7 Best Books About College Students Update 05/2022

The college years are unlike anything other. In addition to being your first time away from home, this is the first time you have complete control over your schedule, your eating choices, and your laundry. It’s also a great chance to discover who you really are, away from the people who’ve known you all your life—the people who you feel will guide you into maturity. Exhilarating and horrifying at the same time.

From the application process through freshman year to graduate school, these books about college life celebrate the whole journey—whether you want to get a taste of what’s ahead, to be encouraged that you’re not alone, or to recall memories. Here are eight books about college life in celebration of all the dorms, lecture halls, and student centers that are buzzing back to life this month.

Novels About College Life: Pre-college

Enter Title Here By Rahul Kanakia

What is the beginning of your journey? Finding a place at the college of your choice. This is something that Reshma Kapoor, the self-confessed “laser focused” high school student from Silicon Valley, understands all too well. With the offer of representation made to her after reading an essay she had written, Reshma determines that releasing a young adult book is her best bet. However, as a self-described “study machine,” she has no concept what a typical high school experience is like for her fellow students. Of course, this leads to the development of an elaborate scheme on her part. Reshma will meet new people, have a boyfriend, attend to parties, and—as she puts it—”all that other crap” in the course of six weeks. Here we get a glimpse inside a town known for its fierce competitive nature.

The unreliable narrator in this narrative was what piqued my interest the most, and it’s something you don’t frequently see in a YA book.

Roomies By Sara Zarr And Tara Altebrando

Even though it was just a few months, that transitional summer between high school and college is still fresh in our minds. When Elizabeth Owen and Lauren Cole realize they’ll be roommates at Berkeley, they find themselves in this situation. They begin a month-long email exchange from their residences on different coasts, which offers the alternate viewpoints that guide us through this narrative. They get entangled in one other’s attempts to make the leap from adolescence to adulthood: fading high school friendships, unsure relationships, and issues with parents. Misunderstandings between Elizabeth and Lauren are compounding both girls’ concern over the upcoming autumn semester.

That familiar and unsettling moment of transition was brought back to life by the writers in a manner that made me feel like I was right there with them.

Novels About College Life: Undergrad

The Idiot By Elif Batuman

Freshman year is all about trying to figure things out: What is this world? Who are these people? Where do I belong? Selin Karadag, a second-generation Turkish American at Harvard in The Idiot, struggles to fit in during her freshman year. She’s in a new place, with new people, in a new environment. Because the plot is set in the 1990s, even email is a novelty to the characters. Selin fearlessly puts herself into all of it and creates a deep connection with a girl called Svetlana and a tangled, not-quite-romantic relationship with Ivan. Over the summer, Selin goes to Europe to teach English in the Hungarian countryside—the ideal environment to battle with her thoughts about who she is and what she wants.

Although Selin is a character I’ve previously written about, I also like how the most basic scenes—such as her choosing a poster for her dorm room—are so authentically written that they made me feel like I was right there with the characters.

Normal People By Sally Rooney

We don’t know what will happen to our high school friendships when we enter college. They are still high school students at the beginning of Normal People. Marianne comes from a well-to-do family but is an uncomfortable loner. Because she works as a cleaner for Marianne’s family, Connell’s single mother struggles mightily to make ends meet. Marianne and Connell eventually fall in love, but they continue to act as if they don’t know one other at school. They end up studying at the same university, where Marianne quickly rises to prominence while Connell is relegated to the background. As Connell’s future seems brighter than ever and Marianne’s life takes a bad turn, they engage in an on-again, off-again romance during their college years.

This was a really accurate portrayal of both the inevitable changes in childhood connections brought on by maturity and the shift in social currency that occurs once you enter university.

Fangirll By Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl, like Normal People, examines how college life affects relationships, but this time the emphasis is on family ties. When Cath and Wren were kids, they were practically inseparable because of their shared love of Simon Snow’s fantasy novels. Wren tells Cath she doesn’t want to share a room with her when they both go to the same college in the fall. Cath, on the other hand, becomes more introverted and spends her time writing fanfiction about Simon Snow. She has to deal with an intimidating roommate, a professor who disapproves of Cath’s preferred kind of creative nonfiction, and two men who aren’t sure how they feel about her. In the face of her father’s unexpected need for support at home, Cath isn’t sure she can make it through all of the changes without her sister.

I don’t have a sister, but the pain of growing away from a close friend or family member is something we can all relate to, and this story does it so well. Plus, I’m a big fan of stories with dorm roommates who don’t get along.

The Art Of Fielding By Chad Harbach

When you’re in college, things sometimes get a little out of hand. Henry Skrimshander’s life, and the lives of many others around him, were forever altered by the toss of a baseball. After his freshman year, everyone assumes that Henry would be a shortstop in the Major League Baseball (MLB). Henry’s self-esteem plummets when he throws an interception in a crucial game. He starts to rethink his decision to devote more time on Henry than himself, while Henry’s roommate has an affair that has the potential to be disastrous…. Even as his recently divorced daughter returns home, the school’s president, who has fallen in love, must deal with his own issues. In a country where finding your way is more vital than anything else, this is a tale about reviewing your life’s decisions.

For me, thinking about the lives of the teachers and administration on campus was an escape from the pressures of academics. Because of this, I thought it intriguing to see so many different viewpoints on the same issues.

The Secret History By Donna Tartt

As Richard Papen discovers when he comes to Hampden College, a whole new campus thousands of miles away from home is the ideal chance to shed your high school shell and become who you want to be. Because he’s ashamed of his working-class upbringing, he tells everyone he meets that his family is affluent and that he attended a boarding school. A group of kids who seem quirky, clever, and exclusive, which is exactly what Richard is looking for, becomes his new obsession. A deadly world of money, secrets, shady morals, and murder awaits him when he finds a way to join their group.

Except for the urge to remake oneself, this novel has little in common with my own college experience. Nevertheless, a college student occasionally needs a vacation from the grind of academia. This book is a must-read for every college student, past or present, searching for a dark, engrossing inverted detective thriller.

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