12 Exceptionally Good Books for College Students

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Impactful books college students should read…

female college student reading a good book surrounded by plants in a bright room

In college there’s plenty of reading to be done between working on projects, completing essays, and participating in class discussions. Yet somehow, you may find yourself thirsting for more knowledge.

And as an avid reader, I totally get it!

Reading for pleasure is an enjoyable (not to mention, affordable) hobby. Immersing myself in a good book is one of my favorite ways to unwind after a long day.

Plus according to multiple studies (1, 2, 3), pleasure reading has not only academic benefits–but social and personal ones as well. But really that’s just the cherry on top.


Are you wondering, what books should I read in college? or simply, what are some good books to read this year?

From savvy tips to help you navigate college life to inspiring insights regarding your personal growth and thought-provoking topics that will broaden your understanding of the world, this post shows you 12 really good books for college students and why each one deserves a spot on your reading list.

12 Good Books for College Students to Read

1. Sapiens
◦ by Yuval Noah Harari

For a book that presents itself as a brief history of everything since the dawn of time, Sapiens is surprisingly captivating.

It’s filled with interesting facts and perceptive observations that made me consider many things I hadn’t before. And thanks to the author’s style of writing, the complex topics covered are easily digestible. It’s the kind of book I found myself looking forward to reading more each time I put it down.

BOTTOM LINE: I’m no history buff, but Sapiens is easily one of my top 10 favorite books ever. It’s stimulating, refreshing and most of all–it’s a book that will challenge you and your perceptions of the world.

If you’re looking for a book that appeals to your curiosity about the human experience, why we are the way we are, and how we got here–I can’t recommend this one enough.

2. Make Your Bed
by Admiral William H. McRaven

In this book former Navy SEAL, Admiral McRaven shares practical advice that can be applied to anyone. He uses anecdotes and a conversational tone to show the importance of simple principles that have shaped his life. It’s a short, yet motivational, read full of important life lessons.

BOTTOM LINE: Make Your Bed shows you the power of small changes and how to create a meaningful life for yourself in the process. Any college student can benefit from the message this book delivers.

3. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
by Stephen King

On Writing is a great source of inspiration for anyone who has even the slightest interest in writing. And even those who just need to fulfill a credit requirement.

In the book, Stephen King details his success and failures (the inside look at his process is fascinating), but it’s more than just a memoir. The prolific writer provides valuable tips in the form of straightforward do’s and don’ts coupled with witty humor. He gives you the essential tools and all you need to do is use them to practice.

BOTTOM LINE: On Writing has something to offer for everyone–from the aspiring best-selling author to the student who’s struggling to find the motivation to begin working on their latest assigned paper.

4. The 5-Ingredient College Cookbook
by Pamela Ellgen

As a college student you’re short on money, time, and cooking experience. That’s something this book understands very well!

While the title is a bit misleading as not every recipe uses 5 ingredients or less, each one is quick and easy to prepare. Inside you’ll find plenty of healthy meals (which includes vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options), as well as tips regarding meal prep, grocery shopping, and more.

If you’re new to cooking, busy, and ready to graduate from eating the standard college student diet–this book will lead you every step of the way.

BOTTOM LINE: The 5-Ingredient College Cookbook is the perfect book for beginners who are out of the dorms and living in an apartment and/or have access to an oven.

5. 175+ Things to Do Before You Graduate College
◦ by Charlotte Lake

From finding the perfect friend group to succeeding academically to exploring your newfound freedom, there’s a lot that goes into making your college experience a success. Instead of getting trapped in the myth that you need to “do it all,” this book will help you figure out what’s most important to you…and how to make it happen.

In this book you’ll find ideas for everything you might want to do, and take advantage of, before you finish your undergraduate degree. Included is journaling space to create and update your own personal college bucket list. 

BOTTOM LINE: There is no one-size-fits-all for what defines a successful college experience–it’s about pursuing and doing things that you think will make you happy. 175+ Things to Do Before You Graduate College is a great source of inspiration when you’re considering what “making the most” of your time at college means to you.

6. The Selfish Gene
◦ by Richard Dawkins

This book is another one of my personal all-time favorite reads–it’s a dive into the understanding genetics and theories of their evolution.

The Selfish Gene is brimming with food for thought, the kind of stuff that you can’t help but pause and ruminate on. Dawkins does an excellent job putting the material (which would normally be dense and complex) into layman’s terms.

It’s a mind-altering book that has given me a better understanding of humankind and people in general. I found it highly interesting. No summary really does it justice, but the takeaway here is that this book is well worth the read.

BOTTOM LINE: The Selfish Gene should be required reading for every college student (even if you’re not a STEM major). It’s that good.

7. Man’s Search for Meaning
◦ by Viktor E. Frankl

If you’re lost, feeling hopeless, or searching for meaning in your existence–you should read this deeply inspirational book.

Frankl’s short, poignant memoir covers his experiences in Nazi concentration camps and how despite it all, he was still able to find purpose in life. It’s a moving story of resilience that inspires introspection by providing an answer to the visceral question we’ve all asked ourselves.

BOTTOM LINE: Man’s Search for Meaning is an essential tool for reevaluating your philosophical outlook on life. It’s an invaluable book to lean on when life drags you down with setbacks, dark thoughts creep in, or feelings of despair overwhelm you.

8. The Power of Habit
◦ by Charles Duhigg

Have you ever wondered why it seems easy for some people to be regimented and others try for years but still aren’t able to achieve consistency?

In the Power of Habit, Duhigg argues that the key to success is your ability to harness patterns. This book explores the science surrounding habits, from why they exist on a biological level to how to gain mastery over your own.

BOTTOM LINE: Maybe there’s a bad habit you want to kick or a new one you want to establish. Either way, The Power of Habit can help you out by providing you with a better understanding of habits and getting you into the right mindset.

9. The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook
◦ by Jill Grimes MD FAAFP

When you’re sick, Googling the symptoms is a gamble. You start off with a headache, spend five minutes searching online, and now WebMD has you convinced that it must be cancer.

But what are you supposed to do? Figuring out a course of action when you come down with an illness at college can have you feeling stumped. Luckily, this book is the next best thing to having your parents take care of you.

In between the covers, you’ll find easy to understand information on any and every medical issue you may encounter. It covers tips on prevention, everyday health, myths, hangovers, anxiety, and more with a healthy sense of humor.

BOTTOM LINE: The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook is an essential reference guide every college kid needs. It instills confidence and self-reliance by taking the panic and confusion out of taking care of your health.

10. The Naked Roommate
◦ by Harlan Cohen

Heading off to college can be nerve wracking–you’re being thrown into uncharted waters! And with that comes a lot of unexpected situations.

Being on your own for the first time can be confusing and exciting. But knowing is half the battle and this book takes some of the mystery out of the unknown.

Cohen offers peace of mind with authentic, practical advice that helps smooth the transition with starting a new chapter in life.

BOTTOM LINE: The Naked Roommate is a good book chock full of solid advice. It’s especially useful for graduating high school seniors and college freshmen.

11. Thinking, Fast and Slow
◦ by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow is another book that will give you an inside look at human behavior and what drives it. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll find that information fascinating.

Kahneman explores the duality of the human mind, from decision making to biases and how we fool even ourselves. The content of the book is laid out in clear and easy to understand language, yet packed with provocative and surprising concepts.

BOTTOM LINE: Thinking, Fast and Slow is a must-read book for students–it can forever change your life. It has tons of takeaways and tools to further your understanding of behavioral economics and how to apply that knowledge in everyday life.

12. Self-Care for College Students
◦ by Julia Dellitt

Saying that there’s a lot to juggle in college is an understatement. In fact, there’s so much to do, see, and keep up with that self-care can easily fall by the wayside. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important!

Quite the opposite, and now it’s perhaps more important than ever to be in tune with yourself. Which is where Self-Care for College Students comes in. Because it provides ideas for how even a busy college student like yourself can find ways to refuel so you can recharge and replenish your cup.

BOTTOM LINE: With 150+ different ways to practice self-care, Self-Care for College Students has ALL the bases covered. It’s a good book to keep next to your bed where you can flip it open for bite-sized guidance whenever you need it.


Final thoughts on good books to read for college students

During your formative years at college it’s smart to soak up all the new information you can–both inside and outside of class. And while there are endless books for college students to read…there are only so many hours in the day.

So that wraps up this list with some of my top good book recommendations! I hope you find them to be helpful, enjoyable, and a positive influence on your life as a student.

Have you read any of these books? What’s one book you think college students should read?



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  1. Hi Charlie!
    I agree that as a college student there is so much course material to read, but it is nice to change it up once in a while and read something that is not a part of the course.