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  • Writer's pictureJanice K. Lee

4 Books You Need to Read before Going Back to College

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

The list that will change You and your understanding of the World.

cr. Quentin Blake

Feeling confused about politics and current events? Want to start saving but don’t know where to start? Want to enter a room full of people and calm that anxious voice on the back of your head?

If you’re here, that means two things:

1. You’re at a point where sometimes you feel unintelligent, unproductive, unconfident, and don’t know what exactly is the problem. You want to educate yourself and learn about the world, the economy, political institutions, but it’s all just so complicated and you don’t know where to even begin. It sucks being the quiet one in the room when everyone seems so informed and passionate about something. 2. Even though you may feel confused and lost sometimes, I applaud you for taking the first steps in motivating yourself in wanting to do better. Taking the first step is half of the journey. The rest is just a few feet away!

1. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari


This book is for anyone who wants to know more about the world. And by the world, I mean Goliath-like topics and concepts that seem impossible to understand, such as Big Data, “Digital Dictatorships,” Secular Governments, and Globalism, just to name a few. While Harari’s previous two books Sapiens and Homo Deus focus on the past and the future, this one is a great blend of both and a deep look into the present. Not only does he make credible speculations about the future, but he also explores how we as a reader have the power to do something about global challenges and be a generation to lead change and positive growth for the generations to come.

Harari tackles great questions such as “How do future generations go about their lives once many replaceable jobs are taken over by AI?” and “What are the most important challenges that bring the world together?” He offers outstanding advice for countries and yourself alike: including how to counter terrorism, how to truly separate religion and government, and how to deal with fake news, just to name a few.

(BTW- don’t just hear it from me. Read Bill Gates’ take on this book here on his book blog)


(A set of questions I put together as criteria for judging the quality of the book) Did I have any “Aha” moments? 10/10 Did I learn something new? 10/10 Was it simple enough to understand big topics? 10/10 Was it “entertaining”? 10/10

2. Quit Like a Millionaire- No Gimmicks, Luck, or Trust Fund Required by Kristy Shen


This is one of the few business/finance books I’d actually recommend. There are a lot of self-serving, B.S. books on finance and wealth in the market so I cannot express the joy I felt when millionaire Kristy Shen spilled the secrets on personal finance. If there was a modern-day Robin Hood, Kristy Shen is the ultimate provider of intellectual value.

Have you ever heard of Roth IRAs or index stocks? I, for one, hadn’t before this book. And unless you’re a business major or have some incredible friends around you, there’s no way you’re going to learn about simple and imperative ways to save and earn money without being intimidated by finances first. Shen introduces finance concepts in bite-sized chunks of analogies and stories that make you think “This wasn’t that hard after all!” And for college students especially, it is important to read this book if you don’t want to look back and regret you didn’t start investing money into your retirement funds sooner.

From jazzy chapters such as “Taxes are for poor people,” “Don’t Follow Your Passion (yet)” and “The Magical Number that Saved me,” Shen’s narrative is rich with visuals, human connection, and a genuine desire to help you understand and grow your personal finance. And as her title suggests, Shen illustrates how anyone reading the book has the ability to make money work in their favor without trust funds or extreme luck.


Did I have any “Aha” moments? 10/10 Did I learn something new? 10/10 Was it simple enough to understand big topics? 8/10 Was it “entertaining”? 7/10

3. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown


Here’s the one entertaining fiction book you were looking for. This is a book I read and finished in two days. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is a cocktail of murder, mystery, thriller, and conspiracy fiction all in one. Perfect for quarantine.

In the book, a renowned Harvard symbologist is summoned to the Louvre Museum to examine a series of cryptic symbols relating to Da Vinci’s artwork. In decrypting the code of the Holy Grail, he uncovers the key to one of the greatest mysteries of all time, and he becomes a hunted man. This book is filled with well-plotted suspense and a yearning to know more about each of the clues that are discovered in the different “treasure hunts” the protagonists uncover. Filled with powerful themes of art, power, and manipulation, Brown highlights our internal battles and questions of faith v. knowledge, and feminism v. patriarchy, and the subjectivity of history. Read it, and it will leave you thinking for days.


Did I have any “Aha” moments? 7/10 Did I learn something new? 8/10 Was it simple enough to understand big topics? 9/10 Was it “entertaining”? 10/10

4. Captivate- The Science of Succeeding with People by Vanessa Van Edwards

cr. Kelly Ragle

As my first official “business/psych” book I picked up years ago, Edwards has greatly shaped me today and has guided me to discover a new approach to building connections. Here’s my testimony: Listening and actually applying Edwards’ counsel has led to internships with my dream startup company, strong long-distance friendships from friends I’ve met at national conferences, and even enriched relationships with new and close friends.

As a “human behavior hacker,” Edwards presents her science-backed findings from intangible forces in human behavior and psychology. Edwards breaks down her book into sections of human interaction: the first five minutes, the first five hours, and the first five days of initially meeting someone. From preaching immensely intriguing subjects like the ideal location in a networking/socializing room to answering seemingly ludicrous claims such as “How to get along with anyone,” Edwards’ witty yet compassionate writing both touched my heart and changed me for the better. Her tips and “hacks” are a hidden gem to mentally and physically approaching social situations in any environment, be it at home or work.


Did I have any “Aha” moments? 10/10 Did I learn something new? 10/10 Was it simple enough to understand big topics? 9/10 Was it “entertaining”? 10/10


If you ever find that you have nothing to do over the summer or feel the need to better yourself over the summer, give one of these books a try. I promise they won’t disappoint. Happy reading!

#books #reading #selfimprovement #knowledge #growth


About the Author

Janice Lee is a Sophomore studying Marketing, Accounting, and Entrepreneurship at Rutgers Business School. When she's not looking at business plans, she's most likely on her Oculus Go, experimenting to brew the best iced coffee, or writing about it.

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