While senior year is a busy time, reading is especially important for those of us who will be entering college this fall; we have a lot of learning to do before we're ready to take on the whole new world that awaits us. Hopefully the books listed here will offer some inspiration and remind you that sometimes the best teachers are made of ink and paper!
1. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Okay, so none of us have had perfect, mistake-free lives at this point. Life is messy and we often choose the paths that end up being the very worst for us. But that’s okay! That’s life! This novel reminds us that it’s never too late to start making the right choices and that sometimes the mistakes we’ve made can shape us in wonderful ways – important lessons as we get fresh starts at our new colleges!
2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Now, now, I know what you’re thinking. The Fault in Our Stars is just a “basic white girl love story!” Well I’m here to tell you that you are quite wrong! TFIOS is more than just a teen romance novel. It confronts issues of epic proportions, from the human condition to questions of the universe. Not to mention John Green’s writing style is exquisite, nerdy, poetic perfection that every up-and-coming college student should have the treat of reading at least once.
3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
For anyone questioning what they want to do in life and how to find that out: read this book! It’s a simple but beautiful writing style that captures the imagination with every sentence. The story follows a boy as he sets out to make his place in the world. It’s inspiring and empowering for anyone looking to make their lives meaningful.
4. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
This book is all about the pain of growing up and the complexity of innocence and morality. As we go through massive life transitions - from high school to college and from childhood to young adulthood - these are themes that can resonate with us and our changing moral landscape.
5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
A beautiful novel that tackles some serious life issues sprinkled with light-hearted moments. A real tear-jerker, this book is beautifully written and offers great insight into the lives and minds of teens confronting inner conflicts.
6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Because every teen or young adult needs a little dose of teen angst and rebellion. This book is number five of seven magnificent installments of the Harry Potter series.
7. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Race, gender, poverty. These issues divide our society and define the identity of the world. The Color Purple takes a cold, hard look at a woman learning to love herself and see life from a new perspective.
8. A Dog’s Journey by W. Bruce Cameron
Told from the point of view of a dog, this book will make you appreciate your dog (if you have one) so much more, and definitely inspire you to take him or her on a few extra walks this summer. It’s narrative style is simple and easy to read, but this book might take a while to finish (it’s hard to read when your eyes are blurred by tears). Overall, it’s an uplifting book to read while cuddling with man’s best friend.
9. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The semi-autobiographical novel of Sylvia Plath is haunting and, to some extent, life-changing. It is told from the point of view of a woman who is having what most would call a mental breakdown. Her decline highlights the sometimes shallow expectations that society places on us and how those expectations can lead to disaster.
10. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Many of us read this novel in grade school or high school, but it’s worth a closer look now that we’re going off to college. This book illustrates humanity’s desperate need to make choices and live freely. It teaches crucial lessons to those of us who will soon face more important decisions and experience more liberation than ever before.
11. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Aside from being a thrilling tale of adventure, this fiction novel is actually quite educational about ancient conspiracy theories and famous works of art. It offers a unique, almost sinful perspective on Christianity and encourages readers to think deeply about the social institutions around them.
12. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Think Jane Austen is boring, dry, and outdated? Think again! This book is a funny, satirical drama about love and reputation. It’s enlightening for those of us who are expecting to have a bit of flirting and love in college (But studies come first of course!)
13. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
This novel is about a group of boys who are stranded on an island. It reflects on the human condition and just how far we will go to succeed. It's hauntingly powerful.
14. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
Readers will love the insightful and uplifting ideas about being an outsider: about being a little different. For anyone who has ever felt like they just don’t fit in, or that they see the world in a different way than everyone else, this book is a great read!
15. This I Believe, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman
This is a compilation of responses from individuals asked to finish the sentence “This I believe,” with a short essay of their personal manifesto. It’s a perfect choice as we move onto college, where we’ll meet a plethora of new and exciting people whose experiences are vastly different from our own!
16. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Melody is a child genius, but she has a severe disability and is unable to speak or walk. This is an eye-opening, easy book that reminds us that not everything is as it seems; an important lesson for meeting new people and having new experiences.
17. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Alright, so this is technically a children’s book. That doesn’t mean it can’t be one of our favorites! It offers a crucial lesson: sometimes “fitting in,” is overrated. Be yourself, think outside the box, and stay true to those you love. Also a thrilling adventure story!
18. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
This book offers a beautiful story of a family and a person who are struggling with the realities of American life and confusion of gender. If you’re curious about gender issues, this is a great novel that helps teach open-mindedness and understanding.
19. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
This is an famous one, and for a good reason. This book inspires its readers and reminds them of the power of their own voice. Not to mention its great insight into the lives of black maids during one of the most tragic and enraging periods in the history of the United States.
20. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
In this novel, a girl commits suicide and leaves behind tapes giving her reasons for doing so. She takes us through the people and events that have affected her and influenced her decision. Heartbreaking but enlightening, this novel reminds us to treat others with love and kindness.
Hopefully these books have offered some ideas for your pre-college reading list! Give these a try; you may be surprised by how much you enjoy a book you had expected to hate.
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