As a college freshman and self-proclaimed bookworm, I've read a lot of books in my life. Some were flops, some were memorable, some were profound--and some were life-changing. Here are five books that helped shape me as a person and prepare myself for life after high school.
1. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town - John Krakauer
Of course, being from Missoula, this book affected me differently than it would others; that being said, the lessons it teaches are widespread and should be learned by every student, whether they're planning on going to college or not. It teaches the lessons that we all unfortunately must learn and gives a shocking look into the inner workings of not just the University of Montana, but colleges and towns everywhere. If I could only recommend one book, this would be it.
2. Go Ask Alice - Anonymous
Most people have read this before their senior year, but those who haven't definitely should. It's an intriguing, honest, and heartbreaking look into one anonymous girl's decline into a toxic lifestyle. Because of the book's diary format, it doesn't come off as condescending or pretentious; Alice feels like someone you could know, and that's what makes this book so powerful.
3. Les Misérables - Victor Hugo
I know, I know. This book weighs in at a hefty 1400 pages, and it's not exactly conducive to light reading between all the assignments of senior year. That being said, reading even an excerpt or abridged version would suffice. I learned more from this book than I have from any other; Hugo has so much to say about the world and society that is still relevant today. The intelligence of this author and his ability to weave so much into one beautiful story shouldn't be missed.
4. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
I finally got around to reading this book during February of my senior year, and I'm glad I did. Plath is an incredibly talented storyteller, creating the pseudo-autobiographical story with ease. It's a gorgeous and haunting portrayal of the protagonist Esther's rapidly shifting mental state, addressing the stigma that unfortunately still exists surrounding mental illness as well as raising the ever-relevant question of what it means to be a woman creating her own identity in society. Esther's journey to self-discovery and understanding has a lot to teach any reader.
5. Looking for Alaska - John Green
As cliché as this may be, it's one of the most influential books I've ever read. It has so much to say about learning, love, and loss, and it had a huge part in shaping the way I think about the topics it addresses. Unlike many adult authors who write about teenagers, Green has a knack for making the characters in this novel seem real and relatable rather than stilted or overly juvenile, and the story feels authentic in a way that I haven't often encountered. The reader is pulled along for the ride, experiencing infatuation, adventure, and heartbreak along with the characters, and by the end has changed with them as well.