Books Every College Student Should Read

With the advent of a myriad of distractions and technological advancements that preoccupy the minds of today’s youth, it is safe to say that college students aren’t as well-read as they were as recent as two decades ago. Most of college students today only see reading as an academic requirement to be able to pass their class or have something to write in their book report, not as a form of entertainment or expanding one's knowledge. It would not be a stretch to claim that today’s college students miserably lag with respect to the possession of holistic knowledge, and this can be attributed to the severely diminished interest in reading exquisite literature, an endeavor that is today considered an anachronism, replaced by the unquenchable thirst for superficial and ephemeral interests proliferated by social media platforms. This utter disregard for learning is manifest in the youth’s piteous inability to form unique and incisive perspectives, poor critical thinking skills, and overall repugnant ignorance.

College students of today have “developed” an aversion to reading, to the point that ignorance has become the norm. Reading, as both leisure and art, has become a dusty afterthought, and in some cases, a tedious “chore” unworthy of time. Gone are the days when fruitful literary discourse dominated the college academic scene. Today, the typical college student is more conversant with hashtags than timeless books. This utterly degrading truth is especially true in the United States, resulting in an alarming “cult of ignorance” as so accurately posited and prophesied by Isaac Asimov decades ago, empowered by the folly that “my ignorance is no different from your knowledge.”

Few and far between are college students who are voracious readers, who read for intellectual stimulation, enlightenment, and even for motivation. If you are one of them, we tip our hats to you. If not, then it’s not too late. Being up-to-date with the world is twice as satisfying and enlightening when you are a reader and listed below are the reasons why. A whole new perspective awaits. Thoroughly digest each and every one.

The benefits of reading:

  • Books broaden your vocabulary;
  • Books drive students to seek inspiration for academic writing;
  • Books boost your cognitive skills;
  • Books exponentially expand your understanding of society
  • Books boost your mastery of grammar and punctuation;
  • Books make learning a subject easier;
  • Books help foster your social skills.

Even the archetypal college student who’s an average reader has in his possession a list of must-read books. But you’d be taken aback by CustomEssayMeister’s list of classic literature that is worth every second of your time.

Essential books every college student should read:

10 Books Every Students Should Read

1984 by George Orwell

Historical negationism, totalitarianism, obscurantism, and the antiquation of human values define society. Will you be able to stand up to the oppression and misinformation? Or are you willing to sacrifice your personal principles and simply adapt for the sake of survival? With the rise of historical revisionism and totalitarianism in many parts of the world that has resulted in egregious crimes against humanity, there is a dire need for young minds to read 1984. In case you have reservations about this novel, imagine the repercussions: young people bereft of this kind of literature are inclined to make the same mistakes that enabled the ascent to power of many of history’s most ruthless regimes. Orwell’s 1984 is a narrative, political manifesto, and gripping fiction all at once.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Considered as the pioneer of the psychological thriller genre, Crime and Punishment is one timeless work, even recommended by psychology professionals due to its possession of universal truths through the lens of a destitute and desperate college student, Raskolnikov. After committing murder, Raskolnikov ceaselessly tries to justify his actions and grapples with life’s harsh realities, discovering the depth of his character in the process. Crime and Punishment is potent enough to drive any college student into introspection and make them examine their personal principles in relation to the unfair and sometimes sorrowful reality with which society works.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Frequently topping lists of the greatest books of the 20th century, Lolita is one essential must-read for college students. In ecstatic prose, it details the forbidden love between a middle-aged man and a sexually precocious young girl, affectionately termed by Nabokov as a “nymphet.” Banned and considered controversial to this day by numerous academic institutions, particularly sectarian ones, the book, while almost exclusively centering on the relationship, is brimming with virtue. It teaches understanding, forgiveness, sacrifice, and many other virtues that today are an exception rather than the rule. Unfortunately, the novel’s critics only see its erotic nature, an insult to arguably one of the most stunning literary pieces of all time.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Part of the reason why college students of today, particularly in the United States, pitifully lack historical perspective is because of the failure to read, or the deliberate attempt to veer away from literary gems such as this novel.  Praised, criticized, and sometimes banned, this book explicitly underscores the evils of racism and slavery. A must-read for the 21st-century college student, deep digestion of the book opens the gates to a deeper understanding of how the United States came to be. It is often regarded as the book that stoked the flames of the abolitionist movement, and eventually, the US Civil War.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Universal and timeless are adjectives far too shabby to describe the profundity of William Shakespeare’s genius. Even the possessor of the widest vocabulary shall find the task positively daunting. “To be or not to be?” encapsulates the eternal question of humans. Hamlet’s story brims with the universal truth of the need to have a sense of accountability; everyone is responsible for their actions. Shakespeare’s Hamlet is always a dead giveaway when talking about the essential books every college should read.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The subject of a wealth of essays and films, The Great Gatsby transports the reader to 1920s America, a period of excessive hedonism and troubled superficiality. A formidable character-builder, The Great Gatsby affords the reader an insight into other people as well as self-examination. For further elucidation, the novel teaches why fame and fortune are simply fleeting, unlike values and humanity. Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway’s characters are so alive and telling, that to simply suggest that The Great Gatsby is one of the essential books college students should read is to defile the memory of a prolific writer, one of the pillars of American literature.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Almost seven decades have passed and yet this novel continues to be included in the list of controversial literary works. This is a classic that effectively qualifies as an amusing yet disturbing amalgam of myth, parody, allegory, allusion, and morals. The plot revolves around a group of young boys stranded on a remote island and forced to govern themselves, unconsciously discovering their primordial tendencies in the process. To say that the book’s graphic nature drives one to introspection is an understatement. The unabashed manner by which human savagery is depicted in the book is part of the reason why feeble-minded people devoid of literary inclination continue to lobby for its ban. While recommended for high school students, it is never too late for college students and people of all ages to include this in their must-read list.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Considered Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s finest work. Boasting of breathtaking detail, allusions, historical reference, and a compelling narrative seamlessly interwoven with magic realism, it tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family in the fictitious Colombian town of Macondo. Rife with colorful symbolism, even the keenest literary critic can boldly claim that one reading of the book simply won’t do.  The layers of meaning are endless, and every page is brimming with a vigor that may be too much for the average reader to fathom, making reading between the lines a most basic prerequisite. So to speak, this book is not an easy undertaking, for its beauty rests in its unending ability to become even more captivating with every read. “One Hundred Years” is undeniably one of the essential books every college student should read at least once.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The fact that this novel is still banned and perceived controversial speaks volumes about the ignorance of some. Why? Because of racism? So what? Racism, while manifestly irrational, runs plenty not only in literature but in real life, even in the 21st century. To Kill a Mockingbird illuminates the significance of virtue in everyday life without dwelling on the supernatural. It delves deep on the nuances of human morality and unflinchingly underscores injustices that continue to plague society up to this day. The novel’s extraordinary ability to confront evils from the point of view of a young girl attests to its timelessness.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

How does one reconcile the noblest of emotions with the most rotten of primeval tendencies? How does one follow the longing of his heart while ignoring the logical warnings of his mind? Ernest Hemingway’s novel illustrates the beauty of romantic love, however short-lived, in the face of the ubiquitous threat to life. In a similar fashion, Hemingway poignantly tells of prolonged spurts of love and the end of the conflict, which essentially encapsulates a universal truth – that love, like war, is only always temporary. The unspeakable horrors of war, juxtaposed with pristine romance and the quest for survival are themes best explored with Ernest Hemingway’s trademark simplistic brilliance. Worthy of discussion is whether this novel is Hemingway’s magnum opus, but it really does not matter, for it is one of the essential books every college student should read.

Again, why read these books?

The benefits of reading books are irrefutable. To read is to enhance and exercise your intelligence, for the brain is a muscle and reading, reflecting, and analyzing are the exercises. Reading equips one with the knowledge to elevate his standing in life; it is needed to acquire a deeper understanding of an otherwise unpredictable society. Reading enables the acquisition of information, which key to the development of sophisticated thinking. Now, one can only imagine the results if the energy in reading is channeled to these essential books every college student should read. The amount of knowledge, insight, and sensitivity that can be acquired through these books is absolutely priceless.  

This list of essential books every college student should read is basically a compilation of classic literature, and they share common qualities: truthful, forges lasting connections, timeless and universal, and generate endless discourse. Owing to these qualities, the title of this post, “essential books every college student should read,” - can be likened to these great books – universal and timeless. Irrespective if you are a blossoming bibliophile still in high school or an accomplished professional who’s yet to discover the rapturous joys that reading bestows, this list is for you.

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