Top 10 Books to Read Before You Graduate From College.

When you’re in college, the amount of reading you’ll do will vary greatly depending on your major. If, say, you’re a marketing major, you’re going to do significantly less reading than your English or Classics majors counterparts. Essentially, once you get beyond your core requirements, most majors focus on fieldwork and textbooks.

That’s a bummer, because there are some books that really open your eyes to the world around you, and open your mind to possibilities heretofore unknown to you.

People who read fiction are smarter. And nicer. And seldom bored.

And we’re hotter.

(this one is purely conjecture, but I will remind you that THIS GUY is a prolific reader.)

Here, I’ll offer proof. Listen to Master Hiddleston (I am giving him the Elizabethan honorific, because he’s so fucking Shakespeare that I can’t even. Also, well…draw your own conclusions.)

OMG HE’S READING CUMMINGS. (fun fact: a guy read this at an open mic I attended, and he had a DEEP SOUTH accent. Equally sexy, but kinda creepy because, really, who reads this at an open mic? really. really.)

Therefore, in honor of all those returning to school, or those who are in school, or those who just want ten really fucking good books to read, I compiled a list of what I believe are indispensable additions to the traditional collegiate canon.

Don’t worry your pretty heads–I made a graphic!

top ten books to read before you graduate from college

The Top 10 Books You Need to Read Before You Graduate From College! #books #amreading #bibliophile… Click To Tweet

In no particular order:

This book is an excellent example of the American captivity narrative. I think this book might’ve been taught more before the 21st century, but has since fallen out of favor. It’s extraordinary and well worth the time.

“I love her still, for if you know anything about that kind of feeling, you know how close it is connected to hopelessness and thus is about the only thing in civilization that don’t degenerate with time.”

Trollope’s writing is genius. No one disputes that. However, he wrote A LOT. Where to begin, right? He is not known for brevity, and this tome is no exception. It is the proverbial “door stop” of a novel at just under 850 pages. BUT, it’s essential Trollope. Much in the way that Little Dorrit is seen as a direct response to critics by Dickens,  Can You Forgive Her lambasts the social injustices in the Victorian era, and, unlike Madame Bovary, isn’t given to harsh criticisms of the human condition by way of unlikable characters and improper motivations. In spite of the prodigality of the words, the book is moving and genuine.

“It seems to me that if a man can so train himself that he may live honestly and die fearlessly, he has done about as much as is necessary.”

Ok. Don’t look at the page count.

YOU LOOKED. I promise, even though it’s as big as Trump’s ego, it’s REALLY good. It wouldn’t be so popular if it was crap. It deals with the issues of colonialism and race with aplomb. It dissects what makes being a person in-between–in-between. The Indian diaspora is ENORMOUS. It serves us all well to know a little more about it.

“I cannot see anything admirable in stupidity, injustice and sheer incompetence in high places, and there is too much of all three in the present administration.”

I cannot believe I had to hear about this book via some creepy guy at the Japanese grocery store who was trying to get in my pants while I was trying to buy nori. BUT! I still looked it up, and all I can say is, “thank you, guy who compared sex with women to making maki.” (you’re obviously coming from a place of experience–really.) This book is as beautiful as the land it depicts. The words flow like watercolor and dance like the fish in the water. In our limited view of Japan in the West, we tend to over-dramatize, and remark only on things like geishas, tourists, and quirky street style. This book is the perfect counterbalance to the Sailor Moon opinion of most westerners.

“In the pale light of daybreak the gravestones looked like so many white sails that would never again be filled with wind, sails that, too long unused and heavily drooping, had been turned into stone just as they were. The boats’ anchors had been thrust so deeply into the dark earth that they could never again be raised.” 

I took a class that dealt with the Harlem Renaissance quite a bit. While Baldwin and jazz were the frontrunners, a lot of the women were left behind. NOT ANYMORE, OH WHITE PROFESSOR DUDE!! This book deals with the realities of “passing,” and what that meant in the 1920s. It also deals with the fact that what is seen is not what is felt. Absolutely beautiful.

“I was thinking what a little haven a house like this could be; what it must have meant to my mother. Funny how I almost pounded down the walls once upon a time trying to get away. Now I can’t think of anything more marvellous than having such a place as this, here, there, anywhere, to return to.”

Before Orwell, before Vonnegut, there was Capek. (CHAP-ek.) Worried about the robopacolypse? Zombie apocalypse? Aliens?

Have you ever considered newts? Big, fucking lizards who can communicate, be trained, and have social structure? What if they turned on us? Terrifying, right? Sometimes satire is equal parts horror and humor, and Capek is the master of that dichotomy.

“It suddenly occurred to me that every move on the chessboard is old and has been played by somebody at some time. Maybe our own history has been played out by somebody at some time, and we just move our pieces about in the same moves to strike in the same way as people have always done.”

Trust me, I hate me as much as you hate me for putting a Cormac McCarthy book on this list. But, honestly, this novel is so stylistically breathtaking that it is akin to swallowing a world whole, and having it projected into your psyche in a realm of colors which you’ve never before seen.

It deals with life in the margins of society in a way that makes it utterly reasonable to the reader. As if one might say, “hey, life on a POS houseboat sounds kinda romantic!” And later making the same reader think, “I love showers and the clean smell of not living on a fucking houseboat.”

“Hard weather, says the old man. So let it be. Wrap me in the weathers of the earth, I will be hard and hard. My face will wash rain like the stones. ”

This novel. This novel will.wreck.you. You will sob on the train, in your office, while you’re running. You’ll bring it up at random points, just to tell someone about it. You won’t be able to stop yourself. Just when you think you’ve read every Civil War novel there is to read, there is this. I’ve never felt more transported by a slave narrative than I have by reading this.

“It was skin, she decided. Only skin. And it had no power to add or subtract or otherwise alter her fundamental understanding of her own self.”

This is exactly what satire should be. Biting. Controversial. Pointed. It strips away all pretense of neutrality, and makes mockery of Soviet life. Bulgakov’s ability to weave the fantastic with the banal, sending readers into a whirlwind of realization, is astounding.

“Punch a man on the nose, kick an old man downstairs, shoot somebody or any old thing like that, that’s my job. But argue with women in love—no thank you!”

Yes, this book is intended for children, some of the very best books are. This book surrounds a pair of orphans–as many novels do, but the uniqueness is in the magic of the story. The descriptions of objects and setting nearly anthropomorphizes the inanimate to draw them into the warp and weft of the narrative. Heartbreaking and hopeful, this book is a work for any age–not just middle grade.

“Ruby Holler at night can be an eerie, dark place, full of shadows and silence, but both the shadows and the silence are deceptive.”

 

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