College is a bubble. Whichever one you choose to study at, chances are your entire life becomes based around the same people, lecture halls and bars. The best way to get out of that bubble and remember there was a wider world out there that you are just about to enter and should probably know a little bit about.
Here is a mixture of good classics, contemporary reads, and a little bit of self-help for a time when you really need it:
1.The Iliad by Homer - Not everything on this list is about helping with life advice - reading The Iliad will help you just by virtue of the fact that you'll be able to say you've read some Homer. Not that you should drop it into conversation too often or you'll become That Person. The Iliad's one of the most famous classical epic poems, and it's still a great read. Literature as we know it generally came from the classics, and it gives a solid basis for everything we read now. On top of that, it's also a damn good story. If you get into it, you've also got The Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid to go.
2. A bio of someone you idolize : Biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson Biographies have a whiff of "assigned reading" that they really don't deserve, because they're an incredibly rich source of inspiration. Finding how someone you really love lived their life — whether it's an artist, an activist, or a computer engineer — can be better fuel for your own life than the biggest how-to book.
3. Shantaram by Gregory Roberts - Part of me doesn't want to include this because it's the book you'll see every young Gap Year traveller reading, but they're reading it for a reason. It tells the story of an escape Australian convict who creates a life for himself in India, and it's based on real events.He learns the life lessons you can only gain from travelling and for any student who can't go abroad, this is a must. His depictions of slum life are powerful, honest and definitely worth reading. The fact that his characters are incredibly compelling just makes it even more readable.
4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt - You've probably already read this but if you haven't, I can't recommend it more. It's a historical, student-based thriller. Need I say more? Not only does it explore the trope of the eccentric lecturer, it goes into the loneliness of student life and what it's like being sucked into a group or clique. If you fancy brushing up on Greek history, this is also the place to do it.
5.The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How To Make The Most Of Them Now by Meg Jay - This book isn't even masquerading as a novel - it is pure self-help. But unlike most self-help books, you don't need a real problem to gain something from it. If anything, it's more preventative to stop you wasting your twenties. The general message is that our twenties are a new decade. We used to go from being children to adults but modern life means there's now an interim ten years when we're not sure about anything. As this is when college/graduation is happening, it's useful reading.
6.Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee - I loved this book. It's about an American-Korean woman who graduates from Princeton and battles between her parent's choices for her future and what she wants for it. It shows the culture clash between parents and children of different generations, as well as the pressure on graduates to deal with the expectations of everyone around them. The moral? You're not going to be happy until you do what's right for you.
7.The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway - For anyone who didn't read this at school, read this book. Not only is it beautifully written, it's an amazing insight into a different era, a lost generation and unrequited love. It's also full of wisdom and truisms: "It's awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it's another thing." Fact.
8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - This book taught me to grow up. It has a pretty addictive plot, but more than that, it's the story of Jane's journey from childhood to adolescence and adulthood. She learns to let go, to adapt and finally, that there are some things you need to just accept. I can't think of any better time to read this book than when you're learning to do the same.