Ten Books to Read Before You Graduate

Maybe you have three years left at Boston College, or maybe you only have a few short months. Maybe you truly want to grow and stretch in your time left on campus, or maybe you just want to make sure you enter the real world sounding as smart and well-read as you can. Whatever your motives or goals, reading even a few of the books on this very non-definitive list will be useful to you as graduation approaches.

1. George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

Not only is 1984 a classic, but the content seems to become more and more like our modern reality with every passing year. Orwell’s masterpiece is on most high school curricula, but rereading this novel of censorship and surveillance seems even more appropriate these days.

2. Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)

It’s written beautifully, it has a purpose and it makes you think—not to mention the fact that it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983.

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

3. Stephen Chbosky, Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999)

Although considered a young-adult novel, Chbosky’s coming-of-age story still resonates with readers who have already escaped their teenage years. As we transition toward our next phases of life beyond college, this novel may have something valuable to teach us.

4. James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)

Yes, it seems impossible. But yes, people will be impressed when you say you’ve read it and, hopefully, understood it.

5. Rachel Carson, The Silent Spring (1962)

Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring was one of the first books of its kind—an environmental treatise, really—that was able to change the course of politics. True, the content in this book may be outdated considering that the government outlawed the use of DDT in 1972, but the idea of environmental reform coming from actual citizens is still a novel one.

6. Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (1980)

The typical dreaded textbook from AP United States History classes actually has quite a bit of merit. Zinn is able to bring to light the underside of United States history that typically goes unnoticed. Go back and read those chapters you claimed to have read every week in high school; you may learn something.

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

7. Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006)

Pollan’s examination of the modern food industry in America may not be for everyone, but he makes important, relevant critiques of the way Americans eat. He focuses on food politics in a way that writers before him have avoided. This is a book that makes you think about your place in society.

8. Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse (1927)

Although Woolf is better known for Mrs. Dalloway, this novel reads as even more of a literary experiment. Not only is it beautifully written, but To The Lighthouse is filled with little moments of clarity that can force you to reflect on the little things.

9. Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990)

Everyone most likely received a few copies of this children’s book after graduating high school, or middle school or any school really. You may have read it before, but it seems much more poignant and meaningful when read right before an important life transition.

10. Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild (1996)

This is the kind of book that teaches you to take the risks you always dreamt of taking. Krakauer does the impossible in making what is the truly tragic story of Chris McCandless still seem heroic and inspiring. For anyone who plans on graduating Boston College with a grand dream and only a slight idea of how to achieve it, this book may give you the courage to pursue it.

Finally, read one book—any book—just for yourself. As students, we spend so much time reading material for classes that we forget what made most of us love learning in the first place. Read books from your childhood, Young Adult fiction novels you’re embarrassed to have bought or even something new that catches your eye. Life, and reading, isn’t all about work.

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