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Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

  • after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.
  • after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Main image courtesy of Merrimack College.

If you’re a recent high school grad and heading to college in the fall, congratulations! You’re about to embark on an important phase of your life. No matter where you’ve chosen to study, you’re going to soon be swept away by new classes, new friends, and a new way of life that’s much more independent. 

The summer before you head off to college is important too, because it is right before you take that giant step into young adulthood and begin to forge your place in the world. While you may have plans to go on vacation or spend time with friends you may not see while you’re at school, we think it’s also a great opportunity to explore the world of literature. 

There are all kinds of lists that include a variety of books to read before college, but you’ll find that most of them contain stories or accounts of events that can help young adults gain perspective and learn new things.

Before you start reading for your classes and purchasing textbooks, take some time the summer before college to lose yourself in this ultimate summer reading list. In this article, we’re going to highlight:

  • Why you should have a reading list before college
  • How to set up a place of your own to read
  • Our top 5 books to read before college

Why have a reading list before college?

Why it’s important to read for pleasure before starting college

college student reading in a library
Once you lose yourself in reading, you may become a life-long lover of books! Image courtesy of Study.com. 

While you’ve probably done your fair share of reading by now for school, have you taken the time to cultivate a reading for pleasure practice? No matter what subject you’re interested in, there are all kinds of books available and ready for you to explore. Not sure you can benefit from reading outside of the classroom? Let’s discuss how you can!

Improve your concentration

Students are taught from a young age to read, but it’s important to emphasize how important your relationship to reading is to the development of other necessary skills in life. When you get to college, you’ll be expected to concentrate and focus so you can absorb material from a lecture, read your textbooks, and learn to write papers that showcase all that you’ve learned. 

Reading can help improve your concentration because it enables you to focus on events that are occurring in the book in your own mind. It also helps you to sort things out and make sense of what the author is saying. These concentration and focusing skills can serve you well when it comes to your studies and being a successful student at school.

Learn critical thinking skills

Whether you like reading mysteries, or want to learn more about the strategies of Napoleon, reading allows you to develop critical and analytical thinking skills. When you’re absorbed in a book, you’re not only using what you’ve read before to keep the story moving, but you’re also learning to think for yourself why a character or person would think and act a certain way.

Using clues to help figure out a mystery, or reading why Napoleon targeted the cities he did leads you to a better understanding of how people think—as well as how the outside world can influence this. These kinds of skills can serve you well in college when you’re asked to tackle projects, or to come up with topics to research and expand upon. 

Expand your knowledge and your vocabulary

Books can expand your knowledge, but they can also expand your vocabulary. Reading about different people, places, and events allows you to never stop learning. When you expand your knowledge, you can also start to find specific topics that really interest you, increasing your self-esteem along the way. Who doesn’t love telling someone else about a topic they just love discussing and know a lot about? This is also a good way to expand your social circle, by finding like-minded friends!

Reading builds and expands your vocabulary, giving you access to more words and better ways to express yourself. This can be very useful when writing papers, presenting on topics, or speaking in class when you’re in college. 

Set yourself up for summer reading

Create a routine of reading and you’ll set yourself up for success

chair in a reading nook
No matter where you like to read, having a routine will help you finish all the books on your list. Image courtesy of Homes & Gardens

Now you know that reading outside of class has many benefits, it’s time to discuss where you should get your reading done. While you can read almost anywhere that’s comfortable, there’s something special about having a nook or a little area just for that. 

This means you’re going to first need to define your style, and decide what you’d like your summer reading area to look like. We’ve got a few options to get you started.

Corner of your room

This is one of the easiest to put together, and one that you can decorate however you like it. If you don’t have a large room, that’s no problem either, because really any place can work! If you want your reading area to be your bed, that’s fine too. However, if you’d like to make a little nook, you’re going to need some comfy pillows and blankets to really turn it into a reading haven.

What you’ll need:

  • Floor pillows. You can’t go wrong with floor pillows. These are the ultimate easy way to create a new space just using the floor. SImply plop them down where you’d like your nook to be and your set with a comfy seat you can read in for hours. These pillows will also come in handy when you move into a dorm too!
  • Blankets. If you’d really like it cozy, consider adding in blankets as well. Fold them on your pillow or attach it above your space to create a tent-like style for your reading nook. Regardless if it’s summer outside, you’ll love the plush feel of a blanket when you’re reading. 
  • Lighting. Make sure you have enough light to read enjoyably. Either use a clip on light, or consider adding a string of lights to your nook. Both will ensure you have enough light to read and up the cozy factor.
floor pillow for reading
This floor pillow just screams cozy. Image courtesy of OCM.

Outdoors in nature

Summer is one of the best times to get outside, so why not take your book with you? No matter what kind of climate you live in, you should be able to find a nice, comfortable spot to set up time to read. And when the weather turns not so nice, you can always take your reading indoors to your room, or special indoor reading nook you’ve created.

In order read outside, make sure to bring:

  • Blanket. Whether you set up on the beach, or on the grass, having a blanket to lay on will make reading that much more enjoyable. If you’re planning to read in the sun, make sure to bring a hat and wear your SPF. 
  • Water. Summer is typically hot, so make sure you’re staying hydrated outside and bring a water container.
  • Bug spray. If there are biting bugs where you are, a little bug spray can go a long way. Don’t let the outside bugs ruin your reading fun. You can enjoy nature and learn something from a book at the same time!
blanket for outdoor reading

A soft blanket is essential to reading outside. Image courtesy of OCM.

Your favorite bench

This is a good option if you’re planning to attend school away from your hometown. While you may be itching to get out and explore other places, it’s important to remember all the good things about where you are now. Find a green space or a park and plan to read a little on a bench. There’s something very peaceful about reading on a bench, plus you’ll get to watch all the people go by!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sunglasses. You don’t want to strain your eyes by reading in the summer sun, so consider bringing sunglasses when you know it’s going to be sunny outside. 
  • Comfy shorts. Settling in for a good read means you’ve got to be comfortable. While benches may not always be the most comfortable, you can also make sure you’re not going to overheat by wearing your favorite shorts.
  • Earbuds. Sometimes parks can be busy, especially if there’s lots of people out enjoying the weather. You might want to bring along your earbuds to put on some easy music to drown out the sounds of people or cars.
comfortable athletic shorts
Nice, cool shorts will ensure you’re comfortable reading outdoors. Image courtesy of OCM

Now that you’ve got your reading space set up, it’s time to fill your summer with our top books to read before heading off to college!

Our top 5 books to read before college

Try reading these 5 books before you embark on the next phase of your life!

While there are plenty of books that you should read before college, we know that reading 20+ books in one summer is not always feasible. This is why we’ve picked five books that are a definite must-read before you say goodbye to your childhood home, and embrace the next steps in your journey at college!

To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee

Image courtesy of The Scholastic Teacher Store.

If you haven’t already read this classic in high school, now is the time to rectify this! A novel that was written in 1960 tackles some of the racial issues we still find ourselves grappling with today. The themes presented in this novel will have you thinking long after you finish it. And while you’re at it, check out the 1962 movie too, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.

Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury

Image courtesy of Barnes & Noble.

While it’s hard to choose between the two classic dystopian novels of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, we chose this one specifically because it deals with the suppression of books, and therefore ideas. Can you even imagine a world where books and all the knowledge they contain are outlawed? It’s a scary thought, but one that our society is still fighting today. After you read this book, you’ll never take another one for granted!

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know 

By Malcom Gladwell

Image courtesy of WKSU.

You’re going to be starting school in a brand new environment, and that means new people and new places. Getting to know people can be scary, but it isn’t impossible! This book may give you pointers on how to get out of your comfort zone, and learn to communicate effectively. Whether it’s with professors, other students, or anyone else who may enter your social sphere!

The Bluest Eye

By Toni Morrison

Image courtesy of Reading Litty.

This novel delves into the life of a young, black protagonist growing up in a world where blonde hair and blue eyes are considered the standard of beauty. When you read this novel, you may learn to see the world from another perspective, and learn more about internalized and institutionalized racism. 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

By Yuval Noah Harari

Image courtesy of Penguin Books.

Reading is a great way to learn something new, and this book is sure to put some new ideas into your head. You’ll not only get a better grasp of how our species Homo sapiens evolved, but why we are the way that we are. This book delves into anthropological evolution, but also how we evolved socially and emotionally to be the distinct humans we are today. Fascinating!

Even if you read only a few books on this short list, you’re still making the effort to expand your horizons and learn to see things from a different perspective. This is something books can always help you accomplish, so make it a point to never stop learning!