10 Essential Books to Help You Survive College

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So you’ve just graduated from high school, and the last thing you want to do is crack open a book about college. Hell knows that’s all you’ll do once you get there. But if you don’t have a summer job or you’re stuck at home all alone, college advice books can actually provide a little humor for those last anxious days before college begins. Instead of bickering with your mom or spending hours shopping for the perfect shower shoes, why not read a book that reminds you college doesn’t have to be scary?

1. Chicken Soup for the College Soul

by Dan Clark, Kimberly Kirberger, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

You might have seen books from the Chicken Soup series lying around your grandma’s kitchen or at the library, but this 2012 updateprovides some timely advice when it comes to getting through college. While many other books in the series feature celebrity authors sharing their experiences, this compilation exclusively features the stories of regular college students just like you. Def a must have to get you through college.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

You might be asking yourself, “How could a book written by a British man in 1931 possibly help me deal with hard-as-hell homework assignments and hookup culture in an American university in 2016?” Well, the answer is critical thinking. Huxley bravely made some big predictions about changes in technology and psychology way ahead of its time. In high school, you probably spent most of your study time memorizing what your teachers said to you so you could regurgitate it back on the test. But Huxley’s novel will teach you to come up with your own ideas that will really stun your professors right out of the gate on those papers, and help you engage in intellectual discussions with your peers.

3. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

While The Art of Fielding may sound like more of a novel for baseball fanatics than college students, it does follow the life of a fictional college baseball player before and during his college career. “It delves into the lives of both the athletic and academically ambitious, the feelings of isolation and feeling out of place and body, as well as those of finding comfort in championship, love and romance, and the struggle to live up to expectations set by yourself and others,” Northwestern junior Jason Mast said. We can all relate to the insecurities during that transition, even if we never made it past our T-ball years.

4. How to Survive Your Freshman Year by Mark W. Bernstein and Yadin Kaufmann

Bernstein and Kaufmann went straight to the best source possible for their info–college students who just finished up their freshman year of college and lived to tell the tale. Bernstein and Kaufmann conducted hundreds of interviews in order to calm all your obscure fears about packing the wrong items for your dorm or living with the roommate from Hell. Because they let the students tell their stories, How to Survive Your Freshman Year is written just like a conversation with your friend, which makes it a quick read. You can even share your own tips once you get on campus. Who knows, maybe you’ll write a book of your own one day.

5. The Naked Roommate by Harlan Cohen

Maybe your roommate doesn’t spend a lot of time sexiling you or walking around in the nude, but the subtitle of Cohen’s book is “And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College” for a good reason. While your problems may not always be as shocking as a naked roommate, the book uses humor to deal with all kinds of problems you may face in college, like faulty laundry machines or the all-consuming rush week. When it comes to getting #social in college, use this book as your BFF.

6. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Rowell has a hit on her hands here with her novel that set the YA world abuzz. Without any spoilers, though, I can tell you that Fangirlwill help you deal with family issues as an undergrad and the always-dreaded roommate problems. “The relationships in school, especially between Cath and her roommate, just rang true for me, based on my own experience in college. You meet people and they often prove your pre-conceived ideas wrong once you get to know them,” mother Jeanine Walsh McCarthy said. Wow, talk about timelessness.

7. 101 Things to Do Before You Graduate by Patricia Hudak & Jullien Gordon


We’ve all heard of making a bucket list. Hell, Northwestern even hands us a poster of campus-specific things we should do before we graduate. But if you want to find a path that will help you get the most out of your four years, look no further than 101 Things. “After the author, Jullien Gordon, came to my university and spoke, it just helped me look at college differently than the cookie-cutter earn-degree-get-involved mantra we get,” CSU at Sacramento senior Michelle Stallings said. This quick and easy read will help you change your whole mindset about appreciating your college experience and making the most of it.

8. How to Read a Book


by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
Yes, How to Read a Book can easily sound like the most boring book on the planet, but if you think about how reading one book will cut your reading time for all future books significantly, it might not seem that bad after all. “It can help you read and comprehend almost any genre of book. It teaches you about the various reading techniques on how to read methodically, understand, analyze and criticize the content you’ve read–whether it’s a novel, a scientific paper or a news article. If someone is looking to take challenging classes in college, I would highly recommend this book,” 2015 University of Georgia grad Tish Thompson said. So crank it out over the summer when you don’t have the stresses of other reading assignments, and you can read it with a nice chilled lemonade by your side.

9. How to Become a Straight-A Student by Cal Newport


People often tell you that college isn’t all about getting perfect grades, and while that kind of pressure definitely isn’t necessary, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to do your best academically (even if you also want to get turnt on weekends). “When I started college, it took me forever to read through the material and study for exams. This book helped me to grasp how to study, how study more effectively in less time, how to come up with that paper topic and get better grades in classes I truly struggled in and the book is pretty straight to the point,” Thompson said. Straight to the point, huh? Probably much more efficient than that 120-page philosophy reading you’re working through right now.

10. Left Swipes & Love by College Magazine


A little self-promotion never hurt nobody! CM’s Valentine’s Day release Left Swipes & Love features articles written by real college students about the parts of love you might never experience or even think about, like trying to date someone of the same gender while dealing with an unaccepting family, or trying to navigate the highs and lows of Tinder. Best of all, you can grab the e-book for hella cheap on Amazon and share it with all of your friends, or even read it with your boo while you’re taking a break from Netflix and chilling.

Now you have the books you’ll want to read, save money on the textbooks you “have” to read by buying or renting with Chegg

*Updated July 21, 2016 with an opportunity to save on textbooks.

Hi, my name is Meghan and I'm a sophomore at Northwestern University. I've had a passion for creative writing ever since I was creative editor of my high school paper, and now I'm pursuing the creative writing major at the college level. I love writing in my own voice to help other people get through tough times.

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