15 Books for You to Read (Not Textbooks!)


As a college student pursuing an online degree, you always have more than enough reading to do. But sometimes you want to go beyond your textbooks and try something outside the syllabus.

Here are a few titles that your instructor isn’t likely to assign. But they’re good reads that no college student should go without. Especially if you’re planning on a rewarding career, you can use these authors’ advice and wisdom to pursue your goals. Scroll through and see which ones you’ll add to your reading list.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey is responsible for “begin with the end in mind,” “put first things first,” and a few other maxims you might recognize. This book is a classic guide to decision making, time management, and getting what you want out of life.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards

Even if you think you can’t draw, you’ll find this book compels you to see your world in a new way. Millions of readers have used it to unleash their creativity.

The Effective Executive, by Peter F. Drucker

A valuable read, no matter your level of authority. Drucker is the essential writer for anyone going into business. Any one of his many books could prove useful, but this one is his most popular.

Essays, by Michel de Montaigne (trans. by Donald Frame)

This book will not only teach you how to think, it's big enough to keep you company for a lifetime. Montaigne is so user-friendly, his ideas often come across as those of a modern-day blogger. If you want to know why people think the way they do, here’s the place to start.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen

Extremely practical, hands-on advice for finishing projects and keeping yourself organized. Allen’s book sparked a movement called “Inbox Zero,” where people strive to work without clutter. He’s a dynamic speaker, too.

He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys, by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo

Not to be confused with the film of the same title. This book offers a fresh look at dating, romance, and relationships, and having the confidence to stand up for yourself.

How to Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

It may seem old, but the advice in this book has stood the test of time. Part four, on how to change people’s behavior without making them resent you, is invaluable for leaders.

How to Boil Water, by Food Network Kitchens

College students are always looking for better ways to eat healthy and save money, and knowing your way around a kitchen is key. Here’s the ultimate beginner’s guide for those of us who need a recipe to make ice.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg

This Facebook executive made a big splash in 2013 with her book about women, work, and leadership. A worthwhile read for both genders in the 21st century.

Letters to a Young Contrarian, by Christopher Hitchens

A better title might be, “How to speak up and take an unpopular position.” For anyone who ever needs a boost of confidence, this book goes fast. It’s beautifully written, too.

Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, by George Leonard

Another easy and super-quick read. Leonard is the martial arts expert who first explained how and why we hit plateaus. There are no quick fixes – the only path to fulfillment is regular, sustained practice.

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, by Keith Ferrazzi

Forget handshakes and business cards. The best way to build a network is one relationship at a time. Ferrazzi has written a perfect handbook for creating a sense of intimacy – even with strangers over the phone and through email. It’s amazing this book isn’t more popular.

Strength to Love, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here Dr. King makes his case for the moral value of love that binds all human beings together. It’s a powerful summons to social justice through nonviolent action.

Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, by Joseph M. Williams

If you want to write well in school or business, then Williams’ lessons are as good as they come. True, “Elements of Style” is more popular, but this book explains writing in a systematic way that’s so easy to comprehend.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, by Robert Pirsig

You could take an introduction to philosophy class, or you could read this book. It reads like a travelogue, and it’s a fine beginner’s guide to the big questions that have puzzled thinkers for centuries, like, “What is the good life?”

Having a few of these volumes on your shelf will signal to people that you’re a well-rounded person who is curious about life and living it well. But don’t keep them on your shelf – take them down and read!

Which titles would you add to this list?

Written by: Michael Mussman
Michael Mussman is Editor of Forward Thinking, the Ashford University blog.

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