What Should the College Kids Be Reading?

Last week, NPR talked about campus-wide reading programs in a piece called What The College Kids Are Reading. In recent years, colleges have been assigning a single book for students to read and discuss, regardless of their major or class schedule, in hopes of opening up the campus to a single idea. I know here in Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University focuses their program on incoming freshmen and chose The Circle by Dave Eggers last year. This time around freshmen will be reading The Secret History of Wonder Woman. The NPR piece has some great examples of common choices and got me thinking about what would be on my shortlist.

Missoula by John Krakauer

There has been a big push in recent years to bring workshops to college campuses to teach students about consent. While I think they are a fantastic idea, I also that that a book like Missoula, which focuses on a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana, could potentially go a long way in changing the mindset of students and school cultures as a whole.

Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson

Welcome to Braggsville is a longshot, but it’s so perfect for something like this. It’s a story about a group of students who meet as freshmen in college and return to the rural home of the protagonist in order to stage a fake protest for one of their classes. It’s great practice in reading satire, but there are also dozens of topics to pull apart, namely the way the author sheds light on racism.
welcome to braggsville

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I think I was less than ten pages into Between the World and Me when I started thinking about how perfect it would be as a campus-wide read. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about race and culture with an unflinching honesty that can open doors for discussions we desperately need to be having.
between the world and me

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Even though I didn’t love Jon Ronson’s newest book, I do think it could be valuable if read and discussed widely. As an entire campus or class, students and professors would be able to really dig into the topic’s complexities and approach some of the issues I had with the book.
publicly shamed ronson

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibuscus was included on NPR’s list, but I’d also like to add in Americanah as a great choice. Like Purple Hibiscus, it examines the African diaspora, but is more focused on America’s perception of race and racism through the eyes of a non-American black woman.

Which books would you like to see as campus-wide reads?