Feb. 10, 2002
College involves a heck of a lot of reading requirements. Your question can be answered on two levels: books to read for freshman English classes and books to read for helpful general knowledge. Let's start with English class.
You have no doubt read a number of the classics for your high school English courses. The exact titles you'll need to cover for college won't be known until you see the course reading lists for the school you attend. You should, however, continue to read in, in your spare time, titles that are in the standard literature. I'm thinking of the works of such authors as D.H. Lawrence, Herman Melville, Anderson, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Nabokov, Bellow, James, Twain, Dickinson, Norris, Dreiser, Crane, Frost, Wharton, and Cather, to name just a few.
Poetry is important too. Poets such as Eliot, Pound, Williams, Stevens, Hart Crane, and Marianne Moore should be on your list. Reading both novels and poetry at this level has other positive side effects in addition to giving you a jump on freshman English. You'll also build your vocabulary. Remember, vocabulary is built over many years. It's not the kind of thing that can be crammed a week or two before the SAT.
More practical knowledge can be had from any number of sources. One problem that persists with high schoolers today is a lack of writing skills. Good writing is writing that is easily understood. If you want to read easily accessible samples of good writing, look up some essay writers. Essay writers appear every day in the local newspaper, people like Andy Rooney, the late Erma Bombeck, George Will, Mike Royko, and those of similar motivation. These syndicated authors offer their observations on the elements of everyday life. Their statements can be humorous, controversial, or touching.
Try to emulate their style. It will serve you well when it comes time to write your college application essay or that first composition for freshman English.
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