Summer reading picks give sneak peek at the college year ahead

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

As college students pack up their belongings and prepare to hit the books again, most have a least one text under their belt already. Colleges and universities across the state select a summer reading book for students to create a common academic experience before they return to campus each fall. Generally, a committee of faculty, staff and selected students decide what that book will be. Below is the list of books selected by some of the institutions across N.C.

UNC Chapel Hill
How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?
by Moustafa Bayoumi, published 2008

Bayoumi introduces a group of 20-something Arab-Americans and details their stories of discrimination in schools and workplaces in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Wake Forest University
Various selections

WFU is allowing it’s first-year students to pick from a range of books to discuss with their faculty, staff and peers ranging from classics like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice through contemporary works such as Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. A complete list can be found at

Meredith College
Nine selections, a “casebook on social media” compiled by professors and advisers at Meredith

Meredith chose to replace the usual summer reading assignment with a compilation of short stories, articles, case studies and a TED talk focusing on social media, identifying deceptive marketing (“clickbait”) and fake news. A complete list can be found at

NC State University
Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates, published 2015

Coates writes with a dark outlook on the feelings and realities associated with being black in the United States in a 176-page letter directed to his 15-year-old son. Coates eschews Martin Luther King Jr.’s optimism, seeing white supremacy as a potentially invulnerable power in the U.S.

UNC Charlotte
The Book of Unknown Americans
by Cristina Henriquez, published 2014

Henriquez’s novel follows the story of Latin American immigrants in a decrepit Delaware apartment building and the relationships that manifest between them as the families struggle to achieve their dreams of a better life for future generations under the weight of their bleak reality.

Appalachian State
One Amazing Thing
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, published 2010

Divakaruni writes of nine diverse strangers caught together in a post office by a disastrous fate. In the middle of the terminal event, a student asks everyone in the room to tell the story of “one amazing thing” in their life, revealing tales of romance, upheaval and discovery in the midst of the turmoil.

UNC Greensboro
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
by Katherine Boo, published 2012

Boo spent 3 years living in Annawadi, a makeshift “undercity” in the shadow of Mumbai’s national airport, reporting the poignant stories and tragedies of the people attempting to support a family or just survive in the decaying slum of tin and trash.

East Carolina University
by Matthew Desmond, published 2016

Desmond tells the stories of eight poor Milwaukee people and families going to extreme lengths to support loved ones and pay rent along with the stories of the two landlords who hold the fates of those many tenants in their hands.

Duke University
The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood
by Richard Blanco

In his memoir, Blanco chronicles his life growing up in Miami amid a family of Cuban exiles while grappling with his identity as a gay man in the United States. Blanco writes with a florid style that makes his work all the more exhilarating and thought-provoking.

UNC Wilmington
Little Bee
by Chris Cleave, published 2008

Also known as The Other Hand, Little Bee is a novel about the relationship between a Nigerian asylum-seeker and a British magazine editor that takes place in the Niger Delta during the oil crisis and in England years later. Cleave explores the issues of colonialism and globalization as well as mortality.

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