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The UnCollege Blog

Hack Your Summer Reading

One of the best parts of summer? It is the perfect time to dive into the pile of books that’s been taking up room on your bedside table. Whether that means thumbing through the classics or picking up a fresh read, the downtime that usually comes along during the summer makes spending time immersed in chapters a no-brainer—not to mention the mental benefits of reading and the new skills that can be picked up as you page through chapters. The advantages of reading make it one of the best life hacks, one that offers huge benefits like mental stimulation, stress reduction, memory improvement, and better concentration. In fact, Stanford University researchers found that reading gives the brain a workout in multiple complex cognitive functions, and even just reading for pleasure increases blood flow to various areas of the brain. Pretty cool for just a few pages, right?

But reading isn’t just a hobby that comes with some serious perks—it’s an awesome skill that lends itself to both personal and professional development. Reading consistently expands your vocabulary, improves your communication skills (even grammar can be improved via reading!), develops analytical thinking, keeps you socially aware, and sparks the imagination, all of which are fantastic qualities to foster whatever field you are in or whatever educational route you’re pursuing. The likes of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, and Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, are both known to be avid readers who spent major time in the library.

Hack your life, your job, and your mind by opening a book—it’s that simple, and we have just the list to get you started. Here’s what you should be reading this summer, according to the UnCollege team:


Dale J. Stephens, Founder & CEO: Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith


In a world where academic “achievement” is heralded in the form of having the highest GPAs, acceptances to the “right” colleges, and school systems are preparing students for a workforce that doesn’t exist, bestselling author and edu expert Wagner and venture capitalist Dintersmith “call for a complete overhaul of the function and focus of American schools.” Interested in a new version of American education—one that puts creativity, initiative, and innovation into the depths of our learning process to prepare students for the real world? This is a must-read for every student, parent, and individual working in a transitioning work force and educational landscape.

Jon Gordon, Program Specialist: How NASA Builds Teams by Charles J. PellerinJon_Gordon.jpg

Applying principles from physics to the art of teambuilding? Former NASA Astrophysicist Dr. Charlie Pellerin explores 4-D teambuilding and how it can be applied to any organization, allowing leaders and team members to analyze characteristics of team performance and turn them into actions, illustrated through stories from his years at NASA. An added bonus? This book comes with free downloadable resources to help with diagramming your culture versus your customers, aid in meeting people’s needs, and identifying the innate personalities of your teammates. This book offers a brilliant framework for structuring your professional and personal life, making it a hands-on read.

Chris Kelly, Marketing Manager: The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

chris_kelly.jpgFrom the creators of one of psychology’s most renowned experiments, this book proves a point that is equal parts fascinating and uncomfortable (making it the perfect summer read!): “Our minds don’t work the way we think they do.” Here’s what Chris had to say about his recommendation: “It's important to attempt to better understand how your mind processes and stores information. Authors Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons draw on their own studies and pull from decades of research performed by the world's best physiologists to create a fascinating exploration of how we interpret and process actions, events, and information. This is not only an informative read, but a fun one that uses modern examples. Example: Why did Pittsburg Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger crash his motorcycle? Oh man, I gotta know!”


Cody-hartley.jpgCody Hartley, Admissions Director: The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun

The only thing better than finding your calling? Realizing your calling involves helping others and changing the world. Adam Braun was on track for a successful career on Wall Street—spending summers working on hedge funds when he was just sixteen!—but after a fateful meeting with a little boy begging for a pencil in India, Braun embarked on a journey to found Pencils of Promise. Born of $25, the organization has now built more than 250 schools around the world. This book is bursting with hope—but also has concrete steps every person can take to make their life a story worth telling, and transform ambition into reality, direction, and purpose.

Ev_2-1.jpegEvert Zelaya, Program Specialist: Mindset by Carol Dweck

Can growth mindset change our outcomes? In this book, Dweck dives into why praising intelligence doesn’t necessarily lead to accomplishment, and why it can actually jeopardize success. Proving what all great CEOs and athletes already know, Dweck explores how  “a simple idea about the brain” can “create a love of learning and resilience.” This is a must-read for anyone who is ready to motivate themselves—and reap the rewards—in an entirely ground-breaking way.



Gabe Stern, Program Specialist:The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

What happens when cutting-edge neurology and research gathered on voyages to the world’s hotbeds of talent come together for us to use, engage with, and grow as a result? New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle offers the tools to maximize potential—for yourself and others. Identifying three key elements, Deep Practice, Ignition, and Master Coaching, that work together within the brain to form a substance that adds speed and accuracy to your movements and thoughts, this book explores how you can develop your gift and optimize your performance in just about anything. Packed with examples, this book gives you the tools to find the “holy grail” of success…and shows you how to optimize it in your own mind.

Veronica Wong, Head of International Programs: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

Veronica_Wong.jpgThis is the book everyone needs to read before double-checking their resume or sending that important message: Described as “spirited and scholarly” (and a #1 New York Times bestseller to boot!), former editor Truss defends proper punctuation with vigor. Using examples of everything from history and literature to neighborhood signage and imagination, this book demonstrates the necessity of punctuation, how meaning is shaped through something as simple as a comma, and the comedic results of punctuation gone wrong.




Jamie Stewart, Editorial Intern: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

We bet you’ve heard of Eat Pray Love—the international bestseller that resulted in a film. But Jamie thinks this book is the perfect guide to spark your inspiration, get you picking up a backpack, and exploring the world via your local travel guide, making it an awesome summer read. Here’s what Jamie had to say about this one: “I read it this past year and thought it made the path to exploring alternative lifestyles much more accessible for the common man.” Fulfillment through travel, worldly enjoyment, and exploration? Sign us up!

Team Pick: A book we will all be picking up this summer? Ryan Holiday’s latest, Ego is the Enemy! Ego, as Ryan says on his website, is the worst ingredient to add to any situation-so how do we remove our egos and overcome ourselves? Exploring the life stories of greats like George Marshall and Eleanor Roosevelt, we’re excited to find out and plunge into the philosophy behind ego when this sure-to-be-stellar book hits shelves: