Books to Read Before College

Montevideo's List of the Best Books to Read Before College

College is one of life's most memorable experiences, filled with new opportunities to think, read, meet people, and engage in conversations that change how we see both ourselves and the world. 

While you will no doubt be reading tons of textbooks over the next four years, we strongly recommend you start developing a habit of reading the books that you want to read in your spare time. 

via GIPHY 

By learning from the world’s greatest thinkers, writers, artists, leaders, and revolutionaries, we can grow into people who remain undefeated in the face of anything life throws our way during college and in the great beyond after graduation.  

That's why we've complied this annual list of books to read the summer before college (or during your free time if you're already in college).

We should be clear about one thing upfront: this is not the typical list of the same old books you'll find at every "required summer reading" table at Barnes and Nobles and local library across America. These are probably not the books you've been assigned to read in high school either.


This list is eclectic and balances obscure titles with prize winners. It features both male and female authors, writers from North America and from other countries around the world.

One last thing: before you dive in to our list of books every high school student should read before college, allow us to introduce ourselves. We're Montevideo 👋 We create and curate the best art, apparel, decor & inspiration for creative college students with independent taste. 

The Stranger, by Albert Camus

Our favorite excerpt: “If something is going to happen to me, I want to be there.” 

Read the NY Times review of The Stranger here.


Read The Stranger here.

The Meursault Investigation, by Kamel Daoud

Our favorite excerpt: “As a matter of fact, that's the reason why I've learned to speak this language, and to write it too: so I can speak in the place of a dead man, so I can finish his sentences for him. The murderer got famous, and his story's too well written for me to get any ideas about imitating him. He wrote in his own language. Therefore I'm going to do what was done in this country after Independence: I'm going to take the stones from the old houses the colonists left behind, remove them one by one, and build my own house, my own language. The murderer's words and expressions are my unclaimed goods. Besides, the country's littered with words that don't belong to anyone anymore.” 

Read The Guardian's review of The Meursault Investigation here.


Read The Meursault Investigation here.

The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner 

Our favorite excerpt: “I was doing that thing the infatuated do, stitching destiny onto the person we want stitched to us.” 

Read The New Yorker review of The Flamethrowers here.

Read The Flamethrowers here.

War and Turpentine, by Stefan Hertmans

Our favorite excerpt: “The truth in life often lies buried in places we do not associate with authenticity. Life is more subtle, in this respect, than linear human morality. It goes to work like a painter-copyist, using illusion to depict the truth.” 

Read The Guardian review of War and Turpentine here.

Read War & Turpentine here.

Days and Nights of Love and War, by Eduardo Galeano 

Our favorite excerpt: "…the computer program that alarms the banker who alerts the ambassador who dines with the general who summons the president who intimidates the minister who threatens the director general who humiliates the manager who yells at the boss who insults the employee who scorns the worker who mistreats his wife who beats the child who kicks the dog."


Read Days and Nights of Love and War here.

Conversations With Friends, by Sally Rooney

Our favorite excerpt:  “You underestimate your own power so you don't have to blame yourself for treating other people badly.” 

Read The New Yorker review of Conversations with Friends.

Read Conversations With Friends here.

Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

Our favorite excerpt:  “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.” 

Read a recent essay about Invisible Man in The New Yorker here.


Read Invisible Man here.

The Way of the World, by Nicolas Bouvier

Our favorite excerpt: “That day, I really believed that I had grasped something and that henceforth my life would be changed. But insights cannot be held for ever. Like water, the world ripples across you and for a while you take on its colours. Then it recedes, and leaves you face to face with the void you carry inside yourself, confronting that central inadequacy of soul which you must learn to rub shoulders with and to combat, and which, paradoxically, may be our surest impetus.” 

Read the NY Times review of The Way of the World here.

Read The Way of the World here.

The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson

Our favorite excerpt: “Empirically speaking, we are made of star stuff. Why aren’t we talking more about that?”

Read the NY Times review of The Argonauts here.


Read The Argonauts here.

Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine

Our favorite excerpt:  “Another friend tells you you have to learn not to absorb the world. She says sometimes she can hear her own voice saying silently to whomever—you are saying this thing and I am not going to accept it. Your friend refuses to carry what doesn’t belong to her.” 

Read the NY Times Review of Citizen: An American Lyric here.


Read Citizen: An American Lyric here.

The Lazarus Project, by Aleksandar Hemon

Our favorite excerpt:  “Home is where somebody notices your absence.” 

Read the NY Times review of The Lazarus Project here.


Read The Lazarus Project here.


The Neapolitan Novels, by Elena Ferrante

Our favorite excerpt: “Everything in the world was in precarious balance, pure risk, and those who didn’t agree to take the risk wasted away in a corner, without getting to know life.” 

Read The New Yorker review of Ferrante's fiction here.


Read The Neapolitan Novels here.

The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolaño

Our favorite excerpt: “Poetry and prison have always been neighbors.” 

Read The NY Times review of The Savage Detectives here.


Read The Savage Detectives here.


We hope you've enjoyed this brief, carefully curated list of books to read before college or while in college.

Are you still here? What are you waiting for? Start reading! 





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