College Nonfiction Reading List

college nonfiction reading list.jpg

Fall is my favorite time of the year for so many reasons, not least of which is that it’s back to school time! This is the first fall since I’ve finished grad school, and I kind of wish I could join the ranks of those buying new school supplies, taking notes in class, and spending my afternoons studying with a cup of coffee. Yes, I love school, I’m a nerd. Can I please go back?

As you probably already know, I’ve been making an effort over the past two years to read a lot more nonfiction, and I am definitely enjoying it. I think it’s changed my life for the better, and I definitely think it’s something everyone should try to do. And I think college (or university) is a great time to do so. You’re learning and changing so much during that time, and I think reading more can only help.

Today, I wanted to share five books that I think all college students should read. Each of these books gave be a better sense of myself and my beliefs and the world around me, and I really think college is the perfect time to dive in.

We Should all Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. Everyone should read this book. Period. It’s less than fifty pages, so you don’t really have an excuse. It helped open my eyes to the ways in which sexism is still prevalent in our society. I was a feminist before reading this book, but there was a lot I overlooked or ignored just in my every day life, and that was only contributing to the problem. I think college culture might be a very different place if more students read this book.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I’ve read a few memoirs over the past few years that affected me deeply, but none more so than this one. This book really hit home, and showed me just how short life really is. Yes, goals are good, but other things are important, too (and I don’t mean partying). This book made me look at life differently, and I wish I’d gained those insights when I was a few years younger.

A Nation of Immigrants by John F. Kennedy. Even though I had studied immigration in a historical context, and try to pay attention to politics, but it was so enlightening to see the history of immigration from a political perspective. Especially since JFK actually cared about people and also had a great understanding of the political side of immigration. I think it’s important to understand why and how other people live, and why immigration is so important to American culture.

Hunger by Roxane Gay. My life may have been very different if I’d read this book in college (which I couldn’t have done because it probably wasn’t written back then). It is the book on this list that I read most recently, and it definitely had a huge impact. It made me more comfortable in my own skin and more accepting of myself. I loved this book, and I think it’s a valuable read for anyone.

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida. I think everyone should read this book – it would be particularly valuable for teachers, parents, and middle through high school students – but this list wouldn’t be complete without it. This is a book about autism by an autistic 13-year-old. It is really all about understanding and empathy, especially with regards to neurological differences. If everyone read books like this one, the world would be a much better place

Are there any books you think belong on this list? What nonfiction book has had the most impact on you? Let me know in the comments!


31 thoughts on “College Nonfiction Reading List

  1. I don’t read non fiction books very often but there are a lot out there that I’m interested in and I really want to start reading more of them! I’ve got The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran on my TBR and I really want to get my hands on Quiet by Susan Cain. We Should All Be Feminists and The Reason I Jump sound super interesting and I will definitely look out for them! Great post! x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’ve heard great things about The God Delusion – it’s on my TBR, too – and I really enjoyed How to Be a Woman (Our Shared Shelf is a great source of feminist nonfiction recommendations).

      I wanted to read more nonfiction, too, so I set myself the goal of reading at least one nonfiction book a month, to motivate myself to read more of it, and I haven’t missed a month in nearly two years. I’ve found it’s a great way to force myself to read more because I would feel really guilty breaking my streak at this point haha. Good luck with your reading!


  2. Yay what a good post! I love non-fiction, it’s one of my favourite genres! 😊
    I didn’t love We Should All Be Feminists, but I think that’s mainly because I’d read Chimamanda’s novels first and loved them, so I had very high expectations. The book felt really basic and less interesting than her other works to me.
    Hunger and When Breath Becomes Air are on my wishlist! x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t read any of these books, but I’ve heard so many great things about When Breath Becomes Air and it’s a book that I’ve been wanting to read. Why I Jump sounds so interesting, your description definitely makes me want to read it.

    As for my favorite nonfiction books: The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon (about depression), On Writing by Stephen King (about writing- of course!), and Drug Dealer MD by Anna Lembke (about prescription opiate abuse)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post!
    I’m going to be starting my Masters in English Studies next week and one of the units this term links to immigration in America especially the USA and Mexico border and I’m going to definitely try to check out the John. F Kennedy book. I think it could be very interesting and helpful! Does it mention Mexico at all in the book?

    Also I really want to read We should all be feminists. I never knew it was so short. Only 50 pages? Ok. Must buy Hannah!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Congrats on starting your masters! I finished mine (in English and creative writing) earlier this year.

      I’m not sure if JFK mentions Mexico specifically, but it might still might be helpful.

      I hope you enjoy We Should Al Be Feminists – it’s a very quick read (pretty sure it took me around half an hour). Definitely worthwhile!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks! Honestly, it wasn’t that bad compared to undergrad. The expectations are higher in terms of reading and writing and analysis, but I think I had a huge advantage given how much I read and write on a daily basis (I’m sure you’ll experience that, too). I enjoy school, so I really liked being challenged a bit more. As long as you stay organized, it’s not too stressful. At least until you get to your thesis, because that was something else entirely haha. (I procrastinated way too much when it came to my thesis.)

          If you ever need any advice or help, just let me know. Good luck! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank you for your tips, I’ve noticed the reading is definitely up there already. There seems to be so much to read for each week, mine is being taught at night too which will take some getting used to because I commute in via train. yaaay fun. I shall come to you when it’s thesis time and cry on your shoulder knowing you understand the pain! Thank you xx

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I rarely read non-fiction, but I do want to start reading more of them. The ones here sound really interesting, so I’ll definitely try and pick some of these up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you enjoy them! We Should All Be Feminists, The Reason I Jump, and A Nation of Immigrants, are all fairly quick reads, so they might be a good place to start. I’d also recommend A Room of One’s Own and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, depending on what you’re interested in.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Shamefully, I haven’t read any of these! But I do have Hunger on my TBR. Like others have said, I don’t normally reach for non-fiction. The non-fiction I do read is usually history centric, but I’m trying to read more memoirs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you enjoy Hunger! I was not in the habit of reaching for nonfiction, either, but I made myself a goal to read one a month, and have found that really helpful. I definitely try to read a balance of nonfiction books, because there are so many out there!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love reading, but I hate school. I wouldn’t recommend any of these books to college students as I fear it can kill love of reading. I love what Mark Twain said, “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.” To me reading and learning should be enjoyable. I’ll read educational books just for the heck of it. People get surprised when they ask what class I’m reading the book for and then I tell them for pleasure.

    But I digress. Out of this list, the book that interests me the most is “The Reason I Jump.” I am interested in it because I am on the autism spectrum as well. Growing up with it was hard. I can only imagine how much harder it must be for him being Japanese. The Japanese, as a culture, have a hard time understanding disabilities at times, particularly mental disabilities. I love Japan and I have been, but I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up there being autistic. It was hard enough in the States. Due to my autism and my love for Japan, that book by Naoki Higashida catches my attention.

    Liked by 1 person

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