corps.
Along with The New York Times review, NPR does the same each year. Iíve looked at a few lists too. Gone are the dusty classics of years ago. Now, as Goldstein points out, books about the impact of social media, transgender issues, and race top the lists. Most institutions have chosen best sellers or popular titles. Many spotlight cultures on the other side of the world from their campus.
Not everyone thinks colleges and universities choose wisely. The National Association of Scholars publishes a ďBeach BooksĒ review of reading lists aptly named to deride the lists which they feel are predictable and superficial. They provide tips to campuses about increasing the value of their reading lists, including seeking better books and adding on writing assignments.
Youíll find J. D. Vanceís Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, and Ta-Nehisi Coatesí Between the World and Me appear on numerous lists. Hillbilly Elegy is my next read along with Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild. Iíve ordered Strangers on audio to listen on my commute to try to understand the horrific events in Charlottesville, VA, this month.
What follows is NPRís list of the most common books on college reading lists nationally. How many of them have you read?
by†J. D. Vance