With the holidays approaching, you may want some reading suggestions for the scholars in your life. Our own John Baylor has compiled his list of recommended books for college-bound students.

His top three picks:

  1. My Antonia by Willa Cather.  As a writer, Cather has few equals. Read My Antonia to deeply reconnect yourself with the land and with your language.
  2. Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher.  All girls should read this brilliant book to better understand, navigate, and resist society’s harsh expectations for girls.  Boys should read it to better understand what girls deal with and to avoid contributing to the problem.
  3. The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter— And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay.  Every teen and twenty-something should read this blunt, eye-opening roadmap for making your twenties purposeful and fulfilling. I wish I had.

Other recommendations:


  • The Wright Brothers by David McCullough — a quintessential American story that inspires
  • Wilson by A Scott Berg — Another turn of the century history lesson.  This one is about an idealistic President who once held the world in his hands
  • The Brothers by Stephen Kinzer  about the Dulles brothers who together waged their own cold war with disastrous consequences that we still feel today
  • Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin — anything by her is great (especially Bully Pulpit) but this candid autobiography is so charming and difficult to put down

Social Commentary

  • The Triple Package by Amy Chua — a controversial, provocative book about the three traits shared by successful immigrant groups, attributes any parent could infuse into their own children.

Classic Literature

  • A Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger  the book that awakened me in my youth


  • Over Time by Frank DeFord — a fun, substantive ride through six decades of relationships with famous sports people, written by one of the profession’s best ever.
  • Coach by Michael Lewis — a short book that may be the best two-three hours a person spends in months
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis — not just for baseball fans, for those looking for an edge to get into and win any game
  • The Game: Harvard, Yale, and America in 1968 by George Howe Colt — a window into an era, the sixties, via a game. I’m reading it now and can’t put it down — definitely one of the best sports books I’ve ever read and by one of our country’s most skilled writers.

Click here to see the OnToCollege Reading List on Amazon.