Better Beach Books?

Peter Wood

While the weather has turned crisp and most of us are reaching deep in our closets to find last year’s parka and scarves, we at NAS are getting ready for the beach. Well, at least, for Beach Books, our annual trip to the shores of college freshman summer reading assignments.

As we prepare this forthcoming edition of this much-anticipated report, we’d like to add more titles to our recommended books for college common reading. We have some ideas as to what would make good ones, but we’d also like to know yours. So here’s your chance to make a suggestion that can influence an entire college’s reading:

What one book would you want undergraduate students to read at the beginning of college?  

Please keep in mind three considerations:

  1. In compiling our current list of 50 recommended books, we had eight criteria (such as “We sought books that are not normally taught in high school”), which remain a good guide as you think about a book you’d suggest. Also keep in mind that this list is not an attempt to assemble a canon of all the “Great Books,” which has been done many times before. Favorite books may not necessarily be the best ones here either. Rather, this is for a specific context – the one book by which students are introduced to college.
  2. Our practice has been, for every book we recommend, to outline 2-4 reasons for why it would be a good choice for college common reading. We encourage you, similarly, to make a case for each book you would like to see on this list.
  3. We cannot accept every suggestion, but we will give due consideration to each one.

You can email NAS director of communications David Randall with the title(s) you’d recommend. You may also make suggestions on Twitter with the hashtag #betterbeachbooks and NAS’s handle @NASorg, on NAS’s Facebook page, or as a comment below this post. NAS will review all suggestions and consider them for inclusion in the next edition of Beach Books.

We look forward to hearing from you and sharing a love of great books.


P.S. A note from Peter Wood, NAS president:

Have you noticed that Beach Books—NAS’s annual round-up of the books assigned by colleges for common reading—has yet to appear this year?

No, it hasn’t decided to lounge a while longer at the Hamptons, or wait for the perfect wave at Malibu. It is sitting pale, wan, and morose in NAS’s home office. Marooned for lack of funding.

Some folks have noticed. One professor wrote, “I hate the thought of your having to suspend your annual study for lack of funds. It is extremely valuable, and even though you may feel like a voice in the wilderness, your point of view very much needs to be heard.”

We’ve got the data! We have the analysis too and six years of widely-read previous editions of Beach Books. We’re ready with sunscreen, flip-flops, and floaties to do our part, but we need some help. Some ice cream money. We are aiming to raise $10,000 by next Wednesday (October 21) to keep Beach Books from drifting away.

Our tone is light, but our purpose is serious. These books are the gateway to a college education for many college students. Often they show the lack of intellectual seriousness at the heart of contemporary higher education. As the one book chosen to represent a college, each choice speaks volumes. And NAS has been keeping track. We’d be grateful if you could help us continue

Image Credit: Kyle Pearce, cropped.

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