Scholars Pick Must-Reads for Undergrads

PRINCETON, NJ (September 17, 2010)—The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has released a list of 43 books it recommends for “common reading” programs: “Read These Instead: Better Books for Next Year’s Beaches.” 

In June NAS issued a comprehensive study of the trend to assign a single book to students outside the context of the regular curriculum.  “Beach Books: What Do Colleges Want Students to Read Outside Class?” endorsed the principle but faulted colleges for politically biased choices and for picking lightweight contemporary works.   

The new NAS list ranges from Plato to William Least Heat-Moon, and includes Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle, Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and the book of Ecclesiastes.  In choosing the titles, NAS says it “sought diversity—the intellectual kind.”   The list includes NAS’s explanation for why it chose each book.  

Over 300 U.S. colleges and universities have common reading programs. NAS has updated its database of books colleges selected in 2010. The updated database with over 80 changes will be released Wednesday, September 22, 2010. 

“We hope colleges will consult our list as they make their picks for 2011,” said Peter Wood, president of the NAS.  “The opportunity to read any one of these books is a gift.  Our aim was to find writers who unsettle clichés and who can inspire students to think seriously about things of permanent importance.” 

The National Association of Scholars advocates for higher education reform. To learn more about NAS, visit

Peter Wood, President, NAS: 609-683-7878;


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