Unique 2016 summer reading list — from college admissions counselors and deans

- Originally written for The Washington Post's The Answer Sheet A pile of books sits precariously on my bedside table, Jenga-like, and for me, nothing signals the start of summer more than this tower of half-read books. It’s been building since the first day of school last fall and it is as diverse as it is high, soon to shadow the small lamp at its side. Summer is the perfect time to delve into the pile and to tackle these titles, an archive of my year and my changing interests. Here are some highlights in a range of genres:

College admission: “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania” by Frank Bruni

Mindfulness and the teenage brain: “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain” by Dan Siegel

Inspiration: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain

Memoir: “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” by Bill Bryson

Novel: “Lake Wobegon Days” by Garrison Keillor

Exploration: “Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living” by Krista Tippett

Short stories: “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls” by David Sedaris

Standardized test preparation: “Acing It! A Mindful Guide to Maximum Results on Your College Admissions Test” by Erika Oppenheimer

I asked my colleagues in high school counseling and college admission to recommend their favorite reads from the year and here are their top picks. Happy reading!

For Parents:

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood” by Lisa Damour Recommended by: Sally Diehl, Director of College Counseling, Roland Park Country School, MD

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity” by Andrew Solomon Recommended by: Suzi Nam Director of College Counseling, Germantown Friends School, PA

Pressured Parents, Stressed Out Kids” by Wendy S. Grolnick, PhD. and Kathy Seal Recommended by: Beth Ann Burkmar, The Hun School of Princeton, NJ

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” by Robert D. Putnam Recommended by: Carrie Brodsky, Associate Director of College Counseling, Westtown School, PA

Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence” by Laurence Steinberg Recommended by: Amelia Johnson, Assoc. Dir. of College Counseling, Baylor School, TN

American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers” by Nancy Jo Sales Recommended by: Meg Scott, Associate Director of College Counseling, The Agnes Irwin School, PA

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults” by Frances E. Jensen Recommended by: Peter Jennings, Director of College Counseling, Concord Academy, MA

How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” by Julie Lythcott-Haims Recommended by: Debra Shaver, Dean of Admission, Smith College, MA

The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence” by Rachel Simmons Recommended by: Debra Shaver, Dean of Admission, Smith College, MA

The End of American Childhood” by Paula S. Fass Recommended by: Susan Zarwell, Director of College Counseling. University School of Milwaukee, WI

The Gift of Failure” by Jessica Lahey Recommended by: Jed Stuart, Associate Director of Admissions, The Gunnery, CT

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through The Seven Transitions Into Adulthood” by Lisa Damour, Ph.D. Recommended by: Scott Orvis, Director of College Counseling, Saint Mary’s School, NC



Heroic Leadership” by Chris Lowney Recommended by: Mike Sexton, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Santa Clara University, CA

The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College” by Harlan Cohen Recommended by: Bruce Berk, Associate Director of College Counseling, The Derryfield School, NH

The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way” by Bill Bryson Recommended by: Michael Stefanowicz, Assistant Director of Admission, Saint Michael’s College, VT

Class and Campus Life” by Elizabeth M. Lee Recommended by: Jenni Pfeiffer, Associate Director of College Counseling, Rye Country Day School, NY

Creating a Class” by Mitchell Stevens Recommended by: Jenni Pfeiffer, Associate Director of College Counseling, Rye Country Day School, NY

Where Everybody Looks Like Me: At the Crossroads of America’s Black Colleges and Culture” by Ron Stodghill Recommended by: Jennifer Beros, Director of College Counseling, University School, OH

The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less” by Barry Schwartz Recommended by: Carrie Horsey, Associate Director of College Counseling, Head-Royce School, CA

“U Chic, The College Girl’s Guide to Everything” by Christie Garton Recommended by: Barbara Conner, Director of College Counseling, Foxcroft School, VA

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined: The truth about talent, practice, creativity, and the many paths to greatness” by Scott Barry Kaufman Recommended by: Susan Tree, Director of College Counseling, Westtown School, PA

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown Recommended by: Alice Cotti, Director of College Counseling and 11th/12th Grade Dean, Polytechnic School, CA

There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow” by Jeffrey J. Selingo Recommended by: Bernadette Condesso, Director of College Counseling, Poughkeepsie Day School, NY

Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom” by Lisa Delpit Recommended by: Liz Pleshette, Director of College Counseling, Latin School of Chicago, IL

Remaking College: Innovation and the Liberal Arts” by Edited by: Rebecca Chopp, Susan Frost, Daniel H. Weiss Recommended by: Karen Bartlett, Assistant Director of Admissions, Middlebury College



The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach Recommended by: Eric Ahlstrand, Assistant Director of Admission, Furman University, SC

Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Recommended by: Chemeli Kipkorir, Director of University Guidance, African Leadership Academy

Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals” by Mark Edmundson Recommended by: Matt Struckmeyer, Director of College Counseling, Laguna Blanca School, CA

“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates Recommended by: Elizabeth Jamett, Director of College Guidance, University Liggett School, MI

“Where Am I Wearing?” by Kelsey Timmerman Recommended by: Tracy Stockard, Director of College Counseling Gilmour Academy, OH

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise” by Andres Ericson and Robert Pool Recommended by: David Bonner, Dean, King Low Heywood Thomas School, CT

It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini Recommended by: Moira McKinnon, Director of College Counseling, Berwick Academy, ME

Life on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything” by Victor J. Strecher Recommended by: Mr. Nicholas Kourabas, Director of College Counseling, Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, NY

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald Recommended by: Stephanie Balmer, Head of School, Harpeth Hall School, TN

The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah Recommended by: Jody Sanford Sweeney, Associate Director of College Counseling, William Penn Charter School, PA

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz Recommended by: Scott Herrmann-Keeling, Mary Institute & St. Louis Country Day School, MO

Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth Recommended by: Chadwick Fulton, Associate Director of College Counseling, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, TX

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson Recommended by: Janelle Holmboe, Vice-President for Enrollment, Warren Wilson College, NC

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Happens in the End” by Atul Gawande Recommended by: Matthew DeGreeff, Director of College Counseling, Middlesex School, MA

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” by Malcolm Gladwell Recommended by: Ivar Moller, Director of North American Admissions, The University of St. Andrews, Scotland

Creativity, Inc., Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” by Ed Catmull Recommended by: Rhody Davis, Director of College Counseling, Viewpoint School, CA

Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work (A StoryCorps Book)” by Dave Isay Recommended by: Mindy H. Rose, Director of College Counseling, Peddie School, NJ

All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr Recommended by: Bruce Barton, Director of College Counseling, Holderness School, NH

Straight Man” by Richard Russo Recommended by: Corie McDermott-Fazzino, Director of College Counseling, Portsmouth Abbey School, RI

City on Fire” by Garth Risk Hallberg Recommended by: Carl Ahlgren, Director of College Counseling, Gilman School, MD

The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough Recommended by: J. Carey Thompson, Vice President for Enrollment and Communications/Dean of Admission, Rhodes College, TN