America's top colleges assigned these books to freshmen

Every summer, top colleges around the US ask incoming freshman to read books the schools have deemed important and noteworthy.

The book choices this year range from personal essays to classic fiction, hitting topics that include race, climate change, and sexuality.

While students will get to enjoy the books over the summer, at most colleges they’re expected to come to campus ready to debate and analyse the book alongside their new classmates.

Check out what they’re reading below:

Princeton University: 'Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do,' by Claude Steele

From Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber:

''Whistling Vivaldi' presents some of the most important social science work done in the last quarter-century, and speaks directly to issues that are important to our nation and our campus community. Professor Steele describes a series of inventive experiments -- including some involving Princeton students -- that enabled him to develop and test his hypothesis about how negative stereotypes affect us in times of stress. All of us, no matter what our backgrounds may be, will recognise ourselves in some of Professor Steele's examples.'

Buy 'Whistling Vivaldi' here >>

Duke University: 'Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,' by Alison Bechdel

From Duke Summer Reading Committee Member Ibanca Anand:

''Fun Home' is a book like no other. The author uses the unique graphic medium to tell a story that sheds a lot of light on important and weighted issues like mental health, interpersonal relationships and human rights, all critical issues that students will become acquainted with in college ... The book is a quick read but not an easy one; it made me uncomfortable at times, which I think is one of the most telling reasons why it's so important for students to read.'

Buy 'Fun Home' here >>

Stanford University: 'The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,' by Walter Isaacson, 'This Boy's Life,' by Tobias Wolff, and 'Cane River,' by Lalita Tademy.

From Stanford President John Hennessy:

'I spent a long time pondering what sort of books to choose when I was asked to lead the program this year, and I chose three books about people: a biography (actually a collection of short biographies), a memoir, and what we might call a book of biographical fiction ... They are stories about people, the challenges they face, and how they deal with adversity.'

Buy 'The Innovators,' 'This Boy's Life,' and 'Cane River' here >>

Tufts University: 'Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation,' by Eboo Patel

From Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco:

'This year's Common Reading book is a compelling memoir by Eboo Patel, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.

'Born in India and raised in the United States, Eboo Patel is the founder of the Chicago-based nonprofit Interfaith Youth Core, which works to promote deeper understanding and respect among people of all faiths and none, encouraging young people to engage in community service in order to heal divisions and conflicts in society and the world. His personal story explores important questions of community, compassion, and commitment and resonates strongly with our core values of active citizenship and global engagement.'

Buy 'Acts of Faith' here >>

Northwestern University: 'The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America,' by Thomas King

From One Book One Northwestern Faculty Chair Loren Ghiglione:

'It's a history book that turns conventional wisdom on its head, but is told with a storyteller's humour and elegance ... 'The Inconvenient Indian' will help diminish the ignorance many of us have and focus on some important issues that don't normally come to the fore in media.'

Buy 'The Inconvenient Indian' here >>

Cornell University: 'Slaughterhouse-Five,' by Kurt Vonnegut

From The Cornell Chronicle:

'Written in Vonnegut's signature conversational style, 'Slaughterhouse-Five' is considered a classic of American literature. The Cornell alum's (Class of 1944) celebrated anti-war book is in part a fictionalized memoir of his World War II experiences -- in particular, the fire bombing of Dresden by Allied forces in February 1945, while Vonnegut was a prisoner of war. Published in 1969 and subtitled 'The Children's Crusade -- A Duty Dance With Death,' the book begins: 'All this happened, more or less.''

Buy 'Slaughterhouse-Five' here >>

University of California, Los Angeles: 'Bad Feminist,' by Roxane Gay

From UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block:

'This year's author Roxane Gay is well-known in popular culture for her writing and social media presence, and Bad Feminist, a collection of essays, will provide the university community with a platform for engaging in critical dialogue and discussion around a variety of topics including politics, American culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, perceptions of feminism, etc ...

'Importantly, Bad Feminist was chosen because it embodies the goals of the Common Book program; that is, new Bruins will have the opportunity to share and understand diverse perspectives in a respectful way, build a community of intellectually-engaged learners, explore their role in creating a just society, and consider critical action steps that can be taken in response to their Common Book experience.'

Buy 'Bad Feminist' here >>

University of Pennsylvania: 'The Big Sea,' by Langston Hughes

From Penn News:

'Published in 1940, when Hughes was 38 years old and already among America's most celebrated poets, The Big Sea is a memoir, structured in short essays, of his early experiences and a chronicle of his self-realisation and invention. Hughes explores his early life, growing up in an African-American family in the Midwest. He later travelled extensively to Mexico, France and Africa where his sense of identity would be questioned, formed and redefined. Throughout the book, Hughes' personal discoveries are set in broader contexts, including the extraordinary world of the Harlem Renaissance, in which he was one of the primary creative artists.'

Buy 'The Big Sea' here >>

Brown University: 'The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,' by Michelle Alexander

From Brown's First Readings:

'The New Jim Crow is the account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status -- denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.

'The New Jim Crow tells a truth our nation has been reluctant to face. Jim Crow laws were wiped off the books decades ago, but today an extraordinary percentage of the African American community is warehoused in prisons or trapped in a parallel social universe, denied basic civil and human rights -- including the right to vote; the right to serve on juries; and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits.

Today, it is no longer socially permissible to use race explicitly as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. Yet it is perfectly legal to discriminate against convicted criminals in nearly all the ways in which it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once labelled a felon, even for a minor drug crime, the old forms of discrimination are suddenly legal again. Basically, the racial caste in America never ended; it was merely redesigned.'

Buy 'The New Jim Crow' here >>

Columbia University: 'The Iliad,' by Homer

From The Columbia Club Of New York:

'One of the foremost achievements in Western literature, Homer's Iliad tells the story of the darkest episode in the Trojan War. At its center is Achilles, the greatest warrior-champion of the Greeks, and his refusal to fight after being humiliated by his leader Agamemnon.'

Note: Incoming Columbia freshman have traditionally read The Iliad before the first week of classes for decades.

Buy 'The Iliad' here >>

Vanderbilt University: 'The Madonnas of Echo Park,' by Brando Skyhorse

From Vanderbilt English Department Writer-in-Residence Alice Randall:

'Madonnas of Echo Park is a portrait of a community created with a roving focus on characters who are, at once, at the center of the story and on the periphery. This novel explores both the obvious and subtle tugs one life makes on another when we are tethered by nothing more or less than geographical and architectural proximity.

'Though the green lawns of The Commons on the Vanderbilt campus are a continent away from gritty Echo Park I think the wisdom gained by a trip through the pages of Skyhorse's novel is worth the detour. Madonnas of Echo Park has much to teach about starring in your own story while playing a supportive role in the story of others.'

Buy 'The Madonnas of Echo Park' here >>

Johns Hopkins University: 'The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood,' by Ta-Nehisi Coates

From Johns Hopkins' Freshman Book Read:

'The Beautiful Struggle is a particularly fitting selection for this year's Book Read Program. Ta-Nehisi Coates grew up in Baltimore and his book is an account of his experiences as a boy growing up in our city.

'Coates was the inaugural speaker for JHU's newly created Forum on Race in America, which was held during the same week as the protests and unrest in Baltimore in response to Freddie Grey's death. The JHU Forum on Race in America strives to provide an ongoing opportunity for critical analysis and dialogue on the ways that race and racism affect American life and culture.'

Buy 'The Beautiful Struggle' here >>

Smith College: 'The Collapse of Western Civilisation: A View from the Future,' by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway

From Smith's Summer Reading:

'The year is 2393, and the world is almost unrecognizable. Clear warnings of climate catastrophe went ignored for decades, leading to soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, widespread drought and -- finally -- the disaster now known as the Great Collapse of 2093, when the disintegration of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet led to mass migration and a complete reshuffling of the global order.

'Writing from the Second People's Republic of China on the 300th anniversary of the Great Collapse, a senior scholar presents a gripping and deeply disturbing account of how the children of the Enlightenment -- the political and economic elites of the so-called advanced industrial societies -- failed to act, and so brought about the collapse of Western civilisation ... After a review of a number of suggestions, the First Year Reading Committee believes it has selected a thought-provoking, challenging, affordable and accessible novel about the effects of climate change, a topic of pressing importance for us all.'

Buy 'The Collapse of Western Civilisation' here >>

Washington University in St. Louis: 'Citizen: An American Lyric,' by Claudia Rankine

From WashU's First Year Reading Program:

'In this remarkable and timely work, acclaimed author and Pomona College professor, Claudia Rankine, uses poetry, essay, cultural criticism, and visual images to explore what it means to be an American citizen in a 'post-racial' society. Claudia Rankine's bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV -- everywhere, all the time.

'The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person's ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named 'post-race' society.'

Buy 'Citizen' here >>

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