What are the books everyone should have read in college?

That’s the question we put to dozens of university professors across the country in search of a small but punchy summer reading list. From over 100 suggestions, here are our top vote getters, and a few more salient suggestions for good measure.

1. “The Origin of the Species,” by Charles Darwin:

“In a nation whose scientific literacy has been declining at a perilous and precipitous rate, this original and highly readable foundation for our current biological science is a must.”

Samuel Smith, professor of English at Messiah College

2. “In Cold Blood,” by Truman Capote:

“This true crime story is not a suspense in the traditional sense. Capote informs the readers from the start who committed the murders.”

Dr. Tod Burke, professor of criminal justice at Radford University


3. “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” by Dave Eggers:

“Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he takes it upon himself to ‘parent’ his younger brother. The title really says it all — sad, funny, outrageous, tragic and heartbreaking.”

Vicky Coffin, reference lecturer at Eastern Connecticut University



4. “The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck:

“Recently this novel has taken on new dimensions because of our heightened environmental awareness. Steinbeck has the ability to capture a time and place so vividly.”

Michele Volansky, professor of theater at Washington College


5. “A Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole:

“If you try to read it quietly, you’ll be bursting out with laughter every few pages, and the people in Starbucks will look at you funny.”

Tom Schrand, professor of environmental sustainability at Philadelphia University.

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