As cliché as it sounds, college is a huge part of our formative years. Almost everyone has an idea of what each college student should do prior to graduation in order to learn the usual “life lessons." Many people seem to forget the power of words. A book can have just as much of an influence on someone’s mind and life as a physical action. If the story is strong enough, you will live alongside the characters or subconsciously hold on to the values and lessons within each book. So here are ten books all college students should read before graduation suggested by upperclassmen, adults and myself.
1. "Life’s Golden Ticket" — Suggested by Myself
What if you were handed a golden ticket that could magically start your life anew? That question is at the heart of "Life’s Golden Ticket." Brendon Burchard tells the story of a man who is so trapped in the prison of his past that he cannot see the possibilities, the choices and the gifts before him. To soothe his fiancée Mary, clinging to life in a hospital bed, the man takes the envelope she offers and heads to an old, abandoned amusement park that she begs him to visit. To his surprise, when he steps through the rusted entrance gates, the park magically comes to life. Guided by the wise groundskeeper Henry, the man will encounter park employees, answer difficult questions, overcome obstacles, listen to lessons from those wiser than he and take a hard look at himself.
"Everyone faces challenges in life that affect how they react in certain situations. In this novel they main character learns to recognize not only how his past affected him but how he uses it and his shortcomings as excuses instead of learning experiences. He must learn how to forgive, persevere, become compassionate, and overall how to grow. The author uses imagery that compares the lessons to amusement park rides and therefore keeps the reader intrigued long enough to relate. Students can learn from the story and apply those lessons to their lives as they navigate some of their most formative years."
2. "The Secret History by Donna Tartt" — Suggested by Jessie D., MSU, Class of 2005
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.
"I think college students should read this story because it shows that even though college students are becoming more mature they are still impressionable and might do anything to impress their professors and fellow students, no matter how ridiculous or dangerous."
3. "The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka" — Suggested by Myself
It is the story of traveling salesman Gregor Samsa, who wakes one morning to find himself transformed into a monstrous insect. Gregor Samsa’s grotesque metamorphosis is just the physical manifestation of his longstanding spiritual impoverishment.
"As someone who has pushed myself too far because of my responsibilities I took away a lot from what Gregor Samsa goes through. Generally people feel the pressure to always perform their best, and more, while sacrificing other aspects of their lives. Franz Kafka delivers how dangerous that can be in this grotesque story that forces readers to pay attention and think. If college students read this novel now it might change how they take on the tasks in their lives before they enter the workforce. "
4. "Life After College: Work and the Art of Living" by Stephen B. Sloane — Suggested by a Member of the Bloomfield College Class of 2009
In a guide for college graduates and young professionals, Stephen B. Sloane insists that there is much more to life than just being employed. You are not destined only to be part of the working masses, a mere cog in an organizational wheel. Although having a job might bring you financial security, it likely won't be enough to satisfy the true desires of the real you. Life should be a journey, a work in progress where you discover your authentic self and follow that bliss. As Sloane examines the disconnect between the working world's demands and individual happiness, he shares the wisdom of some of history's greatest thinkers. From Aristotle to Shakespeare to Tolstoy, the voices of the past urge that, above all, "To thine own self be true."
"In recent years, college students are sticking to their ideal working scenario: one where the job getting done doesn’t interfere with the employees’ personal happiness and vice versa. This instruction guide shows college graduates how to find and keep that balance in a modern day workforce. I personally believe that students should read it prior to graduation so that they can work on the advice now while still in school."
5. "The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch" — Suggested by Myself
“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." – Randy Pausch
A lot of professors give talks titled "The Last Lecture." Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn't have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because "time is all you have...and you may find one day that you have less than you think"). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.
"I know the last thing any college student wants to think about is another lecture, but this story keeps you captivated from beginning to end! When students are in what seems like an endless cycle of work and unanswered questions about their future this book will remind them of what’s important in life and how to handle some of the most difficult challenge that come their way."
6. "Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter" — Suggested by Odalys B., Rutgers Newark, Class of 1987
"Rich Dad Poor Dad" tells the story of Robert Kiyosaki and his two dads — his real father and the father of his best friend, his rich dad — and the ways in which both men shaped his thoughts about money and investing. The book explodes the myth that you need to earn a high income to be rich and explains the difference between working for money and having your money work for you. The lifelong monetary problems experienced by his "poor dad" (whose weekly paychecks, while respectable, were never quite sufficient to meet family needs) pounded home the counterpoint communicated by his "rich dad" (that "the poor and the middle class work for money," but "the rich have money work for them").
"Too often college students are trained up to get a job and build a career. This book offers an entrepreneur’s mindset and different ways of looking at money management. It provides a different way of looking at things and includes real life stories, examples, as well as sound advice."
7. "Our Numbered Days" by Neil Hilborn — Suggested by Myself
Poetry: "When you're dumb enough for long enough, you're gonna meet someone too smart to love you, and they're gonna love you anyway, and it's gonna go so poorly," Neil Hilborn writes in his debut full-length collection, "Our Numbered Days." In 2013, Hilborn's poem "OCD" went viral, and has amassed over 11 million views to date. While this collection ruminates on love, heartbreak and mental illness, these poems are anything but saccharine. Hilborn uses the same humor and self-deprecation that propelled "OCD" to success in order to make his unmatched vulnerability all the more powerful. Ultimately, Hilborn is a poet of the people: his work is accessible, honest, and entertaining — a revitalizing entry in contemporary poetry.
"Author Neil Hilborn has spent the past few years captivating my attention through his spoken word poems and now he’s put his work on paper. His topics include mental illness, suicide, lost love, and other topics that are usually taboo. Neil’s work is relate-able to millions of people and those who don’t relate still enjoy his work because his story-telling gives a new perspective. College students are part of the generation who is changing the way people view the topics Neil discusses and will have a higher appreciation from his work and will take away more from what he has to say."
8. "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coehlo — Most Suggested
Paulo Coelho's masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different — and far more satisfying — than he ever imagined. Santiago's journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.
"This novel was suggested to me by a few people and even a novel that I’m personally suggesting. So instead of quoting all of them I’ll tell you the basis on why we all agree that college students should read it. The story follows Santiago who wants to create a life for himself that he believes he’ll find more satisfying than the one he already has. His journey sends him to places he’s never been and he meets both people who support and criticize him. The lessons he learns along the way force him to grow into the person he becomes by the end of the story. Without saying the specifics, his journey sounds quite like the one millions of college students embarked on at one point or another and so we can all learn from what Santiago went through and apply it to our individual journeys." – Layne Canfori
9. "The Stranger" by Albert Camus — Suggested by Fresh U
Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd."
"In 'The Stranger' Albert Camus depicts concepts of existentialism and the absurd through a cruel, unfortunate story of a man named Meursault. Its dry, direct writing style combined with passive yet powerful tone made this book so intriguing to me. Though it’s definitely not a cheerful book, I really enjoyed reading it because it introduced me to novel ideas and opened up a whole range of diverse thoughts that allowed me to ponder perspectives I never even knew existed.” – Megan C., UCLA, Fresh U Staff Writer
"I thought 'The Stranger' was a highly intriguing story about how people can lose any sense of a moral imperative when they view life as a meaningless plane. It's a perfect book to read in high school or college to gain a background on existentialism. College students should read it because it's a critical book on the subjects of ethics and philosophy." – Diana P., Bryn Mawr College, Staff Writer for Fresh U Politics
10. "The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter - And How to Make the Most of Them Now" by Meg Jay — Suggested by Sam G., Class of 2017
Drawing from a decade of work with hundreds of twenty-something clients and students, The Defining Decade weaves the latest science of the twenty-something years with behind-closed-doors stories from twenty-somethings themselves. The result is a provocative read that provides the tools necessary to make the most of your twenties, and shows us how work, relationships, personality, social networks, identity and even the brain can change more during this decade than at any other time in adulthood-if we use the time wisely.
"The twenties section of someone’s life can set the course of how the rest of their life may go. Navigating such a time is stressful, confusing, and different from any other experience one may face. ‘The Defining Decade’ is the manual generations before didn’t have but always wanted. College students should take advantage of this book and the advice of those before them so they can have an easier transition in life."
Of course this list isn’t full of required reading for a class, so while you do not have to read them I highly suggest that you do! Maybe you’ve even read a few while in high school, but now you can read them again and see the story from a different perspective. The list may seem long, especially on top of all of the other work you have. But if you read at least one book per semester and on two of your breaks you can finish this list before graduation!
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