This is one of the best academic works I have ever read, and worth purchasing just for the treasure trove of research findings mined from the archives of Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Those findings are presented in a manner that would do any advocate proud -- by letting them speak for themselves in a very well organized fashion, Karabel makes them utterly compelling. It really should be required reading for anyone seeking to be a historian, as well as for all secondary schools seeking admission to an elite university (and their admissions counselors).
The taxonomy of the book, by era and theme, is the key -- and it is not something that you will want to sit down and read from cover to cover. But it rewards reading in essay fashion, starting with era and issues, most important to you -- and you can move back and forth within it quite easily to follow the threads or themes of most interset to you.
I purchased this in Harvard Square as my daughter visited colleges in her senior year of high school -- 30 years ago I attended one of these schools, and found the research findings (the writing can best be described as sufficient and workmanlike) to be like a series of epiphanies that explained much of what I did not understand when I attended. Schools, driven by a class system, now driven by a need for funds and for smart students, caught up in a kind of "parallel play" in their competition for students. Rank, articulated discrimination against applications of different stripes -- Jews, blacks -- public school kids. Biases in favor of alumni children, or those who could help with funding. For all the good these schools have accomplished, this book, with its fabulous documentation, rips the cover off the fabulous hypocracy that has characterized the admissions process to so many schools, with appropriately deluded alumni. Read it, and conclude, that your own sense of self worth does not (or should not) depend upon where you went, or where your child should go.