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Essential Books That Every College Student Should Read

If you hope to hack it in college, do yourself a solid and check out some of the books that every college student should read.

In high school, many of us read the same books or worked from a similar reading list, and there is a good reason for this: these books have had a large impact on society and its functions. These books aren't just worth reading so we can pass our assignments, they are more important than that because certain books can expand our minds and broaden our view of the world around us.

Books also have more practical benefits, ones that will be noticed only when we leave the walls of our high schools. The reading load you will be expected to handle in college will be substantially bigger than what you're used to, so getting in the habit of actually enjoying your reading will give you a leg up on many. If you hope to become a college graduate, you're going to have to learn to balance your work, especially when nobody really cares if you do it or not — you already paid. And, being a better reader will free up more time for parties, of which there will be many.

While it is more important that you read something, anything, you should know there are some essential books that every college student should read. Cross some of these off your reading list, trust me, they'll leave you more prepared for college.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World is a dystopian novel by famed English author and philosopher Aldous Huxley. This future world is one without individuality, but somehow the citizens are all expected to remain happy. Its people are psychologically manipulated, and it's said that Huxley got much of his inspiration after a trip to the United States where he was shocked at the commercialism. 

It's one of those books that every college student should read, as it asks the question: Is it more important to resist the system, or to go with the flow and become just another brick in the wall? 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Another classic work of dystopian literature is Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. In a world where TV controls everything and people spend most of the day zonked out in front of it, literature is considered dangerous and must be destroyed.

Firemen go around starting fires, and Guy Montag is happy to go along and not question anything. But, when his neighbor introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and ideas were valued, Guy begins to see things differently. When she mysteriously disappears Guy finds himself on the run from the law, as he is no longer happy to accept his meaningless life. It's one of those books that every college student should read because it puts a real emphasis on knowledge and substance over style. 

1984 by George Orwell

Sticking with the dystopian theme, 1984 is sadly one of those books that seems more relevant by the day. In a future world where the state will do anything to control the narrative, and this is where the protagonist Winston Smith comes in. He works for the Ministry of Truth, rewriting history in a way more suitable to the state — one look at our current administration and it's clear 1984 is one of those books that every college student should read. 

The more Smith writes, the more dissatisfied he becomes with the way things are. As he begins to think more for himself he comes to the realization that Big Brother is always watching. 

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Naturally, teens are going to be a little angsty, making The Catcher in the Rye one of the books that every college student should read. It's the classic coming-of-age story that tells the story of Holden Caulfield, one of the most realistic narrators in literature. 

The realism is really driven home by Holden's criticisms of society and his bitterness towards his world. He's torn between becoming an adult or staying a kid, further alienating himself from those around him. Its main theme, centered around the confusion of growing up, is timeless, and it's hard not to agree with Holden at times: Most people are "phony's."

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Widely considered to be the best book about World War I and the lost generation, A Farewell to Arms is among the books that every college student should read. 

It's the story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front, who falls in love with a beautiful English nurse. It realistically depicts the horrors of war, while giving us insights into how romantic relations are changed when men and women are deployed. 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck wrote one of the essential books that every college student should read when he penned The Grapes of Wrath. This Pulitzer Prize winning classic is about the Great Depression, mainly the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s.

It tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, and their struggle to migrate West to the promised land out in California. It's essentially a story about the have's and the have-not's, a story all too relevant in America today. 

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five is a classic of anti-war literature, and one of the most popular books that every college student should read. The plot centers around the horrific fire bombing in Dresden, and our narrator Billy Pilgrim takes us through space and time.

It's classic Vonnegut and absurdly captures war veteran Billy's fractured experience as he's "unstuck" in time. It would be dark and depressing if it was written by anyone other than the great Kurt Vonnegut.

The Stranger by Albert Camus

If you take an intro philosophy class, odds are you will talk about The Stranger by Albert Camus. It centers around the senseless murder on an Algerian beach, a murder that could have been easily avoided.

It then dives into an existential where our narrator questions his life and his existence. This is something most young people can relate to, easily one of the most essential books that every college student should read. 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies is about a bunch of British schoolboys stranded on an island, and the disasters that occur while they're there. Usually given to students in high school, it's definitely one of those books that every college student should read.

It reminds us to keep our humanity in times of crisis, and puts an emphasis on the importance of being a critical thinker. It teaches young readers the importance of compromise, and how critical it is to follow the right leaders. 

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Raskolnikov kills an old pawn shop owner and struggles to justify it in this Russian classic. It can help students think about law and society, and is one of those books that every college student should read.

In the story, Raskolnikov believes that exceptional people can and must transcend societal law. He puts this to the test with the murder, and his psychological unraveling led to one of the most classic books in literature.

Stuff Every College Student Should Know by Blair Thornburgh

A very practical entry on the list of essential books that every college student should read is Stuff Every College Student Should Know by Blair Thornburgh. It's a quick primer and is written in short burst, so you won't have to worry about it distracting you from your other readings. 

It covers everything from move-in day to graduation, an incredibly useful reference for every part of living life on campus. Keep it by your bed and crack it open every time you're feeling a bit overwhelmed. 

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