Classes are back in session and as the college kids move back into their dorms, they set up for a new year of reconnecting with friends and, if they are doing it right, reading and writing galore!
College is that time to show off your intellectual self – or show off your kids intelligence if you’re the parent sending them off. As collegiate life commences for the school year, students can fit-on what little shelf room they have-these essential twelve books to be the ultimate literature buff college kid:
Gilgamesh dates from as early as 1700 BCE — a thousand years before the Iliad, which makes it the oldest piece of epic western literature to date. The story of the finding of this piece is even interesting. After being lost for almost two millennia, the eleven clay tablets on which the epic was inscribed were discovered in 1853 in the ruins of Nineveh, and the text was not deciphered and fully translated until the end of the century. This is a super old classic that is necessary for a college kid who wants to be the cool lit kid.
- Homer’s Odyssey
The book is literally about a person’s journey through life. Since the college kids are starting on their own for the first time, it seems only necessary that they read about the ultimate adventure of life. With this book read, any college kid can sound like an intellectual literature whiz.
- The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
Dante’s world-famous journey through the three parts of the Catholic afterlife. This book is all about religion and the levels of thought about it from Dante’s time. It’s a book that every literature nerd reads in their studies, so definitely have it on your shelf!
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare
What has been argued as the best Shakespeare play of all time, this story touches upon royalty and government structure, grief over death, and mental illness. Its definitely one of the more depressing of Shakespeare plays, but it is one of the most important to read. Plus, quoting Shakespeare makes people sound cool, especially with Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be…” speech. I would also recommend reading just all of Shakespeare, especially all his tragedies and problem plays.
- The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
Another treasure of a book, this one highlights not only the mistreatment of the poor, but also the stereotypes, unrealistic expectations, and mistreatment of women during the Georgian Era in England. The account of the story-which Defoe claims to be true though this has never been proven-shows the struggles with which impoverished women had to go through to survive. A lot of women’s rights activists read and refer to this book, and it will definitely be seen in any women’s literature class, so read up!
- Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
This book is another excellent satire of the government that although it was written about the 18th century, is still prevalent today. Many literature classes, as well as political classes read this book and study its contents. Its a perfect book for learning how to read and write satire in literature. I would also recommend A Modest Proposal.
- The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
This is a great play that is a complete mocking of the upper class in Victorian society. However, its values and underlying themes can still be found in modern society, so it’s a great book to read especially when talking about class issues. I would also recommend Dorian Gray.
- Ulysses by James Joyce
This is the book that you need to read in order to understand modernism in literature. Speak a few lines of this in any class, and you will be the literature buff that people go to for all their college literature class advice.
- 1984 by George Orwell
This is another book with an underlying theme of criticizing the government, however this one does it in a futuristic, style. Taking place in a futuristic totalitarian society, this book does an amazing job of showing the flaws of an attempt at a perfect society.
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Though also about society structure and government, this story is more about the importance of having some structure in society. The book shows what happens when there are no rules in society, and what the consequences can be. It is also a really great book to quote from.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The justice system and race issues is what this book is about. This is an essential read that you most likely read in high school, but if not you should definitely read in orientation before you even get to college. This is a necessity book that every college student should know all about. It will definitely make an impact on you.
- The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
This book is an important one to read not so much for the books actual contents, but for the unrest it caused around the world. Because of the book, Rushdie himself had to go into hiding after a fatwa was proposed against him by previous Iraninan Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Due to its controversy, this is a great book to read to learn about politics in religion.
- Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud
Now here come the nonfictions. If you are going to study any form of philosophy, you will be studying Freud. And this is one of his best. Make sure to have this one as you discuss all your philosophical thoughts on life and development.
- Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
- Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
This book is super interesting. Here is the book all about the craziest statistics put together into studies. “Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? How much do parents really matter?” If you want to read the most interesting nonfiction around and then have fun facts to tell at parties, this is your book.
- Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen
This book will blow your mind about all of history. Definitely read this one and learn the truth about history. What you learned in high school is not the full story and in college is where you are supposed to learn the truth.
- “Democracy in America,” by Alexis de Tocqueville
One of the first studies on democracy in America, this is the book that was one of the first studies of American society. If you’re a college kid and you want to learn about governments then you should have this on your shelf.
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
This is the best book of the year and if you want to be caught up with the great modern reads, DO NOT FORGET THIS ONE. It’s a book of fantastical fiction and it is absolutely an amazing read. Be the one who puts this one on their shelf and then recommends it to everyone who sees it and asks.
So stuff up those book shelves, get a latte, and head to your first classes. If you’re the parent, stock your kids with what they need and settle up your children until you see them for Turkey Day!
Here are some other reads that are worth the shelf space: Paradise Lost by John Milton, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.