Arm your teen with the inspiration, motivation, and education they need for college with these must-have books that will help them prepare. We’ve found the 25 best books for college students with a mix of humor, life lessons, and literary drama, so you can give them a gift they’ll appreciate forever.

books for college students

College is a time of new beginnings, of the unknown, and of a whole lot of perceptions about what’s about to happen. Even if your teen hasn’t admitted it, they might be afraid of this unknown and have no idea what to expect.

Reading is a truly magical thing, as it has the power to motivate, educate, and inspire. The best way to help your teen to prepare for the wonders of college is with our list of the best books for college students, with some classics from the world’s literary greats to those that are a little less known.

Sure, the last thing your teenager probably wants to do before college is get stuck into a bunch of books, but these are no ordinary books. We’ve hand-selected 25 of the best books for college students to prepare them for the experience, and plenty that parents would love to read too.

1984 (Signet Classics)
  • George Orwell (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 328 Pages - 12/31/1960 (Publication Date) - Signet Classic (Publisher)

This classic is set in a futuristic dystopia where Big Brother watches everything (yes, before the TV show was ever made). 1984 is a reminder that it’s sometimes better to go against the grain and question things, rather than just following the pack. Set in a totalitarian nightmare, it might make them feel as though your parenting style wasn’t all that strict after all.  

This Side of Paradise (Wisehouse Classics Edition)
  • Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 202 Pages - 02/13/2016 (Publication Date) - Wisehouse Classics (Publisher)

This novel follows a Princeton student as he finds that life is different than what he imagined after graduation. This story rings true with so many people today and might show your teen that if they feel this way through their studies, they’re not alone. A book about looking for yourself and following your heart, perfect for the new college student. 

The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Cohen, Harlan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

This handy guide has been written just for college students and it tackles a number of problems they might come up against during these formative years. Naked roommates, sharing a bathroom, and constructing lecture notes, it’s all covered in this New York Times’ Bestseller. This behind the scenes college guide is humorous but informative so it will keep your teen’s attention.  

A Farewell To Arms
  • Hemingway, Ernest (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 332 Pages - 05/31/1995 (Publication Date) - Scribner (Publisher)

A hugely popular book and all-time classic from Ernest Hemmingway, this book is considered to be his best work every. A Farewell To Arms follows a group of young men as they enter World War I and find themselves up against things they never imagined.

Lord of the Flies
  • ISBN13: 9780399501487
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. Tracking provided on most orders. Buy with Confidence!...

If your teen didn’t read this in high school then now is the perfect time to do it. Lord of the Flies is about a deserted island where a bunch of young, naïve boys rule with no adult supervision. This book teaches the importance of being a critical thinker and leading rather than following, and it ’s a must-read for all young adults. 

Norwegian Wood
  • Haruki Murakami (Author)
  • Japanese (Publication Language)
  • 268 Pages - 09/30/1987 (Publication Date) - Kodansha (Publisher)

Another novel based on college life itself is Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. This is a novel about true love and the importance of friendship, and lessons that your teen will no doubt learn over the next few years. The story of a college student who must change his principles to fit in with his new surroundings, and gives us a lesson in life.  

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
  • Great book!
  • Gladwell, Malcolm (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

This book is more about thinking how we operate, and it’s perfect to teach teens who are about to embark on college. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking looks at why we make the decisions we do and being able to act on things in the right way. Mainly aimed at men and the man’s world, female readers will also take a lot home from it too. 

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There are plenty of college survival guides out there but none as popular as the bestseller by Nora-Bradbury Haehl. The Freshman Survival Guide is exactly that, a way for your teen to navigate their way around their new surroundings and do so without losing their head. Focused on the first year of college and with an interest in maintaining your values, this is a help guide that they’ll really treasure.  

Brave New World
  • Brave New World
  • Aldous Huxley (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

This is a book that really makes you think about current times, even though it’s set in a ‘negative utopia’. A Brave New World looks into a society where everyone is the same and challenges the role that happiness plays in our own individuality. A particularly good read for those about to question their own individuality quite a bit. 

The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Lama, Dalai (Author)

There are no rules that state you have to start thinking about the meaning of life when you’re having a mid-life crisis, as college is the perfect time to begin. The Art of Happiness features a number of interviews with The Dalai Lama and his teachings about how to find peace and fulfillment in your life, which can be the key to staying sane through the tough college years.  

Crime and Punishment
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

This is one of the all-time classic pieces of literature and something that will be quite fitting for a new college student. Crime and Punishment follows young student Raskolnikov as he tries to figure out life and how to overcome a serious challenge he’s faced. This novel will make you think about the laws of society and your place within it, so it’s the perfect addition to this list. 

The Stranger
  • Vintage
  • Albert Camus (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Stranger follows the mind of a man who kills someone without remorse, and it is one that really makes you think. This novel will teach the importance of the decisions that we make and show you that the world around us can sometimes be absurd. Personal choice is a theme that will come up a lot at college and this book is one that targets it eloquently.

The Healthy College Cookbook
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Nimetz, Alexandra (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

When your kids move out of the nest, you might be left thinking who’s going to cook them nutritious meals every night? The Healthy College Cookbook is the answer to this problem and it teaches teens some quick, easy, and healthy meals that they can easily whip up on their own. You’ll feel a little less panicked knowing they have this on hand.

To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Gregory Peck
  • Atticus Finch
  • Scout

To Kill A Mockingbird is one novel that everyone should read before they die, so it makes sense to put it here. This is a novel about a young girl’s journey through youth and growing up and learning the importance of each individual person. This book will show you not to judge based on skin color, background, or age, as we are all important and unique on our own.

One Hundred Years of Solitude (P.S.) (Modern Classics)
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

If you’d like your teen to leave for college with a bit more appreciation for family life and those that truly love them, give them a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude to read. This book focuses on the evolution of humanity as it leads to absolute loneliness, so it can be quite confronting to think about, but makes you appreciate what you have nonetheless. 

The World According to Garp
  • Great product!
  • Irving, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The World According to Garp is the ultimate coming of age novel about a young man and his feminist single mother. This is a book that shows you sometimes you can be your own worst enemy, while thinking that the whole world is against you. The book was so successful that it was even made into a film with Glenn Close and Robin Williams, but the novel is far greater in many ways.  

  • Great product!
  • Nabokov, Vladimir (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

This is a somewhat controversial book to add to the list and it has always been a controversial piece of literature. Lolita follows the story of a young woman and an older man and their forbidden love. The theme of the book is to highlight the importance of understanding and sacrifice, which can help us to be much better people throughout our lives. 

Civilization and Its Discontents
  • W W Norton Company
  • Freud, Sigmund (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

If your child is doing any studies to do with psychology, they’ll likely have to read this book anyway, but it’s still a classic nonetheless. Civilization and Its Discontents is a book about society and it’s the perfect tool for helping the
new college student to understand the world around them. Not just helpful for psychology majors, people of all ages and interests will gain something from this classic.

The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • John Steinbeck (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The hugely popular novel by John Steinbek follows the story of a farmer from Oklahoma who is forced out of his home and moves his family to California during the Great Depression. A book that focuses on resilience and courage, it might be just what your teen needs to pull them through the more challenging times of their studies.

The Idiot
  • Hardcover Book
  • Batuman, Elif (Author)

One of the more recent books on the list that can add some modernity to it is The Idiot by Elif Bautman. This story follows a Harvard freshmen during their first year of college in 1995 and how she falls in love with an older student. The Idiot shows us that those we fall in love with and the interests we pick up say a lot more about us than we might think. 

Five Point Someone : What Not to do at Iit
  • Rupa Publications India
  • Bhagat, Chetan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Although this novel is set in India, it’s still extremely relevant to American college students. Five Point Someone is a bestseller that follows the story of young students at Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi trying to do anything to improve their grade. The perfect novel to capture the stress of college life so that your teen won’t feel so alone. 

River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (Science Masters Series)
  • Dawkins, Richard (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 192 Pages - 08/22/1996 (Publication Date) - Basic Books (Publisher)

Richard Dawkins is famous for his unique views on evolution and the human way of life, and A River Out of Eden is the perfect way for your teen to get started on this author. This book discusses the theory of evolution in a simple way that anyone can understand and will truly make you think more about the bigger picture of life and our place in it. 

The Rules of Attraction
  • Vintage
  • Ellis, Bret Easton (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Rules of Attraction follows a bunch of young college students whose focus tends to be on anything but getting good grades. While it might sound like this book could lead your teen astray, it shows the consequences of these less than perfect actions and illustrates just how much kids can go through in their college years.

I Am Charlotte Simmons: A Novel
  • Picador USA
  • Wolfe, Tom (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

A great book for any college student, past or present, as this is a book that looks at the way we all change ourselves to try and fit in. I Am Charlotte Simmons follows the story of a young college girl who finds herself with the wrong pack and losing touch with who she really is. 

Welcome to Braggsville: A Novel
  • William Morrow Company
  • Johnson, T. Geronimo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

A novel that follows four Berkley students as they ditch school and go to one of their hometown Civil War reenactments in Georgia. They stage a protest based on their college learnings but find that it all goes terribly wrong. This is a socially provocative novel that will give plenty of laughs along the way, but also teach your teen a thing or two in the process.

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