By Kayla Jimenez
Ah, reading. Some love it, some hate it, but everyone should do it. Ever since elementary school, teachers and parents have pushed us to read, and for good reason. With the approach of a new school year, for some of you your first year in college, it’s important for us to set goals. For me, reading more is always something I strive for. Whether that’s actually reading your textbooks for class, or reading a book for entertainment as opposed to scrolling through Facebook, is up to you. If you’re looking for new books to read this semester, I’ve got you covered. As John Locke once said, “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” In that spirit, here are the books I’ve read since coming to college that have made me think, made me laugh, opened my mind, changed my perspective, and gave me all the feels.
1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
I first heard of Ayn Rand in an anti-capitalist documentary I had to watch in my women, gender, and sexuality studies class. She was labeled as a heartless conservative who hated all poor people and was likened to a devil Paul Ryan’s shoulder. As a joke, I decided to read her famous novel, Atlas Shrugged. I expected to hate it and barely make it half way through. That is far from what occurred.
This novel, no joke, changed my life. It taught me, and still teaches me, how to live, how to love, how to grow, what respect is… it defines my life philosophy. Before reading Atlas Shrugged, I was emo, full of self-loathing, I struggled to find motivation and lacked work ethic, and felt lost in my own body and mind. Rand’s novel intercepted and allowed me to be the confident, happy, and hard-working woman I am today.
People may be turned off by Atlas Shrugged for many reasons: because it’s too long, it’s known to preach libertarianism, because the negative reviews could be a novel of their own. But if you can, take the time to read this book; you won’t regret it. If you have less time, consider some of Rand’s other work, such as The Fountainhead. Just as moving, only it accomplishes similar effect in less pages.
2. Street Smart by Samuel I. Schwartz
Ever driven a car? Taken a bus? Rode the subway? Travelled by train (I know half of y’all are from Long Island, LIRR anyone?)? Walked down the street? If so, then this book is for you. This nonfiction book provides readers with America’s transportation history and explains how we wound up with over 250 million cars on our roads, a crumbling infrastructure, and lackluster public transit in many U.S. cities. Schwartz redefines how one thinks of and sees roads and calls for a change in the way we travel. His anecdotes, whether personal or historical, his data and research, and his knowledge of America’s transportation past, present, and future will completely change how you feel about getting from place to place. Witty, intelligent, and shocking, this book is a must-read.
3. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
Do you eat food? Great! Read this book! Pollan writes about the ins and outs of the food industry, and the ins and outs of the human body as it consumes and digests food in this nonfiction work. There are a lot of movies, books, and TV shows on the subject of food, but many of them condemn meat-eating, over-promote unrealistic diets like veganism or paleo diets, or expect people to cut out traditional supermarkets and restaurants completely. Pollan takes a different approach. He provides an explanation of the modern history of food consumption in Western societies, predominantly the United States. He then exposes the roots of many Western diseases and links many of society’s health struggles to poor eating habits and irresponsible food production. Finally, he offers ways to improve one’s own life through dietary choices and habits. Food brings people together, as does this book. In Defense of Food is a positive influence on one of the most personal parts of one’s life, food.
4. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
I know what you’re thinking, Wicked? Isn’t that a musical? Yes, it is, but the book is so much more than the musical.In fact, the book tells a completely different story. Wicked is a compelling novel about morality, individuality, pursuing what one believes is right, and standing strong in the face of adversity. It’s actually quite the political book. Wikipedia describes it as a “political, social, and ethical commentary on the nature of good and evil.” It explores themes of racism, individualism, tyranny, and injustice. Not only does Wicked hold up on the making-you-think front, it also has an extremely engaging plot. It’s one of those “just one more chapter before bed” books. You seriously won’t be able to put it down, that is, if you choose to pick it up.
People always say when you go to college, your life changes, you grow into yourself, and you broaden your perspective. With the help of these books, those cliches truly become a reality. Happy reading!