One Book for College

Matt asked a few of us here at Mere-O to write a post on the one book everyone should read in college. Over the next couple of days some of the other writers will have their say, but today is my day, which means I have to actually come up with an answer to that question.

I was an English major in the great books based Torrey Honors Institute at Biola, which means that for me, college was all about reading. Every semester, I read until my eyes fell out and then I stuck them back in and read some more. I read at all hours of the day and night. I read in the cafe, and in my dorm room, on the lawns, and (on rare occasions) even in the library. I sometimes read books well, sometimes frantically, sometimes way past deadline, and sometimes missed some all together. Out of the hundreds of books I read over the course of those four years, a few stand out as exceptional and, since my college education was a good one, pretty much all of them were worthwhile.

And so I can think of only one answer to Matt’s question, and it doesn’t actually answer it at all. What’s the one book you should read in college? Whatever one you’re assigned.

Maybe you’re the Freshman who signs up for anything and everything, thinks that living in the same building with 300 people means a social obligation to talk to all of them, and pretty much loves life and forgets that they are actually in school. Or maybe you’re the Senior who has a job, a full load of upper-division classes, a senior project, a ministry or club to lead, and you just got elected dorm senator; in other words, you’ve slowly but surely built up a mountain of responsibilities so huge that there’s no surmounting it. Maybe you’re a Sophomore with her first boyfriend, and he happens to be much more fascinating then all those assignments you should be getting to work on. Or maybe your just burnt out, maybe you think your professor’s an idiot, maybe you don’t care about the subject. Maybe you’ve gained just enough education (and the accompanying arrogance) to think you know better. Doesn’t matter the reason. Start doing your homework. Start reading whatever you’re being told to read.

College is unique in many ways, but perhaps the most important is the fact that you are a student and there are these people in your life called professors. You have been given the privilege of spending four years of your life in intensive study of a subject of your choice, under the tutelage of those who have given their careers to understanding and advancing that subject. The best thing you could do in college is whatever they say.

If you’ve chosen your college wisely you’re in for a treat. Merely by diligently following the instructions of your professors (even, or perhaps especially, those general-ed guys), you will be able to explore whole new worlds of literature, philosophy, history, and mathematical theory. You will have at your finger tips what most people in most times of life long for: a set plan for bettering yourself, advancing your prospects, and deepening your mind. So follow the plan, read what you’re told, and thrive.

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  • http://www.andrewmbailey.com Andrew

    As someone who mostly teaches undergraduates in general-education courses, I support this message. Do the assigned reading! You might just learn something and maybe even become a better person for it!

    • http://mereorthodoxy.com Cate

      Glad you approve, Dr. Bailey.