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Keeping a book list for colleges--what to include?

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I am wondering what people put on these. Are they meant to cover both what kids read for a class and fun reading? Right now, I am listing literature and nonfiction, but not texts. And I'm including some quirky/fun books but not every single series book.

Am I on the right track here?

Also--do colleges expect students to have something to say about everything on the list? I am pretty confident that DS will be able to discuss the Shakespeare he's read even a few years later. But for something like The History of Western Science, on the other hand, I doubt it--there are things he's reading now that I think he'll remember the ideas in but not be able years later to remember exactly which history of science stories came out of that book vs one of his texts vs in a documentary. Is this reasonable? Should I limit the list to things he remembers so well he can discuss them at length in an interview?


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I kept a list of all literature and fun reading my kids did, but never used it. I didn't include textbooks or other non-English class readings.

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I sent a reading list with my daughter's college application paperwork (i.e., transcript, counselor letter, profile and course descriptions). We sorted her list into categories such as:




Fantasy (a favorite genre of hers)

Latin works (This included authors such as Ovid and Catullus as well as books such as Virent Ova! Viret Perna! by Dr. Seuss, Ferdinandus Taurus by Munro Leaf, and Asterix Olympius by Rene de Goscinny. Since she was planning to major in Latin and/or the Classics, we thought this showed her interest.)

We included titles and author names but also shortened the list by having items such as: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy plus six sequels.

We did not include everything she had read for pleasure in high school -- for example, we did not include any manga (though she had read an abundance) nor did we include Calvin & Hobbes or Zits. We did include titles that had been assigned reading.

I also included a list of textbooks used since I did not include book titles in her course descriptions.

When my daughter looked over her reading list, there were a number of books whose contents she no longer remembered clearly. Many of these she had read in ninth grade. She elected to eliminate them so that she would not be put in an awkward position. We imagined an interviewer looking over the list and saying, "Oh, Vaguest, Dimmest Memories is a favorite title of mine. What did you like best about it?" And, yes, she was asked about some of her reading choices when she interviewed.

If you'd like to see the list in its entirety, simply send me a personal message with your email address.


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A comprehensive booklist is mostly used in creating the documents needed for college application process -- i.e., help you remember the major resources you used in each course as you write up your Course Description document. Because college admission officers have to read through all of your information, be kind and limit each course description to just a short paragraph: list just the major books, textbooks, and resources used -- not every single book, short story, and poem.

I like Kareni's idea above, of in 12th grade, sorting through the list and keeping it to ones that the student remembers in case it comes up in a college interview. A comprehensive list could also help your student remember a book that s/he would really like to talk about either in an interview or in an application essay.

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