I am a bibliophile through and through. One of my favorite places is the library and I still read for fun. However, nothing brings me greater agony then when I am confronted with the big question of, "What's your favorite book?" It amazes me how some people can effortlessly answer the big question and it is truly touching to discuss the effect of powerful novels. Since I am selfishly always looking for a new story to unpack, I spoke with 10 college students who recommended their favorite books, and the qualities that make their book recommendations special.
As a biology and African and African-American studies double major, reading literature is not always on the top of Alexandria Whitted's priority list. However, Whitted was quick to recommend Chopin's novel, The Awakening. She initially read the book in high school for AP English and the novel has stuck with her through her college years at East Carolina University. Whitted grew attached to the protagonist and explains that she "often felt overwhelmed like the main character Edna."
For Whitted, a strong connection to the main character piqued her interest, and over a year after her first read, she recounts The Awakening as her most memorable book. Still, Alexandria had trouble labeling The Awakening as her favorite novel. After rattling off an extended list of book recommendations, she gives honorable mention to Vivien Shotwell'sVienna Nocturne.
Many students find their freshman year of college as a time for great change. For Erienne R. Lewis, this great change came in the form of Bryan Stevenson's book. During his freshman year at Dillard University, he read the very book he recommends now, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. As an English major with a legal track on his mind, he recommends Stevenson's book, as it breaks down the legal system. Stevenson's book also tracks the narratives of his former clients. Just Mercy is not a book reserved for legal studies. The novel is perfect for any college student looking to understand the legal system and its complexities.
As a student starting off in college, the beginning of high school seems like light years away. However, for Efosa Asemota, his freshman year of high school introduced him to his favorite book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Asemota credits Malcolm X's autobiography as a book that, "provide[s] a bold perspective into being an African American in society." He also describes Malcolm X as, "one of the greatest orators and activists to ever walk the Earth."
Not only did this book revolutionize his thinking as an African-American, but it also gave Asemota a peek into the "great world leader," Malcolm X. It was not difficult to understand why he holds this book so dearly. Even with a computer science major at Morehouse College, he shares that he reads The Autobiography of Malcolm X as often as he can, with his most recent read taking place a little over a year ago.
Although Kaila Lattimore is undecided about her major, she has no indecision about her favorite book. The rising freshman at Duke University considers Lois Lowry's The Giver as her favorite novel. Taking it as far back as the fifth grade, Kaila recounts the first time she read the novel and explains, "It taught me to appreciate the differences, the disagreement and the dysfunction within society."
For a novel to permeate through Kaila's middle school, high school and approaching college years, it clearly had a large impact. I often regard The Giver as the original dystopian novel. For lovers of The Hunger Games and Divergent series, Lowry's novel makes for a great read.
Although John Green is famously known for novel-turned-film The Fault in Our Stars, he's penned other best selling novels. An Abundance of Katherines represents another John Green masterpiece. Computer science major and rising sophomore Damilola Adesina considers An Abundance of Katherines to be her favorite book. She loves the novel because "it's a modern love story but not too cheesy."
Her first read of the book took place during her latter years of high school, but the effects of Green's novel still surface years later as she continues her studies at Franklin & Marshall College. This book recommendation is a no-brainer for John Green fans and an exciting new read for those who love young adult fiction.
When Michelle Johnson told me her favorite book is So B. It, I nearly screamed with joy. I remembered reading this book in middle school and being shaken with emotion. Funnily enough, Michelle's narrative closely followed mine. She explained that she read So B. It for a summer reading project in middle school. Fast forward several years later and Michelle is now a rising freshman at Rice University, recommending a book she was required to read. As a psychology major and neuroscience minor, Michelle appreciates the "intriguing and somewhat inspiring" framework of Weeks' novel. Her book recommendation proves the effect novels can have years beyond an initial reading (and the benefits of summer reading).
Surprisingly, incoming freshman Hibah Berhanu was the only college student I asked who agreed with my sentiment that favorites are the worst.
Affectionately, we joked about other points of indecision in her life. Although Hibah is leaning strongly towards a major in public health while she studies at the University of Virginia, she can not quite come to a decision. She had a similar struggle with her book recommendation. She could not come to a verdict. Then, she remembered, "We Were Liars was pretty good," until she ultimately decided, "It [We Were Liars] was actually great."
She describes the book's plot as wild and alludes to a major shift in perspective. If you like plot twists and unexpected turns, Hibah's book recommendation may need to make its way to your bookshelf.
The first and only philosophical novel to make the list of book recommendations by college students is Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. As an engineering and business administration student, Michael McPherson explains, "Rand's book helped expand my thinking about certain situations."
Unlike most college students I interviewed, Michael did not speed through his favorite book. He explained that The Fountainhead was the first audiobook that took him months to complete. It is amazing when a book can get a college student to slow down during a hectic schedule and unpack its message for months. This is especially impactful for Michael as he studies at the STEM-heavy Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. If you consider yourself, "a nerd for philosophy" like Michael, then The Fountainhead might be the book for you.
Although Emily Bourgeois is the second English major I interviewed, her book recommendation differs from her peer, E.R. Lewis. She immediately credits The Perks of Being a Wallflower as her favorite book and gives one of the most powerful reasons for naming Chbosky's novel as her favorite. She explains, "[The] Perks of Being a Wallflower came into my life when I needed it most. It was the first time that I'd seen someone like me in a young adult novel."
Emily knows the importance of representation across all means of entertainment. As a rising sophomore at Trinity University, Emily continues to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower over and over again and it never seems to lose its spark for her.
I asked nine college students, "What's your favorite book and why?" In the end, I finished with a list of book recommendations ranging from young adult fiction to autobiography. As I look over this list and check off the books I have read and have yet to read, it makes me consider what book I would recommend. Full disclaimer: The following book is not my favorite. For any high school student approaching college or any college student approaching the scary reality of adulthood, I recommend The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.
This book includes many of the elements my interviewees mentioned when discussing their favorite book. The Catcher in the Rye has an alluring protagonist, a powerful message and it is likely to make it on a summer reading list for literature. Salinger's novel has also made it on countless banned book lists, so if rebelling is your forte, I suggest giving the book a read. Consider The Catcher in the Rye my book recommendation and allow it to round this list.