There's that, somewhere in the lower depths of a Washington Post "Wonkblog" item titled, absurdly "What Ivy League students are reading that you aren’t." It begins:
If you want an Ivy League education, you could fork over $200 grand or so and go to Cornell or Harvard for four years. Alternatively, you could save a ton of cash by simply reading the same books Ivy League students are assigned.It's silly to suggest that reading the same books that are read in a college course would give you the same thing as a class where those books are read. The access to data here, though, is great. The maps and lists, however amusing, are a depiction of evidence that needs some explanation. (Especially for Florida!)
That became easier recently with the release of the Open Syllabus Explorer, an online database of books assigned in over 1 million college courses over the past decade or so....
I'm sure "Communist Manifesto" is so prevalent because it fits in a place in a standard course and there's no competition for the slot it fills. As for "Elements of Style," it's a slim pamphlet that can (and probably should) be thrown at everybody.
When you get to works of fiction and see the dominance of "Frankenstein," you'll have your ideas about why that's taken on ridiculous importance over the years. I'm sure it does say something about Ivy League schools that "Frankenstein" is only 10th on their list when it's #1 on the "All Schools" list, but once you move everybody's favorite woman-written work into a more subordinate position, you'll see the usual line-up of "Canterbury Tales," "Paradise Lost," "Heart of Darkness," and "Hamlet."
The differences aren't so much in which books you read, it's what you talk about after you've read them. I assume! I haven't been in college in decades, but I know law school. We all read Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland, but what's happening in those in-class discussions and what are you expected to be able to write about them?