15 Best Books For College Students

best books for college students

I’ve covered the benefits of reading on this site many times. But if you want a refresher or you are new here, these are a few advantages readers gain:

  • Concentration and focus (why I read for 10 minutes before writing)
  • Knowledge to solve future problems and challenges
  • Mental stimulation to slow Alzheimer’s and Dementia
  • A relaxed mind for better sleep
  • Improved memory

Some of you are saying those benefits are cool and all, but the risk of Dementia and a bad memory is so far away that you’re still not motivated to read. For those of you, here’s what college students gain when they read:

Put simply, Joseph Addison said, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” If you don’t read, areas of your brain get sluggish and don’t grow like they can.

So when is the last time you read a book outside of a college class? Are you getting your mental exercise in? For many college students, they couldn’t remember the last time they read a book (not for school) if they tried.

Between being too busy and attaching negative emotions to reading thanks to their coursework, even if they implement time management strategies for college students and have a window to read during the semester, they won’t.

But the good news is as the semester ends and summer rolls in, there will be plenty of time to read. Grab a book by the pool, on the beach, or in your sunroom at home and get your knowledge on.

There’s one more problem and that’s finding something to read. Of course you can pick up a comedy and get some laughs in. But top students keep their mind sharp over the summer and stay intellectually curious.

To help you out with this, I compiled the 15 best books for college students. Since there are endless options to choose from, this is entirely based on my opinion. I honestly struggled to put this together and didn’t want to give you a list of 50 options that would overwhelm you.

But I did my best to come up with a diverse range of books that stretch across different topics and eras. Check out this list, read a few books that interest you, and tell me what you think in the comments section below.

1. The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How To Make The Most Of Them Now by Meg Jay

No matter if you’re in college or you graduated, The Defining Decade is a powerful self-help book that goes against the idea that your twenties don’t mean much and you should do whatever you want. Instead, this book explains how and why to build a strong foundation in your twenties that sets yourself up for success for the rest of your life. To guarantee you use the short time you have in this life wisely and you don’t find yourself not happy at work, read this advice on relationships, work, personality, identity and more. I certainly benefited from applying these tips.

2. The Art Of Happiness by the Dalai Lama

You’ve definitely heard of the Dalai Lama through popular references, movies, or television. But have you read his book? To get on the path of happiness, I recommend implementing his teachings and not looking back. Everyone could use more laughter, smiles, and joy in their day. So why keep yourself from these positive emotions?

3. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

Talk about killing it, Benjamin Franklin is one of the most successful men in world history and he wrote a book to tell his son (and you) about his life. This is the first rags to riches story of a young man accomplishing the American Dream. Franklin did so many things including negotiating peace treaties, inventing bifocals (and other objects), writing books, and forming the U.S. Constitution. Obviously you could learn a thing or two from him.

4. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Some of these other suggestions are long reads, but The Art of War is a short read filled with nuggets of wisdom. And don’t think the book is only relevant for those in the military, because these lessons apply well to business, politics, and nearly every facet of life. This is one of those books that everyone says is a “must read,” and that’s for a reason. However, just the fact that Sun Tzu wrote it some 2,500 years ago is enough reason for me to read it.

5. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Frankl walks the reader through the trials and tribulations of being imprisoned in Auschwitz as a Jew. He explains why he believes some people died in the camp and others made it out alive based on how they mentally responded to suffering. I read this book in high school and also for a journalism class in college, and I will never forget his experience. If you’re interested in perseverance, psychology, or human suffering, this one is for you.

6. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Science is often too technical and difficult to read about for the average person, so they don’t learn about the subject. But author Bill Bryson accomplished both writing about specific scientific subjects while making it applicable to the average person. Learning about how big, and at times small, parts of the universe are will blow your mind and leave you feeling humbled. If you need random facts during a date or at the dinner table, read A Short History of Nearly Everything.

7. The Iliad by Homer

This is not a book that’s going to provide immediate returns in your classes, career, or conversations. But The Iliad details a great story about Achilles and the Trojan War, which is enough reason to read it on its own. It’s also a bonus when you can say you’ve read Homer and this epic story if the topic ever comes up. Getting in touch with classic history will help you become a more well-rounded and interesting person.

8. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Before Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, the first book he wrote is This Side of Paradise about Amory Blaine’s time at Princeton and life after. The protagonist looks to discover himself after college and find his way after different life events. This is a powerful read for all, but especially those about to graduate or who recently graduated and are looking to find their own way. There are many lessons to be taken from the story’s leading man.

9. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

Ever wonder why some human societies, like European nations, have been at the top of the food chain in wealth while others are at the bottom struggling? Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel analyzes how geography, food production, germs, and steel forever affected history and formed the empires we know today. This is arguably the best book on history out there, and will put your history textbooks to shame.

10. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

This book is based on what Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said to his students in his last lecture after being diagnosed with lethal pancreatic cancer. The “last lecture” covers chasing your dreams, what matters in life, and many stories from the author’s own life for context. If you’re wondering how to reconnect with your childhood dreams and want amazing insights, read this one.

11. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Strategies to get people to like you, be a better person, and win important favors are all outlined in this all-time classic. The advice is simple to understand and execute, meaning the results are there the minute you start. Specifically, these lessons can help you when you’re trying to be friends with your professor, get on the good side of a recruiter, or simply improve your relationships and so much more. Many successful people have gotten to where they are thanks to the principles in this book, so why don’t you follow their lead?

12. How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

If you’re tired of sucking at cooking, I recommend getting How to Cook Everything. It’s perfect for beginners looking to use basic recipes, cook fresh food, and find more creative dishes. If you liked my post on easy healthy meals for college students, this book blows it away. Then you can take this helpful book with you for when you graduate and have to cook at your own place. You can’t complain about spending less money and eating for energy at home. Plus, your significant other will think it’s sexy if you can cook.

13. Faust by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

A little on the stranger side, this is a play that depicts a wager between God and Mephistopheles (the devil) over the soul of Faust. Considered Goethe’s masterpiece, Faust involves the themes of life and death, faith and science, and many more in this classic hit. If you get the book, you’ll see how the German and English translation are both included—that’s unique and different, which I like. Looking to expand your reading horizons? Faust will help.

14. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

The Prince is a classic, innovative narrative about winning political power and staying in charge through controversial means. The reason it’s still being read 500 years later is the ruthless and scandalous way Machiavelli advises a prince to achieve political power by not being good. In these pages are where readers’ morality, ethical assumptions, and leadership methods are shaken to the core. And now you’ll know why all those rappers commonly reference Machiavelli in their rhymes.

15. How To College by Brian Robben

Hey, that’s me! I added this to the list because I’m not afraid of self-promotion since I believe in the product so much. These strategies will empower you to get the most out of all areas of college life. If you’re tired of not feeling like you got enough done during the day or want to prepare for amazing post-graduation opportunities, order this book.

Final Words

Attempting to find the 15 best books for college students is an impossible task from the start. It’s so subjective that you could argue 15 other books would better represent this list.

However, the word best means “excellent quality” and all of the books listed are excellent. So if you were starting a book reading challenge or just want a good summer read, then I’d certainly snag a few books above.

I hope you enjoyed this compilation!

What books would you have added? How many books on this list have you read?


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Brian Robben

Brian Robben is the founder of Take Your Success, a site dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs grow a profitable business and reach freedom. For in-depth training, visit: brianrobben.com