What the Class of 2021 Had to Read This Summer


Each year I try to look and see what various Universities and Colleges assign as summer reading to the incoming Freshman class. In my day at least, my University did not even try to do this! Too big of a school–even with the various colleges within it, it was still too big. Today it’s a “thing” at many colleges. But the trend toward this assignment may be waning. Purdue apparently axed their summer read to save around $75,000. That’s a big chunk to give everyone one book that many will fake having read.

This year I found a few journalists had beat me to this assignment, so I’m linking here to those. There is occasional overlap, but I’ll let you read their lists to see what Stanford or other well-known colleges assigned this year. I’ve looked for some different schools, different books than the published news articles featured. National Public Radio (NPR), regarded by most as Liberal,  found still other titles. The National Review, a very Conservative publication for those who don’t know it by name, added its piece on summer reading to the mix as well. Here are the links to those articles:

Quartz: What Top College Students in the U.S. Are Reading This Summer

New York Times: Summer Reading Books; The Ties That Bind Colleges

NPR: Summer Reading For the College Bound


I’ve only read ONE book on this list–Hillbilly Elergy and I recommend it very highly. Here is my review and thoughts on the book.

My List of What the Class of 2021 Had To Read


Freshman Summer Reading  Class of 2021
Title  Author University
Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka Lev Golinkin Boston College
Between The World And Me Ta-Nehisi Coates Wagner College
Between The World And Me Ta-Nehisi Coates Tulane
Between The World And Me Ta-Nehisi Coates Muhlenberg College
Book of Unknown Americans Cristina Henríquez Smith
Book That Changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited America Randall Fuller Skidmore
Citizen: An American Lyric Claudia Rankine Bard
Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio Amara Lakhous Rutgers (Honors College)
Deadly Wandering Matt Richtel Vermont
Distress: A Doctor’s Coming-of-Age on the Front Lines of American Medicine Rachel Pearson College of New Jersey
Few Good Men [play] Aaron Sorkin The Citadel
Freedom Summer Bruce Watson Lehigh
Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein Gris Grimly Siena College
Hillbilly Elergy J.D. Vance Wisconsin
Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits Laila Lalami Lafayette
Illegal Lawrence Hill Georgetown
Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything James Martin Fordham
Just Mercy Bryan Stevenson Bucknell
Just Mercy Bryan Stevenson Bates
Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of a Global Citizen Firoozeh Dumas Texas Christian (TCU)
Life’s Golden Ticket Brendan Burchard Western New England U
Make Your Home Among Strangers Jenine Capo Crucet Whitman College
Make Your Home Among Strangers Jenine Capo Crucet Holy Cross
Outrage Industry Jeffrey M. Berry and Sarah Sobieraj Tufts
People of the Book Geraldine Brooks Westminster College
Prince of Los Cucyos Richard Blanco Duke
Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation Jonathan Lear Bard
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed Jon Ronson Ramapo College of NJ
Strong Inside Andrew Maraniss Vanderbilt
True American: Murder and Mystery in Texas Anand Giridharadas Lehigh
What Is Populism? Jan-Werner Mueller Princeton


Here is the link for last year’s post, What the Class of 2020 is Reading This Summer

Have you read any of these? Did you review them? Leave me a link to your review in the comments. Or, if you have a college-bound Freshman with a summer book that is not on this list, leave me the title and the name of the College or University and I’ll add it to the list.

7 thoughts on “What the Class of 2021 Had to Read This Summer

  1. The college I graduated from, Michigan State University does what is caller One Book, One Community. A book is picked for the summer reading and it is for the college and city in which the college is in to read the book together. This year the book is A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, which the movie “Lion’ is based off of. They even have the author coming to speak at the university. It is a really awesome program.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have Hillbilly Elegy as an audio book and after reading your review am anxious to listen to it. Interesting college reading lists. I didn’t know the universities picked up the tabs for these books when they assigned them. I guess for $50,000/year that is one perk but I see why they need to watch their budgets so they don’t run into financial trouble.

    Liked by 1 person

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