Top 5 Books for College Students

The Journalism Lab for Higher Education is pleased to present September’s top 5 books for college students.

  1. Flights by Olga Tokarczuk

Photo: flights

Book Summary:

By the incomparably original Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, Flights weaves reflections on travel with an in-depth exploration of the human body, exploring life, death, movement and migration. Chopin’s heart is secretly carried back to Warsaw by his adoring sister. A woman must return to her native Poland to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart, and a young man is driven insane when his wife and child mysteriously disappear while on vacation and reappear just as suddenly. Through these brilliantly fictional characters and stories interwoven with haunting, playful and insightful meditations, Flights explores what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion, not only through space but also through time . Where do you come from? Where are you from? Where are you going? we call the traveller. Enchanting, unsettling, and entirely original, Flights is a master storyteller’s response.

Best words to describe:

A medley of beautifully woven fragments of the meaning of mobility, travel that is nonetheless enigmatic, provocative and philosophical an unforgettable work of art.

Importance for students:

Life is always in motion. We don’t stop often to realize how turbulent the ride can be or become. The novel has its own unique rhythm and the importance of consistency, as nicely stated on page 4. When we understand someone’s drive or obsession, we understand that our minds are always on the move. Our body is always in motion. Despite the many breaks, it never stops following a natural flow. So what’s your trip? Where are you going? Do you move naturally or just fight against the currents?

“That smile of theirs contains — at least it seems to us — some sort of promise that perhaps we are now being reborn, this time at the right time and place,” Flights: Boarding.

Just as Flights’ characters try to escape from a settled life, what are you, the student, the job seeker, the parent, the dreamer, trying to escape from?

2. How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water by Angie Cruz

Photo: How not to drown in a glass of water

Book Summary:

Cara Romero thought she would work in the small lamp factory for the rest of her life. But when she loses her job in her mid-50s during the Great Recession, she is forced back into the labor market for the first time in decades. Cara works with a careers counselor and begins telling her life story instead. Over the course of twelve sessions, Cara recounts her whirlwind love affairs, her alternately acrid and loving relationships with her neighbor Lulu and her sister Angela, her struggles with debt, gentrification and loss, and finally what really happened between her and her estranged son Fernando. As Cara faces her darkest secrets and regrets, we see a woman battered by life but still struggling.

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Structurally inventive and emotionally kaleidoscopic, How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water is Angie Cruz’s most ambitious and moving novel yet, and Cara is a heroine for the ages.

Best words to describe:

Learning how to weigh pain and adversity with resilience. The power of the voice. The power of truth is revealed in this story that perfectly weaves together the experience and journey of a Dominican woman.

Importance for students:

Understand the importance of discipline as Cara, a Dominican woman in her mid-50s, loses everything and faces life in the midst of a major recession. Just as Cara had to learn to be disciplined in order to get through life, a college student must take responsibility for everything that happens to them and how success depends entirely on the student. Just as Cara shares her life story and her relationship with Lulu, her best friend, you’ll learn the importance of tough talks and perseverance, and when to seek help in your life.

To learn more about this author, click here.

3. The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

Photo: The Last Cuentista

Book Summary:

Había una vez . . .

There lived a girl named Petra Peña, who wanted nothing more than to become a storyteller, like her abuelita.

But Petra’s world is coming to an end. Earth was destroyed by a comet and only a few hundred scientists and their children – including Petra and her family – were chosen to travel to a new planet. They are the ones who must carry on the human race.

Hundreds of years later, Petra awakens to this new planet – and the discovery that she is the only person who remembers Earth. A sinister collective has taken over the ship during its voyage to erase the sins of humanity’s past. They have systematically erased the memories of everyone on board – or erased them entirely.

Petra alone now carries the stories of our past and with them any hope for our future. Can she bring them back to life?

Pura Belpré Honor-winning author Donna Barba Higuera presents us with a brilliant journey through the stars to the heart of what makes us human.

Best words to describe:

Fun. exhilarated. A beautiful story of a young Latina who has to leave an uninhabitable earth and learns the importance of adapting. Although this is a moderately difficult dystopian novel, it is poetically magical while honoring our ancestral storytelling and Mexican folklore.

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Importance for students:

Whether you’re lost in space or wondering about life and its ever-changing situations, you’ll find a home in The Last Cuentista. A journey to an unforgettable Cuento (meaning “story” in English) about what it means to adapt, believe and find yourself.

What stories are you capturing? Are you ready to share them? Release your inner Petra, whether you’re a first-generation college student, an immigrant, or someone exploring life, Petra’s story may seem “too sci-fi,” but if you read carefully, you can see that too she was a young girl trying to find where she belonged; and how to preserve their legacy, the cuentos of the earth, through the power of storytelling, hence The Last Cuentista.

4. The Ballad of Never After (Book 2 in the Once Upon a Broken Heart series) by Stephanie Garber

Photo: The Ballad of Never After

Book Summary:

Not all love is meant to be.

After Jacks, the prince of hearts, betrays her, Evangeline Fox swears she will never trust him again. Now that she’s discovered her own magic, Evangeline believes she can use it to restore the chance of a happy ending after Jack’s slipped away.

But when a new terrible curse is uncovered, Evangeline finds herself once again in a tenuous partnership with the Prince of Hearts. Only this time the rules have changed. Jack’s isn’t the only force Evangeline needs to be wary of. In fact, he might be the only one she can trust, despite her desire to despise him.

Instead of a love spell ravaging Evangeline’s life, a murderous spell was cast. To break it, Evangeline and Jacks must battle old friends, new foes, and a magic that plays with minds and hearts. Evangeline has always trusted her heart, but this time she’s not sure she can. . . .

Best words to describe:

Absolutely stunning. My heart was bare and beating slowly as I exhaled Jack and Evangeline over and over again!

Importance for students:

what would you do for love Will you fight the world if you have to to keep this love? We all urgently need to detach ourselves from life’s many ordeals. College can teach you how to stay safe and avoid risky behaviors, and The Ballad of Never After will push you out of your comfort zone to love creatively, spontaneously, freely, choose freely, follow your heart right? drum roll please… You have to read to find out. No spoilers allowed. sorry but not sorry

5. Something Wilder by Christina Lauren

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Photo: A little wilder

Book Summary:

Raised as the daughter of notorious treasure hunter and absentee father Duke Wilder, Lily left little patience for the job…or a lot of money in the bank. But Lily is extremely resourceful, and now uses Duke’s coveted hand-drawn maps to guide tourists on fake treasure hunts through Utah’s red rock canyons. It pays the bills, but there’s not enough left over to fulfill her dream of buying back the beloved ranch her father sold years ago, and definitely not enough to deal with the sight of the man she once loved and who returns into her life with a motley crew of friends ready to hit the trails. Honestly, Lily would love to take him into the wild – and leave him there.

Leo Grady knew there were mirages in the desert, but no sooner had they left civilization than the silhouette of his greatest regret became sharp in the flickering light of the campfire. Leo is ready to put the past behind him and wants nothing more than to reconnect with his first and only love. Unfortunately, Lily Wilder is all business and draws a clear line in the sand: It’s never going to happen.

But when the journey goes horribly and hilariously wrong, the group wonders if the legend of the hidden treasure was a gimmick after all. There is a chance to right the wrongs – of Duke’s past and their own – but only if Leo and Lily can face their story and work together. Alone under the stars in the remote and dangerous labyrinths of Canyonlands, Leo and Lily must decide whether to risk their lives and hearts for the adventure of a lifetime.

Best words to describe:

Wild! exciting, refreshing and ready for the rain.

Importance for students:

If the pandemic has affected you in some way, which we can all agree, then Something Wilder will take you on a journey of escape and love. That journey you wish you had taken before the pandemic, that romantic gateway, those beautiful sunsets you didn’t take notice of, those rainy days that bothered you and are now the reason you are take a moment to breathe.

College students would learn to slow down and absorb everything. Enjoy life. Enjoy its beauty. How to be independent enough to make decisions and depend on those of you to hold you when the need arises. Something Wilder is a ride of a lifetime with everything we haven’t seen before.

Stay tuned to AL DIA NEWS for our monthly Top 5 Books for College Students.

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