By Serge Cruise • August 13, 2015
When today's college students are reading, their literary canon is centered on textbooks, course related articles, and manuscripts. Only a few students create the opportunity to read beyond the confines of their coursework and for many this is a missed opportunity. What about the books that will help you make the most of these precious years, not just the years that come after?
Here are 3 books I recommend you have in your back-pack. Not all of them will be an obvious choice, but for me they share one common thread – these aren't mandated by any course I've taken so far, but they have and continue to help me like crazy, as I wander the maze of undergraduate life. OK, make that two common threads. They're all included in the current "Back to School" sale at Thriftbooks.com, where all textbooks are 15% off. (code: TBTEXTBOOKS.)
At the top of the list is a book that won't surprise; Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. This book is perhaps the most effective reference for writing that any college student could dream of. For so many courses, the only assignment more common than reading is writing, so it is important to be ready for the heightened expectations held by college professors. It's also great for the pedant and grammar cop - few will continue to argue a point once this authority has been evoked. The Elements of Style can help any college student tidy up their writing and kick old habits as you dive into next semester's first writing assignment.
At number two is a book that addresses the "other" side of college; Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is an action packed autobiography filled to the brim with anecdotal anarchy. The book addresses every kind of messed-up, night-life debacle college has to offer and then some. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell not only slices collegiate humor perfectly, but it also touches on the down-side of having too much fun in college (yes, there is such a thing). Whether you're inspired by Tucker Max or completely revolted, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is a must read for college students. Think of it as a sort of anti-Pilgrim's Progress.
My last choice will be known to many, but it might seem odd. The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton is a 350-year-old book about fishing. What does this have to do with the stresses and priorities of a, say, freshman engineering student? Everything. You're pulled in tons of directions at school, until your schedule is a mess. This tiny work is imbued with a serenity that comes from rising above the fog of a million competing priorities. The power of the book is alluded to in that perfect 17th century institution; the book's sub-title:
"The contemplative Man's(/Woman's - ed.) Recreation with its graceful evocations of a life free from hurly-burly in the company of friends intent on physical and moral sustenance."
Really. You have to check it out.
So there you have it. Three books, each completely different in content (but not dissimilar in price. Depending on the condition, you can have them all for about $10!) This three-arrow-quiver will help any college student shoot straight as a writer, stay laughing through the stress, and contemplate the wisdom of an abiding dude from over 3 centuries ago.