The NAS published Beach Books 2014-2016: What Do Colleges and Universities Want Students to Read Outside Class? on February 9, 2016. The main author is David Randall; Ashley Thorne and Peter Wood are contributors. We invite readers to share responses in the comments section or in article submissions via email to
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Hundreds of American colleges and universities assign a summer reading to entering freshmen—usually one book, which the students are asked to read outside their courses. For many students, this is the only book they will read in common with their classmates. Colleges rarely assign classic texts: the common reading genre is parochial, contemporary, commercial, optimistic, juvenile, obsessed with suffering, and progressive.

Our study of common readings covers more than 350 colleges and universities for the academic years 2014-2015 and 2015-16.

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