Essential books to read for every serious college student

When heading to college, the most important thing you will learn will be that knowledge is the most valuable currency in the world. Regardless of your choice when picking a field to study, every serious college student reads a book now and then. No matter what you believe about the influence of the digital age on reading habits, statistics show that in the 21st century, people read more than ever before! Of course this is including internet articles like this one. So, without further ado, let us dive into our chosen top 10 books that are essential for all serious college students:


  1. The Women’s Room by Marilyn French – This book should not just be read by women. Men should ignore the title and read it too. It was written in the 70s and tells the story of a 50s housewife who ditches the suburb to become a mature student at Harvard. It’s also the story of a woman discovering herself and feminism. Even though it was written in a different era, the themes are still similar to ones we all face now: slut shaming, pressures and social constraints. The book is pretty seminal for the feminism movement.
  2. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck – The book follows two friends George and Lennie as they travel through California looking for work on a farm. George, often short-tempered, acts as Lennie’s protector. “’Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck inspired me to work with special needs people as well as support their caretakers. Lennie helped me realize that all humans have dreams and all just want to be understood,” Penn State senior Annie McGuinness said. Through the experiences of life and death, Steinbeck shares the harsh realities about human nature.
  3. This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life, by David Foster Wallace – Back in 2005, David Foster Wallace gave his only commencement speech for Kenyon College’s graduating class. His speech proved to be so enlightening that it was published as a book, years later. It deals with many subjects such as “the difficulty of empathy”, “the importance of being well-adjusted”, and “the essential lonesomeness of adult life.”
  4. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Probably the Russian’s author most well-known novel about the student Raskolnikov and his attempts to find his place in this life and understand who he really is. After murdering an old woman, he tries to justify his actions through thorough inner-analysis. The Russian author’s novel is a must read for a better understanding of human morality and the place of law in society.
  5. The 4-Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferriss – This book will get you into lifestyle design – the idea that we aren’t obligated to simply graduate and just get a job, but instead that we’re free to pursue the life we want, as long as we can set up the necesary systems to make it work. It won’t show you a step-by-step method to set up a passive business and then party for the rest of your life, but it will show you how that kind of a lifestyle isn’t as impossible as you’d think, and it’ll point you toward the resources you’ll need to get started.
  6. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt – This chilling novel about a group of clever and eccentric misfits at an elite New England college is great for anyone who loved her Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch (also recommended!), plus Tartt’s writing serves as an amazing vocabulary lesson for anyone heading to college.
  7. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare – The Bard’s name always comes up on lists like this one, but for good reason. Hamlet helps us find the answer to the eternal question we heard many times: “To be or not to be?”. This is a story that can teach us to accept the responsibility for all our decisions and deeds. Furthermore, it is a deep study of a character (Hamlet) who, quite simply, became the archetype of our modern selves.
  8. Up From Slavery: An Autobiography, by Booker T. Washington – Considered by some the most important work of non-fiction written in the 20th century, Booker T. Washington’s, Up From Slavery recounts the events of Washington’s life. It begins with his childhood as a slave during the Civil War, moves through his entrance and completion of university to his social efforts to help provide other African Americans with education in both academics and trade. It also documents the positive effect Washington’s efforts had in empowering black people and improving aspects of their lives.
  9. The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – This is a massive three volume work, recounting the history and conditions of the Soviet forced labour camps, which were established for any person deemed to be dissident from the Soviet state or ideology. Solzhenitsyn was likely the most important literary figure that helped cause the break down of the Soviet regime. He gives a fuller picture of the horrific outworking of de-humanization in the name of political authority that disallows critique and independent thought.

The Complete Stories, by Flannery O’Connor – Southern Gothic writer, Flannery O’Connor, only lived to the age of 39, dying in 1964. However, in her short life she left an unrivalled collections of short stories as well as two full-length novels. In this collection of her stories, the reader will find a subtle and penetrating mind, discoursing in colourful characters upon ethics, race, religion and culture. O’Connor’s plotting and prose is universally recognized as rivalling the very best of English literature. It is in the stories themselves, however, that O’Connor’s unique genius manifests itself. O’Connor was woman writer from a Southern state, a convert to Roman Catholicism and someone who had lifelong struggles with Lupus, which