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Friday, July 19, 2024

Start your quarter off right with these eye-opening books

My picks for the best books for college students


By YASMEEN O’BRIEN — yjobrien@ucdavis.edu


In honor of the start of a new quarter, I’ve compiled some of my favorite books that have had a deep impact on me. These are some wonderful reads that I believe people at any age can learn from, but are especially impactful for young people. The first three are beautifully written non-fiction and the last two are novels with riveting stories and magnificent writing. If you give these books a chance, I can assure you that they will alter your perspective for the better. 

I must confess that I have not yet finished this book, but I’m still recommending it to you because that’s how good it is. It’s something I read bit by bit, picking chapters that feel relevant to my current situation. I read it mostly in times of stress, but occasionally in times of peace. It has become a calming touchstone in a hectic and unpredictable life. It talks about how worry and intrusive thoughts are gifts that help us heal. Each chapter will almost certainly leave you feeling calm and more in touch with yourself.

“Tiny Beautiful Things” is a collection of Cheryl Strayed’s previously anonymous columns published in “The Rumpus.” Readers wrote “Dear Sugar” into her column, seeking advice. It’s perfect for those with shorter attention spans or less time in their schedules to read because the chapters are very short and non-linear — each is a different story. 

The book is so wonderful. I feel lighter after reading it. Strayed provides us with a literary landscape in which any feeling or form of expression is acceptable. We are allowed to cry, scream, laugh, mourn, praise, sulk and more. There are very few human emotions and experiences that aren’t confronted in this book. “Tiny Beautiful Things” revived my hope in the goodness of the world. I believe everyone should read this book, especially young people.

Also, a mini recommendation by the same author is “Wild.” This memoir follows a young Cheryl Strayed as she embarks on a soul-searching backpacking trip along the Pacific Crest Trail in the wake of her mother’s premature death. It is beautifully written and comforting for all who have struggled with loss and identity.

This book was published in 1963, at a time of civil rights marches and extreme violence against Black Americans, and is still very relevant today. I read this book for the first time when I was 16 years old and it changed the way I looked at the world and racism in the U.S. With this country’s legacy of slavery, racism and white supremacy, this book offers the essential perspective of sufferers of racial injustice, and forces you to contemplate your privilege and role in this legacy. It is wildly eye-opening and important, especially for young people who are still learning how to carry themselves. “The Fire Next Time” helps all people to better understand Black Americans’ struggle for equal rights through empathy. This autobiographical essay puts us on the path to becoming more anti-racist.

This book was an absolute page-turner for me. It is a coming of age story about a 14-year-old girl growing up in the late 1960s in Northern California who finds herself attracted to and intertwined with a Manson-like commune. Cline’s writing is intoxicating, and her ability to capture the essence of growing up as a young woman is beyond impressive.

At its heart, “The Girls” is the story of an impressionable and corrupted young girl testing the bounds of her own curiosity. The feelings brought up by the main character’s desire to be accepted is something many of us can relate to. It urged me to be kinder to my younger self, which is a loving sentiment we should all practice more often.

I read this book about a year ago after a friend recommended it to me. It has now become an Amazon Prime Video limited series and gained even more popularity. The book follows the formation and humble beginnings of a rock band from the 1970s through their journey to world fame and fortune. Like many rock and roll bands of the ‘70s, drama and chaos ensue, which leads to the group’s demise. 

Full of lovable characters, an interesting plot and the opportunity to experience the era through the story, this book is hard to put down. It’s in the format of an interview between a journalist and the band members, which makes it easy to read and allows for wonderful moments of humor and unreliable narration. It’s a great story with a great ending. I highly recommend it.


Written by: Yasmeen O’Brien — yjobrien@ucdavis.edu

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