Six Essential Books Every Student Should Read and Why

Six Essential Books Every Student Should Read and Why

I’m so thrilled to share these books with you!

I curated this list to suggest some great books I’ve read that will help you navigate different aspects of your student experience.

I’m sure you already planned to read more books, and that’s fantastic! But the only thing better than reading more books is reading more good books!

These six books pull wisdom from science, philosophy, entrepreneurship, love, and strategy to help you become not only a better student but also a better professional.

With each book, I will first summarise the book in a few sentences, tell you why exactly I think you should read the book, and finally treat you to a short passage from the book that I think will resonate with you.

Let’s get right into it!

  • ‘Mastery’ by Robert Greene


This book is a guide on how to evolve as a learner in your journey towards mastering anything. In five well-articulated sections, Greene explains how to discover your life’s task, how to be effective while an apprentice, how to leverage masters (i.e. mentors), the need for social intelligence, and strategies on how to leverage creativity to advance in your craft.

Why you should read this book:

The process of learning can be slow and painful. But it’s one which we must all go through in order to move from zero to hero in any field. In this book, you’ll find a friend who has a deep understanding of the learning process and is able to guide you on how to evolve into a master of your craft!

Here’s a snippet:

“In the future, the great division will be between those who have trained themselves to handle these complexities and those who are overwhelmed by them -- those who can acquire skills and discipline their minds and those who are irrevocably distracted by all the media around them and can never focus enough to learn.”

  • ‘The Start-up of You’ by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha


If you were to read just one book in this list, this is the one! In this book, the authors explain that having an entrepreneurial attitude (and mindset) is no longer an exclusive trait of the ambitious mavens in Silicon Valley, but is now a prerequisite for anyone looking to create a successful career in today’s economy. In seven chapters, they go deep into topics ranging from how to identify your competitive advantage in the job market to how to build powerful alliances that advance your career.

Why you should read this book:

As students, we could all use a hand to hold as we transition from school to work. The fact that the world of work is also evolving so rapidly only adds to our anxiety. In this book, you will find mentors-in-a-book who teach you timeless strategies on how to create, launch, and grow your #1 startup — your career.

Here’s a snippet:

“Your competitive advantage is formed by the interplay of three different, ever-changing forces: your assets, your aspirations/values, and the market realities, i.e., the supply and demand for what you offer the marketplace relative to the competition.”

  • ‘The Defining Decade’ by Meg Jay


This book is, in my opinion, a collection of hard truths. In 272 pages, Jay, a clinic psychologist, uses reflections from her extensive work with young people to provide a guide for twenty-somethings (e.g: us students) who seek to be more intentional about their lives and avoid wallowing in regret after hitting the big three-zero. She also provides relevant insights on topics such as identity capital, toxic comparison, partner choice, and so much more.

Why you should read this book:

Nobody told us adulting would be this hard. Our lives would have been so much easier if someone had left us a handbook. But no one did. This book is honestly the closest thing to a handbook on adulting that I’ve read. In some parts of the book, Jay will sound like your mother scolding you for not taking things (and life) more seriously. But, like every other mother, she only scolds because she cares. Too deeply.

Here’s a snippet:

“Forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital. Do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that's an investment in who you might want to be next.”

  • ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ by Cheryl Strayed


This book is a powerful collection of letters and essays from the author’s two years writing anonymously as ‘Sugar’, the advice columnist for “The Rumpus”. The letters featured in this book were carefully selected out of thousands that were sent to Sugar by writers who revealed painful (and sometimes shocking) issues they were experiencing in their personal lives which varied in degrees of intensity and weirdness. The power of this book emerges from Sugar’s responses to these letters. By piecing together relatable anecdotes from her deeply turbulent past, she writes her way into the hearts of these sufferers while suggesting brutally honest solutions to the problems they highlighted in their letters.

Why you should read this book:

There’s more to being a student than going to classes, turning in assignments, looking for internships and making daily trips to the campus cafeteria. The struggles we go through in our personal lives define most of our experience as students; and as people. From dealing with heartbreaks, to avenging cheating boyfriends, to dislodging fake friends, to battling secret addictions, we all have lives that exist beyond the classroom. In this book, you will find a friend who will hold your hand as you navigate these complex emotional experiences. At some points, you may drop the book to cry for a minute or two, or you may throw it up in the air as you laugh hysterically with your new friend-in-a-book. Either way, you will definitely find something in this book that will help you through a very (almost uncannily) specific struggle that you’re going through in your personal life right now.

Here’s a snippet:

“You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards...You have to pay your electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all.”

  • 'Ego is the Enemy' by Ryan Holiday


The main message of the book is ‘be humble’. Kendrick Lamar must be proud. Holiday argues that a major thing holding us back from living the good life we desire is our flawed belief that we are the centre of the world around which every other person and thing revolves. A belief that is inspired by our egos. Building on the teachings of stoicism, he explains how our hazardous egos can be eliminated by cultivating humility, diligence, and self-awareness.

Why you should read this book:

This book will teach you how to become a better student by silencing your ego, acknowledging your ignorance, and embracing the humility necessary for learning. As young people, we tend to think we know more than we actually do. This attitude limits the breadth and depth of our learning. Psychologists call it the Dunning-Kruger effect. Ryan Holiday calls it ego. To explain the effect such an ego can have on students, he quotes the stoic philosopher, Epictetus, in the book who says: “It is impossible for a man to learn that, which he thinks he already knows.

Here’s a snippet:

“Ego is the enemy of what you want and of what you have. Of mastering a craft. Of real creative insight. Of working well with others. Of building loyalty and support. Of longevity. Of repeating and retaining your success. It repulses advantages and opportunities. It’s a magnet for enemies and errors.”

  • 'Influence' by Robert Cialdini


This book is arguably one of the world’s best manuals on persuasion. Leveraging insights from extensive studies on human psychology, Cialdini offers a roadmap on how to get people to work with (or for) you; on your own terms. He explains how the principles of reciprocity, social proof, authority, commitment & consistency, liking and scarcity can be used to make people say “yes” to things they would have otherwise said “no” to.

Why you should read this book:

In every sphere of life, the ability to persuade others is a near-survival skill. Whether you are talking a rogue member of your team into contributing to the group project or you’re trying to convince an interviewer that you are the right person for the job, you will need to perform some form of persuasion. This book explains the science behind why people say “yes” and how you can use that knowledge to your advantage to become more productive, more influential, and more successful at whatever you do.

Here’s a snippet:

“In general, when we are unsure of ourselves, when the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to look to and accept the actions of others as correct.”


Congratulations on making it to the end of this list!

If you skimmed through, that's okay. If you read through each line, you're among a rare breed of readers...really.

I hope you found at least one of these books remarkable enough to be added to your reading list. I would be honored!

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