1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Steven Chbosky
“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.”
The peaks and pains of high school life… written in the form of letters to an unknown reader, this books charts a year in the life of Charlie, a lonely American freshman.
We follow Charlie’s journey as he makes friends, falls in love, and becomes aware of hidden memories from his past.
Why it’s a classic student book: You’ll learn about life at an American university… and realise that wherever you’re from, it’s normal to feel lonely sometimes.
2. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
“I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.”
The price of being accepted by an elite… Richard is fascinated by a clique of Ancient Greek students at his college in Vermont.
He works his way into their group but begins to realise that darker bonds are holding them together than simple friendship.
Why it’s a classic student book: It makes US university campus life seem much more glamorous and mysterious than the reality of all-night study sessions, launderettes and microwave pizza!
3. I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
“I am a restlessness inside a stillness inside a restlessness.”
Teenage ideals are challenged by reality… set in the 1930s, 17-year old Cassandra Mortmain lives in a crumbling English castle with her eccentric family.
Life is dull for her and her sister, Rose, but things begin to change when two rich American brothers become their landlords.
Why it’s a classic student book: It depicts the pain of first love in a timeless way, from the perspective of a narrator who’s both entertaining and honest.
4. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
“People never notice anything.”
The not-coming-of-age novel…17-year old Holden is disillusioned with the world around him.
We follow him over a two-day period when he escapes his upmarket boarding school to drift around New York City, reflecting on his past and the “phoniness” of adults.
Why it’s a classic student book: Over 60 years on, it’s still easy to relate to Holden’s fears about maturity and his search for connection with others – especially when you’re outside of your comfort zone.
5. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”
The book that launched a thousands trips… Based on various journeys taken by Kerouac and his friends across 1940s America, this is a novel that celebrates adventure, risk and the road less travelled.
Why it’s a classic student book: Because if you want to study abroad, you probably already have an appetite for adventure – and this is the ultimate adventure.