Recommended Summer Reading List

Summer Reading and Resource List

One of the differences between high school and college is the degree to which you actively educate yourself, and your summer reading can be a part of your transition to greater engagement in your own education. This summer consider reading widely in the fields that are basic to a liberal education. The reading list below is not a required reading list. It is, in fact, not one list but a number of lists and resources brought together by the faculty of the First Year of Studies in cooperation with other Notre Dame colleges, departments, and institutes. The list below suggests some especially “good reads” that enhance a broad liberal education. It is designed to help you choose thoroughly enjoyable summer reading that will also enable you to build a strong foundation for future learning.

Fine Arts

Your “reading” in the fine arts should include viewing and listening as well as reading. It’s summer, so you might begin by taking a look at the comedies on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Best Movies Web page, The list is delightfully controversial and a good place to start exploring the joys of great film. When you arrive on campus, you will have an opportunity to see the Notre Dame Summer Shakespeare production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It should be great fun. Take a look at the website for details. This is also a good time to begin to broaden the kinds of music you enjoy. You might explore some of the best in jazz and classical music by going to A Jazz Primer for Rock People at and ClassicalNet at You will be able to find the CDs suggested on these and other websites in your local library. Borrow some to begin to discover the new worlds of enjoyment they offer you.


Allen Guelzo’s Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President has been recommended as one of the best and most probing biographies of Lincoln, and Dava Sobel’s best selling Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love is a fascinating read about Galileo, his daughter, and the world in which they lived. If you are interested in more recent history, read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, one of the most powerful war memoirs of our time.


You should begin by looking at Fr. Monk Malloy’s wonderful booklist, “Books to Nourish One’s Soul and Broaden One’s Horizons.” This essay and booklist by our previous University President and current professor of theology, is made up of novels Fr. Malloy has used in his first year University Seminar on world literature. They are gripping, entertaining novels that will significantly broaden your world. You can find this essay and list in the Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business’ online magazine under

Not on Fr. Malloy’s list, but also highly recommended, are Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Junot Díaz will visit Notre Dame in early October, and you’ll want to have read this novel in preparation for that visit. Haddon’s novel offers the voice—and singular perspective—of a young boy with autism. The novel is an imaginative expression of what it might mean to have autism and how this condition affects individuals and their families. In addition to reading novels, don’t neglect poetry; you will also find much to explore and enjoy in the The Norton Anthology of African American Literature and in World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time.

In the area of fine arts in combination with literature, we would like to encourage you to add William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to your list. There’s a reason filmmakers keep attempting to capture these marvelous
works on film.

Philosophy and Theology

Philosophy is a new discipline for many students entering college. David Edmonds’ Wittgenstein’s Poker is a best seller that helps non-philosophers enter the world of modern philosophy in an immensely entertaining and revealing fashion. For a fine introduction to the philosophy of religion read Thomas Morris’s Our Idea of God. Also recommended on more specialized topics in philosophy are Umberto Eco and Cardinal Martini’s Belief or Nonbelief and John Polkinghorne’s Science and Theology.

To help build your theological literacy you might undertake to read the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. A firsthand knowledge of these books prepares you for their constant use by novelists, poets, and politicians, as well as theologians. You might also take a look at Josef Pieper’s much loved study of the liberal arts in the context of the Thomist tradition, Leisure: The Basis of Culture.

Sciences, Engineering, and Business

No one can afford to be ignorant of the sciences. So, whether or not you plan on majoring in the sciences, don’t neglect to read some of the best (and very entertaining) books written for the non-scientist, including James Gleick’s acclaimed biography, Isaac Newton, Stephen Jay Gould’s popular collection of essays, The Mismeasure of Man, and James Watson’s book on the discovery of the structure of DNA, The Double Helix. The Department of Mathematics would also like to suggest some viewing as well as reading. It suggests seeing Stand and Deliver. Based on a true story, the movie has been described as “Hoosiers meets AP Calculus.”

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering suggests Nicholas Carr’s article titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid? ( in which he discusses the dangers of confusing information overload with depth of knowledge and experience. Also recommended is Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma. Christensen discusses the problem of businesses putting so much emphasis on satisfying customers’ current needs that they fail to notice or develop the technology that will meet customers’ unstated or future needs.

Both the College of Engineering and the Mendoza College of Business suggest Thomas Friedman’s widely quoted and controversial book, The World is Flat. In this book, Friedman discusses the extreme “connectedness” of contemporary life and how technical advances and globalization on many levels have radically altered the world in which we live.

Social Sciences

The social sciences include anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, and sociology, and the reading possibilities are endless. To begin, you might read Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling exploration of how little things make a big difference, The Tipping Point, and Jane Goodall’s classic study of animal behavior, Through a Window. Freedom Summer Reading and Resource List Summer, by Doug McAdam, is also highly recommended. It is a fascinating account of the experiences of college students who went south in the summer of 1964 to help with voter registration drives. To prepare to become a part of Notre Dame’s efforts to make a difference in Africa through ND’s millennium village in Uganda, we suggest you read Jeffery Sachs’ The End of Poverty and Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World.

The University and Liberal Education

We highly recommend Richard Light’s Making the Most of College: College Students Speak Their Minds for a truly insightful look at what students do to be successful and engaged in their college education. You may also want to take a look at to begin to develop some of the time management and study skills you’ll need to thrive at Notre Dame. Whatever you choose, read for pleasure and read with a purpose. Use this summer to reflect on what you want out of the intellectual adventure before you, and read to prepare yourself for a lifetime of learning. Push yourself outside of your intellectual comfort zone and try some new areas. You cannot go wrong by beginning with any of the above.