What Books Should I Read for my College Supplements?

Over the last few years, more and more schools have been adding one question to their supplement. Wake Forest, Columbia, Stanford, and MIT, among others, all ask their applicants to detail books that they are reading, have read, or just a list of a student’s favorite books. We’re noticing this as a growing trend, so we thought it best to connect with you on it. So how do you create a good reading list for these colleges’ supplements? The key is to keep it focused, as per usual, and keep it relevant. The more specific that you are in your choices, the better, and it’s an opportunity to highlight a specific or unique interest.

In the event that you have more than one interest that you want to highlight, that’s great--choose 2 and focus on those interests. We’ve created a short list on a number of different topics below for you to take a look at. You’ll also get an idea of what types of books we advise our students to read, and you’ll notice that we don’t really have lists of NY TImes Bestsellers. Why? Because that’s boring. Admissions readers don’t need you to tell them that you’ve read The Goldfinch. They’ll be more intrigued if your book list actually says something about you. For example, that you have interests and passions outside of Snapchat. That’s who they want. Get reading.

1.     Nutrition

·      In Defense Of Food by Michael Pollan

·      Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

·      The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

·      Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss

·      The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes


2.     Intersectional Feminism

·      Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

·      Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit

·      Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

·      The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

·      Ain’t I A Woman? by bell hooks

·      Gender Trouble by Judith Butler

·      The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

·      Of Woman Born by Adrienne Rich


3.     History

·      A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

·      The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer

·      1984 by George Orwell OR The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

·      Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

·      Hitler: Ascent by Volker Ulrich


4.     Mindfulness

·      The Art of Communicating by Thich Nhat Hanh

·      Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity by David Lynch

·      The Tao of Wu by RZA

·      Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

·      The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison


5.     Political Science

·      The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

·      The Republic by Plato

·      Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson

·      Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

·      The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro


6.     Business

·      Grit: The Power of Passions and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

·      The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

·      The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

·      How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

·      Quiet by Susan Cain


7.     Economics

·      Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt

·      Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty

·      The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

·      Political Economy for Beginners by Millicent Fawcett

·      Capital: A Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx


8.     Classics

·      The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

·      Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

·      Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

·      Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

·      One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

·      The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway


9.     Poetry

·      Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

·      Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

·      The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson

·      The Belljar by Sylvia Plath + Ariel by Sylvia Plath

·      Selected Poems, 1923-58 by e.e. cummings

·      Howl and other Poems by Allen Ginsberg

·      Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

·      The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

·      Songs from Under the River by Anis Mojgani


10.  Author Binges

Maya Angelou

·      On the Pulse of Morning

·      I Know Why the Caged Bird Songs

·      And Still I Rise

·      Mom & Me & Mom

·      Gather Together In My Name


Joan Didion

·      Slouching Towards Bethlehem

·      Play it As It Lays

·      Democracy

·      Where I Was From

·      The Year of Magical Thinking


Kurt Vonnegut

·      Cat’s Cradle

·      Slaughterhouse Five

·      Jailbird

·      A Man Without A Country

·      God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater


James Joyce

·      Dubliners

·      A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

·      Ulysses

·      Exiles

·      Finnegans Wake


11.  Philosophy (we suggest sticking to one school of philosophy. The example below is  Stoicism, but you may choose books from other categories, too.)

·      Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

·      The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday

·      Letters from a Stoic by Seneca

·      The Art of Living by Epictetus


Let us know if your topic isn’t on here, and we’d be happy to send you a few books that we’d suggest on that topic. Just send us a note or give us a call. Seriously.