Op-ed: 10 books to read in college to celebrate literacy


6. Monster, Sanyika Shakur

Also known by his former street moniker ‘Monster,’ the author of this autobiography is a former member of an L.A. gang. Monster describes how Shakur was drawn into gang life, his experiences as a gangster both on the street and in prisons, and eventually his transformation into a black nationalist. Opening up discussions on race relations in the U.S., as well as providing a unique view of gang life not known by many, Monster provides a sobering perspective on many critical issues involving inner-city minorities, and de-glamourizes the notion of a ‘gangster.’


7.  “The Odyssey,” Homer.

I’ll be honest, when I was told I had to read an epic Greek poem I might have groaned aloud in class; but really, what could be more relevant to a college student than themes of homesickness, changing of personal identity through obstacles part of a journey, and finding meaning in seemingly tedious life events that come to define destiny?


8. “The Republic,” Plato.

Written by Plato around 380 BC, this “Socratic dialogue” should really be called “Re-shaping college students’ philosophies 101.” Discussing the meaning of justice, the order and character of the city-state, and the “just man,” Plato’s work is regarded one of the most thought-provoking philosophic dialogues on politics, the creation of society, and citizenship…all topics relevant to the developing minds of college students.


9.  The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai.

An Israeli poet, Amichai is considered by many, both in Israel and internationally, as Israel’s greatest modern poet. He was also one of the first to write in colloquial Hebrew and was awarded the 1957 Shlonsky Prize, the 1969 Brenner Prize, 1976 Bialik Prize, and 1982 Israel Prize. He also won international poetry prizes: 1994 – Malraux Prize: International Book Fair (France), 1995 – Macedonia`s Golden Wreath Award: International Poetry Festival, and more. Though the short poems with modern-day metaphors may initially entice students to read his works, it’s the rich cultural background (that can open up discussions not only about history, but current politics), that will keep them coming back for more.


10. The Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys.

Almost everyone has read Jane Eyre, but most haven’t read the “prequel” to Jane Eyre written by Rhys. A postcolonial novel, the story is told from the perspective of Rochester’s “lunatic” wife, who, as it turns out, may not be so crazy after all. A white Creole heiress from the Caribbean, Antoinette Cosway is caught in a patriarchal society in which she belongs neither to the white Europeans nor the black Jamaicans. The novel deals with themes of racial inequality, displacement and assimilation—global issues every college student should at least be aware of. Plus, it’s always fun to have a classic novel turned on its head.