New Books to Read in 2024

Families ask me to recommend books on higher education and the college admissions process in each admissions cycle. I’m excited to share with you a selection of my favorite books published or updated in the latter half of 2023 or set to be published in 2024, focusing on the ever-evolving landscape of colleges and college admissions. These insightful reads provide guidance and perspectives for students and families navigating college admissions.


Never Enough: When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic—and What We Can Do About It by Jennifer Breheny Wallace. Wallace delves into the toxic culture of achievement facing today’s students and explores how societal pressures and expectations contribute to rising mental health issues among high-achieving students. The book emphasizes the need for children to feel valued beyond their accomplishments (including which colleges they are admitted to), advocating for a shift in adult attitudes towards nurturing intrinsic self-worth. It offers a comprehensive view of this crisis and provides practical solutions for fostering resilience and self-confidence in children, making it a crucial read for parents and educators.


Erasing the Finish Line: The New Blueprint for Success Beyond Grades and College Admission by Ana Humayoun. Homayoun challenges the traditional focus on grades and test scores in education, highlighting the importance of developing critical life skills for young adults. Homayoun presents a new approach to education, emphasizing strategies to help students create their own success blueprints. This includes developing executive functioning skills, building social capital, managing energy profiles, expanding perspectives, and adapting to setbacks. Her book, a mix of theory and real-life student stories, offers a fresh perspective on redefining educational success for parents, educators, and policymakers.


The Black Family’s Guide to College Admissions: A Conversation about Education, Parenting, and Race (second edition) by Timothy L. Fields and Shereem Herndon-Brown with a foreword by Akil Bello. Named one of the Top 2023 College Admissions Resources by Forbes, the second edition includes new chapters on prioritizing students’ mental health; understanding the influence of artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT on college essay writing; reviewing recent Supreme Court decisions about race-conscious admission and their likely impact on Black applicants; and, navigating the admission process as a transfer applicant. The guide includes a curated list of top colleges for Black students, a comprehensive glossary of relevant terms, profiles of distinguished Black alums and their universities, a recommended reading list for further knowledge, and an FAQ section to answer common queries.


HBCU: The Power of Historically Black Colleges and Universities by Marybeth Gasman and Levon T. Esters. Gasman and Esters highlight HBCUs’ integral role in empowering Black students and their communities. The book delves into how HBCUs nurture leaders and innovators across various fields, from medicine to the arts, and their broader impact on social and economic development. It combines personal stories with research to illustrate the unique culture and identity of HBCUs. The authors also discuss these institutions’ challenges, emphasizing the need for support to preserve their legacy.


Is College Worth It? Class and the Myth of the College Premium by Richard Ohmann and Ira Shor. Ohmann and Shor critically examine the perceived economic benefits of a college degree, challenging the idea of the “college premium.” They argue that this concept reinforces class hierarchies and contributes to the commercialization of education. The book explores the impact of neoliberal ideologies on universities, highlighting issues like the casualization of academic labor, student debt, and vocational curricula. It’s an essential read for those interested in understanding the real value and challenges of higher education today.


The Learning-Centered University: Making College a More Developmental, Transformational, and Equitable Experience by Steven Mintz. Addressing challenges like income stagnation, wealth inequality, and political polarization, Mintz proposes strategies for enhancing access, affordability, and equity in colleges. He advocates for a holistic approach to student development and a learning environment emphasizing interactivity, skills, and career preparation. The book also explores the role of technology and the future of the humanities in education, offering insights for educators and policymakers to foster academic innovation and student success.