What Books Should I List for Columbia and Stanford?

The Best Answer To The Stanford and Columbia “Favorite Books” Supplement

By: Caroline Koppelman

Of course, there is no right answer to this question. Every year more colleges ask you to list your favorite books. While we think this is an excellent question because a person’s taste reveals a lot of them, we often see students pick books that may not cast them in a good light. 

There is no perfect list that will get you in. That being said, there are books you probably shouldn’t list for a variety of reasons. Most of the books below are staples of high school reading lists nationwide and as such do little to highlight your individuality.

Please avoid mentioning any of these. If you truly and deeply believe that these books are important to you, you can consider making an exception.

The books on your reading list should be diverse because you should have a diversity of interests. They should outline and exemplify your interests. These books represent a part of you and if all of them can be grouped into the same general field, you may have an issue. 

Most importantly, avoid listing books you read for school unless they are relatively esoteric. Schools want to see that you’re reading of your own volition and on your own time.


  1. Anything Harry Potter 
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird 
  3. The Great Gatsby 
  4. Moby-Dick 
  5. The Catcher in the Rye 
  6. Lord of the Flies 
  7. Brave New World 
  8. Animal Farm 
  9. The Scarlet Letter 
  10. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 
  11. Anything Lord of the Rings 
  12. Lolita
  13. Slaughterhouse 5 
  14. Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton
  15. Fast Food Nation 
  16. The Bell Jar 
  17. The Doors of Perception 
  18. Steve Job’s biography 
  19. Night 
  20. On the Road 
  21. Pride and Prejudice 
  22. The Little Prince