Here’s What Top Colleges Are Reading in the USA

The Open Syllabus Project has conducted a study for the past 15 years on over 1 million curricula. This study figures out what students are reading in top schools across the country and how many colleges are reading them.

The top 10 books are no surprise. ‘Old’, ‘white’, and ‘dude’ are the overwhelming keywords here. It’s apparent that the canon hearkens back to the golden age of literature know as Antiquity and the chosen reads for classes are often from that era. It’s very rare in an English class to read something modern or different from the usual Shakespeare and Plato unless you take a specific class that allows you too. Typically, you’ll be exposed to these top ten reads from top colleges across the USA:

1) The Elements of Style by William Strunk

2) Republic by Plato

3) The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx

4) Biology by Neil A. Campbell

5) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 

6) Ethics by Aristotle

7) Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

8) The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli 

9) Oedipus by Sophocles 

10) Hamlet by William Shakespeare

To be honest, I’ve only read two of these on the list in full. Others I’ve either read snippets, haven’t heard of or never read at all. In my opinion, the canon is outdated. The same authors and works are always revisted. Plato, Sophocles, Aristotle, Milton, Chaucer, are all read time and time again. I didn’t get to read any African American literature in classes until I took a class that specified such literature in college. 

It’s high time the canon became more diverse and colleges expanded on the types of literature read in classes. I understand that there are specific classes that these works are read in for example, British Literature or American Literature, or even certain time period focused, but do I need to be reading King Lear in 3 classes? 


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