Perhaps you read the Odyssey or the Iliad while in high school, but did you really read it? The following books, you'll actually read — they provide sad, hilarious and relatable content on how and how not to go about college life.
1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Perhaps you've seen the movie and are wondering how you could possibly relate to a book about a woman traveling the globe in hope of overcoming her mid-life crisis. I'd like you to disregard the mid-life crisis and focus on the self-discovery aspect of this book. It is a journey of personal enjoyment and enrichment, similar to the premise of your college years, barring the worldwide excursion. So if you're feeling lost, grab this book as a guide to lead you through your college years.
2. Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
College is an entirely new environment filled with complex people you don't know and might never get the chance to figure out. Perhaps you feel lost in the fray and aren't sure how to cope. I present Franny and Zooey. Initially published in the New Yorker in 1955, Franny and Zooey is an immersive novel that features Franny having a nervous breakdown as she attempts to survive her college environment consisting of phonies she bitterly dislikes. This is a tale of conflict, dissection and resolution. Follow along as Zooey helps Franny navigate her new home, and the people around her.
3. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
This is a tale of self-identification. Here we meet Gogol, the namesake of Russian author Nikolai Gogol, a second generation in the Ganguli family as he attends Yale. Here, he tries to navigate the maze of self-discovery, while simultaneously breaking ties from his Bengali roots because he identifies as American. This is all while experiencing some quintessential aspects of college: parties, sex and alcohol, and some not-so-quintessential aspects, like death. It takes great effort to craft a unique identity amidst outer pressures dictating your path. That being said, I think we can all relate to Gogol and his struggle to figure out where he fits in.
4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Pulitzer Prize-winner and one of my favorite reads details the unfortunate life of a “fat ghetto nerd” named Oscar Wao, as told by his college roommate, Junior. It is a narration of Oscar’s identity struggles and an investigation as to how his past decisions led him astray. It features intense flashbacks, an age-old curse and assurance that despite how bad our college experience may be, it will never be as bad as Oscar’s.
5. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
This follows the upbringing of Stephen Dedalus and his struggle as he fails to reconcile the religious themes and lessons of his childhood with the lifestyle he encounters while he is away at school. Frustrated, he gradually casts off all social, familial and religious constraints in an effort to devote his life to his craft: writing.
6. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
This story follows four different characters and the all-American game of baseball at Westish College in Wisconsin, as a series of compounded and unfortunate events draw them close together while enacting the school’s best baseball season in history. This book features many twists and turns and a quite unexpected ending, similar to most things in life. It is essentially a fictional exposé on the camaraderie of college.
7. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
This Pulitzer Prize-winner follows the life of Madeleine Hanna at Brown University as she attempts to navigate a love triangle between her manic-depressive boyfriend Leonard and a close friend who hopes to become “more than just friends.” All this takes place as she develops her senior thesis on the marriage plot in Victorian novels, which have coincidentally begun to mirror her life. Left at a loss, Madeline has to figure out where this leads her. This is a compelling read about what to do after everything you planned goes awry.
Whereever your college adventure takes you, let these books serve as a guide, a warning and a complement to your extraordinary journey.
Lead Image Credit: Brittany Stevens