“So, what have you been reading this summer that has been interesting?” I ask the unsuspecting 12 year old nephew sitting in the passenger seat of my mini-van. I often start sentences with, “I just read an article that said…” and my kids start to roll their pre-teen eyes. But in the mini-van, my nephew has entered my lair and my younger children perk up from the back seat waiting for his answer. No matter who gets in my car this summer, what that person is reading (or wants to read) is very likely going to be one of the major points of conversation. Over the years, I have found that it works especially well with middle school children to get the conversation going.
A few months after I graduated from college, sufficiently decompressed from four years of a staggering load of dense academic texts, I rediscovered reading for pleasure. Suddenly, I had time to crack the spine on books that people recommended to me long ago; time for newspaper articles that needed more than a few minutes to read and digest; time for sprawling, exhaustive articles in the New Yorker. As I read, I discovered vastly different writing styles, expanded my vocabulary, and satisfied old interests while stoking new ones. One week, I read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, catapulting myself to the top of Everest. A month later, I was thousands of feet underground in Blind Descent, reading about cave explorers competing to find the deepest place on earth. You can experience tremendous adventures as a reader, but there are collateral benefits to your college applications as well. Reading broadly and deeply will expose you to new words and new writing styles. It will give you more to talk about (great fodder for interview conversations!) and teach you about different perspectives and ideas. We become better writers, better thinkers, and better collaborators by reading more—there isn’t an admission officer in the world who wouldn’t say that more reading makes for a better applicant. And the time to start is now. To make the most of your summer reading while you can still make it count, consider some of the tips below: