Confession: I’ve been a lifelong reader and have a kind of, sort of book addiction. I started reading books about parenting when my oldest was in utero and started reading books about college admissions when he was a freshman in high school way back in 2005. I’m pretty sure I’ve read nearly every college admissions guide there is to read. 

So, as a certified Book Lover (flashlight-under-the-covers book readers unite!), I am excited to share my summer book collection, filled with the titles from the stacks of books that fill up my bedside table, dining room table, and my kindle library! Here’s a glimpse of what I’m reading and will be reading this summer!

College Admissions Guides:

If you could see my bookshelves, you’d see them filled with books about college admissions — literally dating from the 1960s. I’ve learned from them all — the good and the bad — even the admissions books that come from creating a place of fear for parents and students have taught me valuable lessons. So, as the voracious book reader and College Admissions Junkie I am, I can’t miss the opportunity to share with you some of my fave Admissions Journey Books to add to your library. I counted my College Admissions Guides a couple of years ago, and I had around, oh I dunno, 60 something…. 

But, to me, these are the best of the best, and although I’ve read and reread these books, they can’t leave my summer reading list! I keep them near my computer and refer to them frequently!

Colleges that Change Lives by Loren Pope: CTCL is a website and book about 40ish unique colleges that often fly under the radar but focus on their students’ development. CTCL colleges have small student bodies, professors that are mentors more than just teachers, and are liberal arts schools. If you are having trouble searching for the right school for you and don’t mind a small campus, I recommend at least venturing to CTCL’s website or picking up a copy of their book.

Fiske Guide to Colleges by Edward Fiske: This is my #1 go-to college guide. Fiske covers over 400 colleges and is the perfect book to read or skim to start your search. The book offers a college self-quiz to help you start making a list of colleges.

Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be by Frank Bruni: Frank Bruni’s book opened my mind to the benefits of thinking beyond highly selective colleges. He profiles a number of famous, successful alums from colleges you just might not have ever heard of. 

The Princeton Review Best 380-something Guides: the Princeton Review’s annual book on the “Best” 380-Something colleges is a good place to start if you are having trouble making a college list. The book boasts an expansive, but still in-depth look at close to 400 colleges. The book organizes colleges by best academics, administration, campus life, financial aid, college character, and social scene to help you better compare colleges.

College Admissions Fiction (There’s Lots of Juicy New Dramas here!!!! And A2C even gets a shout-out in one!)

Admission: A Novel by Julie Buxbaum: This one’s next on my list to read! It’s a YA novel about a girl heading to college whose mom gets arrested in a “massive college admissions scandal.” Sound familiar? 

The Ivies by Alexa Donne: I read this earlier this summer. Correction. I absorbed it! It was so fun. Also a YA novel about a group of teens at a hoity-toity prep school and all the college admissions obsession and drama that happens there. It’s for sure exaggerated, but a fun easy read. AND A2C gets a couple of shoutouts!

Girls with Bright Futures by Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman: This book is being described as BIg Little Lies meets Varsity Blues, and I def see that, but also I have to say that other than the actual criminal behavior and all the dramatic twists and turns, I saw glimpses of the moms from the school where my kids went — just on steroids. 

Where the Grass is Green and the Girls are Pretty by Lauren Weisberger: And speaking of big little lies, that’s apparently the topic of this recent release — and although I haven’t yet read it (on the list for after Admission: A Novel), it looks like the lie is gonna be about college admissions…

Also, be sure to check out this post by u/SplendidCheese, where they list lots of other great reads, most of them fiction and involving college admissions in some way! 



Other Books about College Admissions All Stacked Up On My Table That I Plan to Read (and Finish!) this Summer:

Who Gets in and Why by Jeff Selingo: I’ve started and stopped this a number of times over the last 6 months, but I’m gonna finish this summer. Jeff spent time embedded in a few admissions offices and shares some great insight.

The Years That Matter Most by Paul Tough: It’s been on my stack of books for months now, but I’m determined to read it this summer! One review I read says Tough “argues persuasively that access to an elite college education, which in the U.S. is popularly believed to be a meritocratically distributed social equalizer, is in fact distributed in ways that reinforce existing economic divisions… His analyses of data are sound, his portraits of students and teachers sympathetic, his argument neatly structured, and his topic one with wide appeal.” 

Unacceptable: Privilege, Deceit & the Making of the College Admissions Scandal by Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz. I’ve already much of this book, but need to finish a few more chapters! Korn and Levitz do a great job of breaking down the scandal and telling it as a story.

The College Conversation: A Practical Companion for Parents to Guide Their Children Along the Path to Higher Education by Eric Furda and Jaques Steinberg — another book on my stack that I’m looking forward to digging into!

The Price You Pay for College: An Entirely New Roadmap for the Biggest Financial Decision Your Family Will Ever Make by Ron Leiber: I have a lot to learn about finances and college admissions and I’m looking forward to learning a lot from this book. 


Other Books You NEED to READ: 

Bonus points — not only does reading stretch and build your brain muscles, and allow you to learn about stuff, and increase your ability to problem solve and figure shit out, colleges are looking for those who are intellectually curious, and guess what people who are intellectually curious do? They read. A lot. Here’s a list of some of my favorite books from this summer — and some that I’m looking forward to reading!

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed: This book’s written by a fellow East Texan, and I have to say I think that’s amazing. The fact that she’s from a town even smaller than mine and she’s a little older than I and she went to Dartmouth blows my mind. Like, I’d never even heard of Darty when I went to college! She tells the story of our newest national (USA) holiday. I’m about halfway through and even though I grew up knowing about Juneteenth, I’m still learning a ton!

Your Turn by Julie Lythkott-Haims: This book is way up there on my list of books to read. I gave a copy to all my students (with a signed note from the author! — so cool). I quote JLH and retweet her and add her posts to my stories all the time, so get ready for some of her wise words to be heading your way!

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro: I read this amazing novel earlier this summer. Ishiguro’s version of our future with our AI friends was totally mesmerizing and I gobbled the book in a long plane ride!

Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson: OK, I’m kind of addicted to Mark Manson and his realistic views of life-based on Stoicism and his own badassery. I’ve now read this book a few times and I learn something from him every time, which is kind of annoying to me since he’s decades younger than I!! I gave a copy of this book to pretty much everyone I know last holiday season. You’ve def heard me channeling his words and wisdom from me if you read a lot of my posts. 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisis Coates: I LOVE his voice and can’t wait to finish this book. I’m thissss close to the end. 

The Premonition by Michael Lewis: Just came out. Michael Lewis, who wrote The Big Short and Money Ball, digs into the main “players” of the last year of our lives — and he tells the story of the brilliant fucking geniuses who’d been planning for a pandemic for a couple of decades. I’m mesmerized by these “characters”

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery: I’m never eating octopus again. They are fascinating, inventive, creative, intelligent creatures, and humans are just beginning to tap into a basic understanding of their systems and emotions. I was blown away by this book.

Real Queer America by Samantha Allen: Fun book. Samantha Allen is a trans writer who decided to focus on Queer communities where you don’t expect to find them, like Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Florida, and Alabama. She finds thriving, bonded tight nit groups and spends some time getting to know them and learn more about how they are thriving. 

Other Books To Check Out (I read most of  these in the last few years, but some are old faves): 

Self-Helpy/Mindfulness Books

10% Happier by Dan Harris

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman

The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris and Jeff Warren 

The Mindful Twenty-Something: Life Skills to Handle Stress and Everything Else by Holly Rogers, MD

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

You are a Badass by Jenn Sincero

Parenting (Parents… I know you’re here ;)

I’ve got parenting books going back over 30 years, but this list has some of my faves that I felt would be most relevant here.

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel, PhD

The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey

The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison

How to Raise An Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims

Writing and Grammar

Between You and I: A Little Book of Bad English by James Cochrane 

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King


Anything by Kurt Vonnegut, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Virginia Woolf James Baldwin, Haruki Murakami, Anne Lamott, Jane Austen, a Bronte sister, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Robert Jordan, Zadie Smith, Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed

And, one last book about College Admissions ….

My Book (and yours) —  Hey AdmissionsMom: Real Talk from Reddit by me and about 70 active users from A2C from 2016 — 2019. Here’s my post about this book from September 2019 when I first published it. There’s a link to a pdf of the entire book that post. I’m linking the post so you can read the history of how the book developed if you’re interested. I’m in the process of updating it with all the changes that have happened since 2019 and should have the 2021/2022 version available in the fall. U/ashtree_c shared an amazing review and I just want to share it with you here: “I got credited in this book (thanks admissionsmom!!) and reading through it, I think it really adds a much-needed human aspect to college admissions and shows just how many personal obstacles people go through during this process. Lots of people are going through admissions alone- bringing Reddit to a different medium and showing them that their situations can be addressed and others are facing the same anxiety as they are is going to do a lot of good.”

So, get going! Reading makes you a better writer and thus, a better college applicant! So, instead of spending a ton of time angsting over what to write about for your personal essay, start reading!!! Get familiar with the ways words work and what feels right to you. For those of you still looking for something to do this summer, make reading one of your activities — YES IT COUNTS!!! You could even get creative and warm up those writing muscles by tapping into your inner book critic and starting your own little mini literary review journal!