5 Books To Read Before Going to College | Recommended by a College Senior

Amanda Hernandez, Intern at Colleges of Distinction / Take a Look: A Budget Friendly College Packing List - Spend $500 of Less »

Starting college is a big deal. You’re about to meet new people, see new places, and learn new things. You’re young and have lots to learn these next four years, but why not get a jump start? Books are one of life’s greatest teachers. They have the potential to influence how you see yourself and the world around you. With every book you read, you are exposed to new insights and perspectives that will help you understand others and open yourself up to all the possibilities that lie ahead.

We’ve curated this list of books as a starting point to prepare you for this exciting new chapter in life. Some may sound familiar, and others may not, but they all have a valuable story to share. These pieces cover everything from following your dreams, overcoming obstacles, and learning valuable life lessons to self-discovery and the significance of interpersonal relationships.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

In Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Tsukuru reminisces about his harmonious friendship with his four high school best friends. However, during his second year of college, Tsukuru’s friends unexpectedly cut him off and tell him to never contact them again. Ever since, Tsukuru has believed himself to be “an empty person, lacking in color and identity.” The story jumps between this jarring past event in Tsukuru’s college years and the present day, nearly twenty years later. Struggling with his sense of self, Tsukuru takes his girlfriend’s advice and embarks on a “pilgrimage” to happiness. In confronting the pains of the past, he journeys toward a brighter future—true healing for the rest of his life.

Find the book on Amazon here.


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is a short yet whimsical allegory that will inspire you to follow your heart and seek out your true destiny. The novella’s main character, Santiago, decides to leave his comfortable life as a shepherd in pursuit of worldly experiences. He perseveres through trouble and trickery, losing all his money in an unfamiliar land. In pursuit of Egypt to find his “personal treasure,” Santiago meets many people who teach him how to listen to the “omens,” or guiding signs from the universe. It’s with these omens and his own intuition that his journey unfolds as a lesson in resilience.

Find the book on Amazon here.


Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays With Morrie is an autobiographical memoir that recounts Mitch Albom’s weekly visits with Morrie Schwartz, his former college professor, who has fallen ill. After hearing on the news that Schwartz had been diagnosed with ALS, Albom reconnects with the man who had changed his life decades ago, arranging to meet with him every Tuesday. The pair discuss life’s many lessons, exchanging cross-generational ideas and universal truths. Albom reflects on his professor’s wisdom, ultimately accepting how negligent he’d become of his friends, family, and faith in the pursuit of his career. From the inspiration of a man who had lived a long life, Albom finds that it is never too late to cultivate a life of purpose.

Find the book on Amazon here.


Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom

There’s a reason Mitch Albom has two honorable mentions on our list! Have A Little Faith recounts the author’s real-life experience of reconnecting with his faith. Examining his interactions with his childhood rabbi and an ex-convict-turned-pastor, Albom stitches together the similarities between two religions that have a strong history of conflict. He finds kernels of similarities in the ways that Judaism and Christianity bring people together throughout the best and worst of times—he witnesses the unwavering hope of the pastor’s congregation despite their struggles with homelessness and drug addiction, and he comes to terms with his own personal doubts under the guidance of his rabbi. This book takes a deep dive into idea of self-forgiveness and the practice of compassion in a world of challenges and opportunity.

Find the book on Amazon here.


The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher In The Rye is a true classic that follows the character of Holden Caulfield, who has expelled from school due to his poor grades. Holden packs up and catches a train to New York to bide time and avoid telling his parents about his expulsion. As he moseys through the city, we read him as a typical, pessimistic teen, but behind his bitter curses toward the “phonies” around him, we find true complexity. In time, we learn of his soft spot for those younger and more innocent than him, understanding his desire to be the “catcher in the rye,” a kind of savior responsible for saving children from the harsh realities of life. Salinger’s rugged narrator is an accessible portrayal of the frustration and confusion that we all have felt as we’ve grown from childhood to adulthood. This book is such a timeless, famous classic because of how honestly it embodies a feeling that so many of us can relate to.

Find the book on Amazon here.


Literature provides so much more than the narratives at face value. They are filled with symbols and lessons that take readers out of their own minds and into those of others with different perspectives on common ideas. And while we encourage you to read whatever it is that may inspire you, we think these books provide particularly valuable lessons for upcoming college students who are about to move into the broader adult world.


What are some of your favorite books, and what lessons have they taught you? Tweet at us and join the conversation!

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