College bound students can expect to do much reading as they pursue their degrees. What can they read now to prepare for the challenges of college life? Here are some suggestions based on the writer’s experience as a college graduate, graduate student, and mother of college students.
First, students preparing for college should be able to read various viewpoints and critically evaluate issues about which educated people may disagree. Assuming a college bound student has had the typical American public school experience, one book that should be read for the sake of balance is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This classic novel explores what happens when the productive people in a society disappear and those who mooch off them have to cope. The greatest musicians, philosophers, industrialists, and engineers are disappearing and the government is running out of wealth to confiscate. Men are destroying their wealth or leaving it to rot; then the men vanish without a trace. Can society cope without all those “greedy” men who provided jobs, transportation, and solutions to their problems? Compare John Galt’s viewpoint with the views expressed by various politicians and in the daily news broadcasts, then decide what you think about work, wealth, and political power.
To prepare for the rigors of college reading, get a copy of How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. You say, of course, that you already know how to read; however, there are many kinds of reading. Do you know when to survey and when to read carefully? Do you know how to determine what is worthy of careful reading and what is not? Do you know how to optimize your reading time? Adler explains, in depth, how to read for information and how to skim large amounts of material to determine what to read more closely. Purchase this book to help you through your college days. An appendix also lists great books you may want to use for further college preparation or personal enrichment.
Many people have strong opinions about The Holy Bible. Some of those holding strong opinions about the Bible have actually read parts of it! For history buffs, read I and II Samuel and I and II Kings for a survey of all the kings of Israel, or read Luke and Acts for a history of the early Christian church. For romance, read the book of Ruth for a sweet love story or the Song of Solomon for love poetry of the highest order. Esther is a story for those who want romance, intrigue, and history all in one package. For a prospective English major, a reading of the Bible in the King James Version will acquaint you with some of the most beautiful English ever written.
Many American people speak a great deal about the Constitution and their constitutional rights. Again, some of these opinionated people have actually read the United States Constitution. Paperback copies of the Constitution are available at fine bookstores. Read it, then watch C-SPAN for a while and ask yourself what those on the television are doing that is constitutional or unconstitutional.
Finally, read Modern Times by Paul Johnson. Johnson chronicles mankind in the twentieth century: the good, the bad, and the extremely ugly. By covering the entire century, on all continents, Johnson helps the reader understand why certain wars happened, how politics or economics contributed to situations, and how and why various colonies pursued independence in different ways, with different results.
Your life will be richer for having read these books. You will have learned to read material that you may find disagreeable at times; this is good preparation for a professor who might be at times disagreeable. You will have a foundational understanding of world history and of American government. You will also have the confidence to tackle college reading, knowing you have already interacted with some great minds through these books.