12 books every university student should read their first year

University is a time of rapid discovery — not to mention uncertainty.

To help incoming students cope with the onslaught of newness, librarian Gwen Glazer of the Readers Services department of the New York Public Library has pulled together some helpful titles.

They range from how-to books to thoughtful works of fiction.

We can’t guarantee they will produce straight As, but they should help new students make some sense of the world.

'Stuff Every College Student Should Know' by Blair Thornburgh


College helps students advance toward their careers, but it also helps teenagers become adults.

Thornburgh's book covers a wide range of skills all freshmen should have in their arsenal, including cooking with and without a microwave, cleaning a mini-fridge, and forming study groups.

As Glazer told Business Insider, it all comes together in a 'handy pocket-sized guide.'

'The Naked Roommate: and 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College' by Harlan Cohen


A similar compendium of advice, 'The Naked Roommate' covers a lot of ground for navigating the weird waters of college.

Much like the first day of kindergarten, freshman year involves a host of strange social interactions that have no well-defined etiquette.

The book talks about dating, relationships, going to class, how loans work, and other practical topics.

'Now You Tell Me' by Sheridan Scott, Nancy Allen, and Anya Settle


How-to books may offer a partial picture of university life, but only recent grads can offer the clearest picture of what newbies should expect.

'The title says it all!' Glazer said. 'Learn from the experience of older students who were recently in your first-year shoes.'

In 'Now You Tell Me,' the students bestow wisdom related to one-night stands, forming new friendships, and other situations that you may have a harder time finding in the typical how-to.

'Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town' by Jon Krakauer


With so much in the news about campus sexual assault, Glazer said Krakauer's book about rape cases at the University of Montana between 2008 and 2012 is a must-read.

Krakauer delves into the lives of five victims who give their accounts of being raped. The book explores the thorny judicial process that mires so many investigations and the frustrations felt by the victims involved.

'This book is a heavy lift, and it's not comforting,' Glazer said, 'but it's incredibly important.'

'The Last Lecture' by Randy Pausch


Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006. He died in 2008.

'The Last Lecture' is an addendum to the commencement speech he gave after he learned that he was dying, and Glazer called it an important read for those feeling overwhelmed by it all.

'This book is a must-read for any students who wants to pull back and think about the big picture,' she said.

'So Much I Want to Tell You: Letters to My Little Sister' by Anna Akana


A YouTube star and filmmaker, Akana published her first book in 2017. It's a collection of essays dedicated to her younger sister, Kristina, who committed suicided as a teenager in 2007.

The book also includes personal musings from Akana, who reflects on relationships, money, sex, and navigating young adulthood in general. All of it is directed at least in part at Kristina, but the advice can serve anyone in their formative years.

'Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)' by Mindy Kaling


For all the friendships people form at college, there can still be the sense that you're missing out on something bigger, even if it's not quite clear what that is.

Kaling, an actress, producer, and writer, helps the FOMO-wracked reader feel a little less alone.

Her memoir also passes on wisdom related to finding love, preserving friendships, and remembering what's important during trying times.

'Fangirl' by Rainbow Rowell


Rowell's novel raises an important question found in any coming-of-age story: When is it time to let go?

For Cath, the story's protagonist, the question pertains to a crush on a heartthrob that she shares with her sister, Wren. But when the two of them go off to college, Cath's world gets flipped upside down.

Glazer called it 'a beautiful novel about leaving for college, figuring out your own identity, navigating your family, looking for love, and finding yourself.'

'All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost' by Lan Samantha Chang


As the Director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Chang has seen what turbulent MFA programs look like firsthand.

Her novel, 'All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost,' reflects on the personal and creative dramas that come with a relentless commitment to art at a fictional writing school in Michigan.

'Thinking about majoring in English or creative writing?' Glazer said. 'Check out this slightly claustrophobic campus novel (that) offers up one possible version of students' futures in an MFA program.'

'I Hate Everyone But You' by Gaby Dunn


Adjusting to a new life is the key task of freshman year.

In some difficult cases, like the one described in 'I Hate Everyone But You,' close friends may attend schools thousands of miles apart.

Ava and Gen face hardships related to love, sexual identity, mental health, and more.

'Moo' by Jane Smiley


Things can get pretty stuffy in the ivory towers of academia.

In 'Moo,' named after a fictional university focused on agriculture, Smiley parodies students and professors alike to paint campus life as a series of secretive and illicit ploys.

The book should help incoming freshmen see their professors as real people, perfectly capable of quirks and foibles, instead of almighty beings who exist to bestow grades.

'Norwegian Wood' by Haruki Murakami


Though it was released 17 years ago, Murakami's novel captures a universal truth about maintaining friendships at a time when life is pulling you in different directions.

Glazer called it 'a meditative, lyrical coming-of-age story about two friends in Japan -- one a college student, the other struggling to find her place in the world -- coming together and drifting apart.'

'If you've always been curious about Murakami,' she continued, 'this is a great place to start.'

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