The 12 Best Books for College Students to Read in 2023

College students spend a lot of time reading — but not all books need to be required. These 12 books can help you through your college years and beyond.

portrait of Kim-Ling Sun
by Kim-Ling Sun

Updated September 21, 2022

Edited by Tyler Epps
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The 12 Best Books for College Students to Read in 2023
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Preparing yourself for the future can be daunting. In a 2020 College Pulse survey, nearly 40% of graduating college seniors felt unprepared for their careers and life after college.

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Ready to start your journey?

Whether you want a break from required reading or advice on how to succeed personally and professionally, the following books offer ways to help you navigate these paths. From practical guides, to novels, to memoirs, these 12 best books for college students can help you through your higher ed years and beyond.

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1. The List That Changed My Life

By Olivia Beirne


This witty and uplifting 2022 novel follows Georgia, a couch potato who never takes risks. After doctors diagnose her sister with multiple sclerosis, Georgia finds herself thrown far outside her comfort zone while she helps her sister complete her "Before I Turn 30" bucket list.

Balancing a serious topic with irreverent humor, "The List That Changed My Life" will inspire you to make your own bucket list and, more importantly, seize the day.

2. 175+ Things to Do Before You Graduate College

By Charlotte Lake


Author Charlotte Lake's unique tips can help make your college years truly memorable.

In this book, you'll learn how to get the most out of your college experience and balance work and play. The short sections walk you through common topics like dorm life, campus activities, exploring your college town, academics, personal growth, and living your senior year to the fullest.

3. The Greatest College Health Guide You Never Knew You Needed

By Jill and Dave Henry


Brought to you by high school coaches Jill and Dave Henry, this award-winning book should be at every college student's side. "The Greatest College Health Guide" helps you manage your physical and mental health.

With engaging graphics, this quick read equips you with the tools needed to live your best life in college and form healthy habits.

4. The People We Keep

By Allison Larkin


Book Riot praised "The People We Keep" as one of the best books of 2021. This inspirational novel follows protagonist April Sawicki as she moves from life in a motorless motorhome to life on the road in a "borrowed" car. Landing in Ithaca, April meets people who feel like home to her — something she's never felt before — and documents her experiences in song.

College students may easily relate to April's experience being out in the world on her own as she forges her identity.

5. Life Beyond College: Everything They Didn't Teach You About Your First 10 Years After Graduation

By Kevin P. Coyne


Written by business professional and senior teaching professor Kevin P. Coyne, "Life Beyond College" (2020) helps students understand what to expect in life after graduation. In this book, Coyne explores real-life issues you may face once you move on from college life.

Many graduates feel unprepared for the financial, legal, and personal issues they may face after college. This book provides practical advice to help you succeed and avoid the early mistakes recent grads often make.

6. Educated

By Tara Westover


In this bestselling memoir, author Tara Westover takes you on her journey from living with survivalist parents in Idaho to finding a home in higher education. Her quest for knowledge transforms her socially and academically, inspiring those who may struggle with similar obstacles that often seem insurmountable.

"Educated" (2018) embodies grit and is a testament to how you can push forward to achieve your dream.

7. Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience

By Brené Brown


Written by New York Times bestselling author Brené Brown, "Atlas of the Heart" (2021) walks you through understanding emotions and how to make connections with others. Brown provides the language and tools for developing strong interpersonal relationships — something all students should have so they can forge meaningful relationships in college.

Learning to connect with others is also an invaluable skill when interviewing for jobs and applying for internships.

8. The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us

By Paul Tough


A New York Times Book Review editor's choice, "The Years That Matter Most" (2019) navigates the highs and lows of higher education, from choosing to go to college to how to complete your degree.

The book also challenges college's accessibility and affordability and contains relatable anecdotal stories to inspire social change.

9. Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?

By Dr. Julie Smith


Readers agree that psychologist Dr. Julie Smith's international bestseller is a must-have for college students. "Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?" (2022) teaches you how to find motivation, grow confidence, cope with disappointment, and build your grit.

Full of practical solutions, this book can help you develop the self-confidence and resilience you need to survive the ups and downs of college.

10. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

By David Epstein


In this New York Times bestseller, author David Epstein challenges the current philosophy that everyone should be hyper-focused on their studies, skills, and field of study. His research found that top performers, athletes, and even Nobel laureates all began as generalists.

According to Epstein, success from specialization is the exception, not the rule. "Range" (2021) highlights the creativity and agility of generalists, who often enjoy more long-term success in their endeavors than specialists.

11. Indistractible: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

By Nir Eyal


Do you have difficulty concentrating in our ever-changing world? Then you'll likely love this book. In "Indistractible" (2020), bestselling author and behavioral design expert Nir Eyal exposes the reasons behind our distractibility and how swearing off technology altogether doesn't work.

The book goes over a four-step, research-backed model readers can use to successfully detangle themselves from constant distractions and to increase meaningful productivity.

12. Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

By Cal Newport


In "Digital Minimalism" (2019), bestselling author Cal Newport proposes a solution to finding peace in our postmodern, fast-paced world. The book discusses how technology has infiltrated much of our everyday culture. And while it's led to progress, it also comes at a cost: peace.

College students in particular may find this book helpful in rethinking their relationship with social media and technology while reading Newport's 30-day "digital declutter."

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