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You Recommend Freshmen 'Common Reads'

In recent years, a growing number of colleges and universities have begun assigning "common reads" — books that all incoming freshmen must read over the summer and prepare to discuss in their first week on campus.

In the past weeks, Talk of the Nation has featured several of this year's popular freshmen reads, including The Other Wes Moore, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Guns, Germs and Steel.

We also asked for the books you think should be required reading for all college freshmen. You wrote back with more than 70 suggestions for books about the environment, war and peace, religion, race in America and more. Below are 10 of your recommendations.

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You Recommend Freshman Common Reads

One Bullet Away

by Nathaniel Fick

An ex-Marine captain shares his story of fighting in a recon battalion in both Afghanistan and Iraq, beginning with his brutal training at Quantico, Va., and, ultimately, fighting in the deadliest conflicts since the Vietnam War.

The Canon

by Natalie Angier

Science journalist Natalie Angier draws on interviews with hundreds of the world's top scientists to offer an entertaining guide to scientific literacy, exploring the fundamental principles of the major scientific disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology, geology and astronomy and their link to the world around us.

The Violence Of Peace

by Stephen L. Carter

Presents an analysis of Barack Obama's views on war and the military in the first two years of his presidency, discussing his evolution from being a peace candidate to being a president conducting two wars and how this change affects national security and the nation's future.

The Social Animal

by David Brooks

David Brooks views current research from a variety of disciplines by following the lives and unconscious motivations of a hypothetical American couple as they grow, meet and change throughout their lives.


by Matt Taibbi

The best-selling author of The Great Derangement examines American financial, political and media power and argues that the dramatic series of events that led to the financial crisis also resulted in a complete shift of power to the self-interested elite.

I Am Charlotte Simmons

by Tom Wolfe

With characteristic detail and aplomb Wolfe offers a portrait of modern college life through the story of the innocent but intelligent Charlotte Simmons and her times and travails in the halls and dorms of Dupont University.

The Things They Carried

by Tim O'Brien

An anniversary edition of a collection of interconnected fictional stories follows the members of an American platoon fighting in the Vietnam War, in a book that mirrors the author's own wartime experiences.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically gifted, autistic boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor's dog and uncovers secrets about his mother.

An Ordinary Man

by Paul Rusesabagina

The author describes how he utilized his position as a hotel manager in violence-stricken Rwanda to offer shelter to more a thousand members of the Tutsi clan and Hutu moderates, an act that inspired an Academy Award-nominated film. (Note: An earlier version of this summary mistakenly said the author had sheltered more than 12,000 people.)

The Republic

by Plato, Desmond Lee and Henry Desmond Pritchard Lee

A model for the ideal state includes discussion of the nature and application of justice, the role of the philosopher in society, the goals of education, and the effects of art upon character.

NPR Staff