When moving across the country this summer from Seattle, WA, to Houston, TX, I had to pack up my entire life into a few boxes. Clothes were easy; I was able to leave the parkas and wooly hats at home. Books on the other hand, I saved until last, unable to execute the inevitable downsizing that my library required. I had decided to choose from my floor to ceiling bookshelf just ten books to make the cross-country trip with me to my dorm room. The last thing I did before I left was carefully select this group, like a well-balanced Spotify Playlist. I tried to mix books I had read thousands of times with ones I hadn’t even cracked the spine on. I placed fun five-minute reads next to heavier, more serious books to match my future moods. In the end, these are the ten books that made it into my U Haul box:
1) As You Like It, William Shakespeare
Why: A Shakespearean classic, and also one of the few I haven’t read, As You Like It was the first book tossed into the box. It sits on my shelf in order to inspire me to one day read an unassigned Shakespeare play.
2) Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Why: This book serves as a little bit of a reminder of home for me, as this was the first book I read in freshman English with my all time favorite high school teacher. I also love dystopian novels, and this one is a classic.
3) The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
Why: Sylvia Plath’s haunting handle on emotional turmoil can sometimes be cathartic to read, and though the subject matter can make for upsetting and not exactly pleasant reading, her prose always draws me in.
4) The Gene, Siddhartha Mukherjee
Why: What kind of Biochemistry-English double major would I be if I didn’t have a biography of a gene in my bookshelf? This book expertly combines compelling stories with real information, and avoids the dense downfall of most scientific writing, so you look smart and learn something while still enjoying the writing.
5) Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham
Why: Sometimes I just want to read something for fun, and Lena Dunham’s comedic memoir is a perfect pick me up. At the same time, this book’s feminist messages are empowering.
6) Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
Why: While this book will never thrill me in the way it did when I first read it, by pulling an all-nighter to get to the big reveal, it’s still a page turner. Everyone needs a bit of excitement in his or her library, and I can always count on this book to provide that for me.
7) We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo
Why: This book was my “something new”. I bought it the day before I flew out to Houston. The idea of having an entirely untouched book in my collection was exciting, and a friend who knows me very well recommended this book, so I look forward to reading it.
8) Internal Medicine, Terrence Holt
Why: This is the book that made me want to be a doctor. It doesn’t glamorize medical professions a la Grey’s Anatomy, but instead shows you the nitty-gritty side, as real as it can get without violation patient confidentiality. While the subject matter is what drew me to this book, it’s also one of the best-written doctor’s memoirs I’ve found in a while.
9) Looking for Alaska, John Green
Why: As a busy college student, sometimes I need a book I can fly through in an hour, and Looking for Alaska is that for me. I’ve read it so many times that I can skim the whole thing and still understand it, but still get the escapism of living in a different world that books provide for me.
10) And of course, a copy of R2
While these books might not appeal to you for the same reasons that they do to me, they’re all great, and I recommend them to anyone. Or, if none of these appeal to you, start building your own well-balanced college bookshelf.
Written by Emma E. ('20)
R2: The Rice Review
Rice University's undergraduate literary magazine. Here you can find event updates, monthly writing contest winners, and opinions by the R2 staff on what's new, interesting, or subject to discussion in the literary and arts world.