Some of the greatest American novels surround themes of race, discrimination, and historical tensions in the South. But by in large, this is the most commonly referenced of books with those themes, partly because it’s often featured in high school English classes and partly because of its warmth and humor.
6. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
This might seem like a no-brainer to most of you and it’s definitely very different from the rest of the books on this list, but I would highly recommend familiarizing yourself with this fantastical series before heading to college. From Harry Potter-themed parties to late night conversations about which house you’d belong in, so many social functions rest on everyone’s collective knowledge of Harry Potter.
7. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
This book is a peek into sociological thought, which I firmly believe every student should have a responsibility to learn. It delves into the coincidental external factors that catalyze success in certain individuals, sending a message that success comes from not just hard work, but also luck. It’s a common novel read in many sociology courses and just referenced in everyday conversations as well.
8. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
This is the novel on this list that contains the most literary value, as it’s packed full of literary devices and eloquent language. Centered around a tale of a Southern family that falls into financial ruin and struggles with losing their faith, Faulkner’s most famous novel is one that molds the English language in ways that few have been able to replicate. Definitely a must-read for those interested in taking English classes.
9. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
This is a relatively easy read of a tale that is by no means easy to tell. It’s a story based on the true experiences of American soldiers in the Vietnam War, and it explores all the important consequences of war. As students of this country, we must be aware of the sacrifices and courage that others had to overcome to protect our freedom.
10. Night by Elie Wiesel