Six Books to Read Before Going to College


Cadence Chen

In times when you feel that the world and your mind are spinning too swiftly, it is good to slow down with a book —whether that book is read for pleasure or knowledge. Either way, you are bound to learn something new about yourself.

Graduation is all about letting go. Diplomas mark a bittersweet ending, and college acceptances open a gateway from one world to another that may not be as forgiving. The life and color of childhood bedrooms slowly vanish as brown boxes crowd the floor. An endless stream of text messages begins to dwindle in friend group chats. Caught suddenly in a wistful embrace with a loved one, we’re standing outside of the car that will take us to our future. We do not want to let go, but we have to.

Yet, some things that we will be sure to hold on to are the ideas and lessons of our past. Luckily, the following six books provide ideas that can put complicated teenage emotions into relatable, clarifying words and offer eye-opening advice to guide you if you ever feel lost. These titles are not traditionally found in the classroom but are undeniably worth clutching onto tightly, during the wandering years of adulthood.

‘Educated’ by Tara Westover 

School is hard, but not stepping inside a classroom until the age of seventeen is even harder. In this groundbreaking memoir, Westover explores how she grew up in a survivalist family that did not believe in government-run education. Instead, Westover grew up isolated with only a few family members for company and a picturesque view of mountains in Idaho. In defiance of what was expected of her, she enrolled in Brigham Young University to study music. Despite the unlikely and rebellious path that she took, Westover writes her memoir with much understanding of her unconventional past and finds ways to strike a chord with those who had more traditional education. Through all the hardships she endured, the book shows the importance of education and prompts readers to reflect on how education has shaped their identity. Jillian Chong ’22, a student who was moved and compelled to reflect upon the book, said, “It demonstrated that education was more than just going to school and taking tests. Education is a valuable learning experience that we often take for granted.”  

Read about how ‘Educated’ affected Bronx Science students here.  

‘How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy’ by Jenny Odell 

If you’re all too familiar with the feeling of being “overwhelmed,” “burned out,” or “stressed out,” try doing nothing. It is a big statement to tell someone to drop everything now, perhaps even absurd. However, in ‘How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy,’ Odell guides readers on how to resist what technology declares as productivity and to take control of our social media use. She urges us to become more in tune with our environment and relationships in order to diminish the forces that currently dominate our lives.

‘Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day’ by Jay Shetty 

Jay Shetty, a renowned self-help podcaster, traded his corporate life for a monk lifestyle. Now, he has a book, Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day,’ to inform you how to live like a monk, too. This does not mean completely abandoning your current lifestyle unless you would like to. Instead, he suggests scrubbing away the grime of toxicity inside of us to reveal purpose and goodness. This purpose and goodness must then travel to all the aspects of our lives. Ms. Denise Kim, one of Bronx Science’s librarians who has recommended this book, has learned much from it and said, “In every relationship, you have the opportunity to set the level of joy you expect and the level of pain you’ll accept.”

‘Enrique’s Journey’ by Sonia Nazario 

In ‘Enrique’s Journey,’ journalist Sonia Nazario recounts the real-life quest that Enrique, a Honduran boy, takes to find his mother, who is forced to leave home to search for work in the United States. Hit frequently by hostile forces and uplifted by surprising moments of strength and empathy, Enrique’s story shows the range of human struggle and human good. Bronx Science’s other librarian, Ms. Sweis, said, “After reading this, the reader may be compelled to question U.S. immigration policy, its effects on families, and the pursuit of the ‘American Dream.’” This book serves as a reminder to listen to the stories of those whose voices are not amplified and challenge the powerful who may choose to perversely impact those lives.

‘Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear’ by Elizabeth Gilbert 

Elizabeth Gilbert inspired the world with her gripping journey of self-discovery as documented in her memoir ‘Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia.’ Feeling hesitant to create again after writing a massive success, in ‘Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,’ Gilbert reanalyzes her own relationship with creativity and lays out her unique, encouraging perspective on how we derive inspiration and cultivate creativity. In a world that feels mechanical and structured, this book offers all creative people the hope that they need in order to live their desired innovative life.

‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho  

In the allegorical and fantastical modern classic, ‘The Alchemist,’ Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, is struck by a recurring dream that he believes is a prophecy. After consulting a Gyspy fortune teller, the shepherd decides to journey from Spain to the Egyptian pyramids for the chance of a grand treasure at the end. Paulo Coelho teaches readers about the treasures that line life’s journey and how to harness our energy within to actualize our dreams. The novel’s moral messages made an impression on Lay Len Ching ’21, who said, “I think it will help people to gain a deeper understanding of life and to realize their true self.”

These titles are not traditionally found in the classroom but are undeniably worth clutching onto tightly, during the wandering years of adulthood.