10 Inspiring Books High School/College Students Should Read


In secondary school, those pesky Accelerated Reading points made reading feel like a chore. You know you read the small and easy books just to get more points. But as impressionable young adults, there’s bound (pun intended) to be a book whose story we still carry with us today. Maybe you were the kid who pulled your covers over your head to read “Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets,” or maybe you wandered through your high school hallways with your nose in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Maybe you were never much of reader, and you’re questioning why you’re even reading this article. Don’t lose hope—you just might find your love of reading through these books that have inspired college students.


Aliens, accounts of war, profound characters, scathing but hilarious satire—what’s not to love about the insightful and oddly brilliant Kurt Vonnegut? “Slaughterhouse Five” focuses on a mentally unstable optometrist, Billy Pilgrim, who is kidnapped by aliens and taken to their planet, Tralfamadore. While Billy is stuck in the Tralfamadorians’ unconventional ideas of time, he learns to accept his fate. “I love Vonnegut in general, because he has this uncanny ability to mix humor with some really deep messages and tough topics. ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ in particular, because it’s a spot on depiction of what PTSD is like, but it’s written in terms that are entertaining and palatable enough for anyone,” said Florida State University senior Christiana Lloyd-Kirk.


There’s a part in all of us that wants to be a boss, but to be a #girlboss is even more kick ass. So why not learn from the best? Sophia Amoruso, founder of the online clothing company Nasty Gal and the girl boss empire, tells about her humble beginnings as a college drop-out shoplifter who makes it to the top of the fashion industry and becomes a total boss-ass b—h in her acclaimed book “#Girlboss.” “’#Girlboss’ is a must-read for young women looking for inspiration and empowerment. For me, the main take-away was that we are all on our own personal journey, but the only way to progress is to work hard, and listen to your instincts,” said FSU 2015 alumna Jaclyn Daley. Amoruso’s honesty and colorfully explicit advice is hilariously entertaining. She even gives advice on how to land a job working for Nasty Gal. Um, yes please! Where do I apply?


If you’re looking for a clever, funny, exciting, surprising and tragic book, end your search. “Looking for Alaska” encompasses all of those things. Prepare to immerse yourself in the life of Miles, a high school junior attending boarding school in Alabama. While away at school, he falls deeply in love with a slightly manic, pixie dream girl named Alaska. Aside from the drinking, pranks, chain smoking and sex advice, John Green paints the lives of these teenagers as something very real. “Looking for Alaska” teaches about love, loss, redemption, guilt and friendship all at once.


You may never know what you can take from the wild until you actually go into it (and hopefully return). In 1990, a recent college graduate named Chris McCandless burned all of his money, stopped communicating with his family, changed his name and hit the western United States looking to escape from his life. McCandless made it to Alaska in 1992 and survived off the Alaskan bush for a little over 100 days until he perished from eating poisonous bacteria from a plant. Working to untangle the reasons he disappeared, Journalist Jon Krakauer turned McCandless’ story into a book. In “Into the Wild,” Krakauer talks about McCandless’ family life, impressive education and his passion for the outdoors. “I found it very inspiring because it’s a story about a young person who seems to have everything in life, but still has to search for more,” 2013 FSU alumna Katie Haggerty said. “I think most people can relate to that feeling and can learn and grow from Chris’s experience.”


As far as we know, we can’t erase the past. No, that double cheeseburger you ate for dinner last night won’t go away with the snap of your fingers. “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao follows a “fat ghetto nerd” named Oscar Wao through the eyes of his college roommate, Junior. As Junior narrates Oscar’s struggles of figuring out his own identity, he also tries to grapple how Oscar’s past has impacted his life. Many of Oscar’s misfortunes are blamed on an ancient curse called the Fuku that can only be destroyed by the Zafa. “One of the reasons it is really inspirational is because of the beautiful way it’s written, and the way its chapters are structured. I think it’s really important to think about how to move forward, make things better, and work for a way to recognize and begin to repair the wounds of the past,” Evergreen State junior Zoe Wright said.


“In Let the Great World Spin,” author Colin McCann weaves together several different lives of unique New Yorkers, including an Irish immigrant, a prostitute, an artist, a judge and a mourning mother. Their hardships differ, but they all have one thing in common—they’ve all seen the mysterious Twin Tower tight-roper, who tightropes between the two towers in 1974. The characters’ lives are brought together by coincidence and misfortune. “Let the Great World Spin upholds that in the end, everyone and everything connects, and that fate makes the world go round.


In “Left to Tell,” Immaculee Ilibagiza recounts her life during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Ilibagiza tells of her family’s brutal murders, and how she came to forgive her family’s killers. Reading Ilibagiza’s story takes you right into the tragedy. “What impacted me most about [Left to Tell] was that through the despair of losing most of her loved ones, Ilibagiza still managed to come out with a positive outlook. She chose happiness and mercy by forgiving the men responsible for the deaths of her parents and brothers,” University of North Florida senior Stephanie Joost said. “It puts things in perspective when you realize you’re reading a story like this as you lie in bed safe and sound.”


“Of Mice and Men” follows two friends George and Lennie as they travel through California looking for work on a farm. George, often short-tempered, acts as Lennie’s protector, as it’s clear Lennie has a mental disability. “’Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck inspired me to work with special needs people as well as support their caretakers. Lennie helped me realize that all humans have dreams and all just want to be understood,” Penn State senior Annie McGuinness said. Through the experiences of life and death, Steinbeck shares the harsh realities about human nature. “[I] hope to let people with disorders be able to accomplish all their dreams and help them to realize a full potential,” McGuinness said.


Even though readers tend to get more detail from actually reading the memoir than seeing Julia Roberts gallivant through India in the 2010 movie, this story spoke to audiences. In “Eat, Pray, Love,” author Elizabeth Gilbert reveals the hardships in her marriage and the struggles of getting a divorce, while also taking the reader across the globe to Italy, India and Brazil where she finds love once again. “I like the message of self discovery, and that at any age, it’s never too late to reinvent a new life for yourself. [It helped me] to take chances and to do things for my own personal enjoyment rather than to please others or to fit an expected mold of what in life is suppose to make you happy as a woman,” said FSU senior Carla Badame. “Eat, Pray, Love” may influence you to travel the world and find yourself, or maybe you’ll just crave a lot of different ethnic foods.


Lois Lowry tells us in this book what we college students want to hear most: “Let your freak flag fly.” She paints readers a utopian society through the eyes of a boy named Jonas. However, Jonas learns that this society is actually far from ideal when he meets the Giver, aka the town’s “Receiver of Memory.” The Giver shares the town people’s emotions and memories with Jonas. Jonas soon realizes that his neighbors sacrificed their individuality to live in this illusion of perfection and be controlled by others. “I remember it making me feel like even though you’re told what to do in your life, that sometimes the utopia isn’t so perfect,” University of Central Florida junior Giorgy Molano said. “That the real way to find happiness is doing what feels right to you. Because at the end of the day, it is your life and no one else’s.”

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Author: Editor

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