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Jul 22 2016
by Michaela Guzzetti

5 Must-Read Authors for First Year College Students

By Michaela Guzzetti - Jul 22 2016
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This one goes out to all you avid readers out there: those of us who have more books on our need-to-read list than most people have read in their lives, those of us who lose ourselves in print, so much so that our families wonder how words could cause someone to feel such a way when they heard muffled shrieks and gasps through the wall at 2 A.M., only to find their child reading fervently under the glow of their bedside lamp. However, since everyone does not get quite so excited at the thought of cracking open a hardcover, this goes out to the casual reader too. There is no need to fret, these five authors are perfect for anyone regardless of your dedication to reading, and are both informative and entertaining for incoming first year college students.

1. Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is often deemed the queen of mystery, a well-deserving title. Born in England in 1890, Christie was highly prolific, penning over 70 detective novels, along with some short stories and plays, over the course of her career. Christie has sold over two billion copies worldwide! In fact, in 1971 she was made a Dame for her contribution to literature. Although all of her novels are a thrilling read for any lover of mystery and crime, my personal favorite is, “And Then There Were None."

This novel follows the lives (and deaths) of ten strangers stranded on a treacherous island off the coast of England. Their quest to find the mysterious man who is killing off the members of their group is chronicled throughout the tale and along the way some less than pleasant secrets are revealed about the ten strangers. This story will keep you on the edge of your seat and will make it nearly impossible for you to put the book down once you start. It is a perfect, quick and easy read for anyone who enjoys a good mystery!

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2. Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf is the quintessential modernist, along with big names like James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald, she responded to Ezra Pound’s call to, “Make it New." Born in 1882, Woolf is known for her stream-of-consciousness style and her focus on emotion and design over realism. She explored many topics in her books that were considered radical for the time and she herself was a liberal, feminist and in an undefined way, not straight (she had a simultaneous relationship with both a woman, Vita-Sackville West and a man, her husband Leonard Woolf). I love all of her works but my absolute favorite has to be, “Orlando."

This "mock-biography" records the fantastical life of a young English boy named Orlando, who is known for his beautiful legs and is the object of the Queen’s affection. His life is anything but ordinary, as you will see through the twists and turns of the storyline. Orlando’s story is one of love and heartbreak, freedom and confinement, society and the self, knowledge and ignorance. His tale begins in the late 1500's as a 14-year-old boy and ends in the early 1900's as a young woman. His, and later her, sense of ambiguity both regarding time and gender give the story an aura of surrealism throughout the novel. Woolf creates a fantastical journey through this incredible mock-biography and touches upon themes such as class, sexuality and gender, literature, love, time, man vs. nature and self identity, making it one of my favorite books of all time.

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3. Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski was born in Germany in 1920, moving to the U.S. at age three to be raised in the City of Angels. Bukowski had little faith in himself as a writer and this led to drinking problems, which he touches upon in many of his works. His writing is oftentimes urban, depressing, sexual, violent and direct. It is his blunt nature that attracts many of his fans because he doesn’t sugarcoat typically romanticized topics like many other poets do. He ended up publishing over 45 books of poetry and prose throughout his time as an author. One of his greatest works, in my opinion, is, “Love is a Dog from Hell: Poems, 1974-1977."

This collection of poems shows Bukowski's struggle with alcoholism and showcases his brutally honest tone and diction. His poems often leave you with a bitter taste of cynicism in your mouth, but that’s what they are meant to do. They make you feel something, and they make you want to find a passion for yourself and something to bring light into your life. He talks about how much life can hurt and the terrible things that happened to him without fishing for sympathy. His writing in this collection is so raw and emotional and shows his growth throughout the years listed in the title.

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4. Thomas C. Foster

Thomas C. Foster is a now retired professor after 27 years of service at the University of Michigan–Flint, as well as an author. He has written eight books in his career, including one that is coming out very soon, “Reading the Silver Screen: A Film Lover's Guide to Decoding the Art Form That Moves.” He claims that his love of reading stemmed from this rural upbringing in a small farm town in Ohio, where crops outnumbered people and books were his friends. The book of his that I personally love the most is, “How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines."

This book does exactly what the title says. It explains tips and tricks for reading and understanding literature and breaks down complex topics into more manageable pieces. This may sound extremely boring to some people, but it saved my life during AP English literature and composition my senior year. This book is not textbook-like at all, and is truly quite a fun (and informative) read! This book has it all and then some, and really makes it easy for anyone to learn how to pick apart literature like teachers do!

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5. John Irving

Last but certainly not least is John Irving. Born in Exeter, New Hampshire in 1942, Irving is a highly acclaimed author and one of my personal favorites. Irving has written 17 books over the course of his career. At age 15, Irving read, “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, another literary giant, and the effect it had on him affected much of his writing. His writings often cover controversial topics in a lighter-hearted way than one might expect. My favorite novel of his by far is, “A Prayer for Owen Meany."

This novel most definitely changed my life. At first, I was a little put off by the title because I am not that big of a fan of religious literature usually, but this book was absolutely amazing. It covers the story of a young boy named Owen Meany and his best friend Johnny. Johnny’s mother was killed by Owen in a freak accident at a baseball game when they were kids, but this event didn’t damage their friendship. This book will make you laugh and make you cry and everything in between, and you will feel both satisfaction and disappointment as the story comes to a close. It explores the theme of fate vs. free-will in depth and will make you question everything. “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” is one of my favorite books ever and I could not recommend it enough!

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I highly recommend any of these authors, and particularly the works from each of them that I mentioned! Happy reading to all! 

Lead Image Credit: Germán Poo-Caamaño via Flickr Creative Commons 

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Michaela Guzzetti - Smith College

Michaela Guzzetti is a rising first year at Smith College. She is planning on majoring in astronomy and physics over the next four years. Michaela loves literature, going to concerts, drawing and film photography. She spends her free time watching Netflix (as does the rest of the world), watching movies and laughing with her close friends as well as listening to her record player. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram under the handle @kaylaguzzetti !

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