Skip to content

Essential Books for Students

I’m big into reading, and since you’re on this page, I’m guessing you like reading at least a little bit as well. This page is an ongoing log of books I find to be awesome or useful.

If you’re looking to create a well-rounded, successful college experience, you can’t go wrong with any of these.

10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades (While Studying Less) 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades (While Studying Less)

Yep, I put my own book on the list. There might be a bit of hubris involved here, but I'm extremely proud of how this book turned out. Initially, I set out to write a book on how to study efficiently, defeat procrastination, and stay organized - as I wrote, the project became much grander. The final product is a 100+ page book covering 10 different topics that factor into your grades. In addition to the topics I already mentioned, you'll learn how to read textbooks effectively, take better notes, write great papers, eliminate distractions, and more Also, it's completely free.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I listened to this book during a six-hour drive to a friend's hometown a few years ago, and I honestly think it changed my life. The habits Covey describes here seem obvious at first, but you'll probably notice that you aren't following all of them. I know I wasn't. Take Habit 5 - Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood - how many of us actually do that? Before reading this book, I would always think very selfishly in my conversations. Whenever I'd listen to someone else speak, I'd listen - but I'd also be actively formulating my (usually self-serving) response and looking for the perfect moment to throw it in.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
Confessions of a Recruiting Director: The Insider's Guide to Landing Your First Job Confessions of a Recruiting Director: The Insider's Guide to Landing Your First Job

No book has helped me more when it has come to getting jobs and internships than this one. In it, author Brad Karsh demystifies the job-hunting process and shows you how to most effectively scout out and land that crucial first job out of college. He goes through writing résumés and cover letters (read: how to make your cover letter not suck) and even provides a fairly large index full of completed examples of each. Other topics covered are interviews - both job-seeking and "informational" - as well as how to impress gatekeepers, how to follow up an interview the right way, and more. Seriously, read this.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

I firmly believe that a solid foundation of nutrition, exercise, and sleep will help you succeed in college better than any study hack, which is why I recommend this book. Reading it will educate you on how exercise affects your brain, which in turn will give you more mental ammunition that you can use to shoot down excuses when you're feeling lazy or "busy", and don't want to work out. By the way, how much exercise have you gotten today?

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
Personal Investing: The Missing Manual Personal Investing: The Missing Manual

This is a great is a great follow-up to Your Money: The Missing Manual, and I'd recommend that you save reading this book until you've read the former. Once you have a solid grounding in personal finance, though, you should start taking the next step and get into investing. The book is a great tool to learn how to do that; it goes over the types of investments - Roth IRA's, index funds, common stock, bonds, the works - and gives a good overview of which ones you'll want to utilize based on your goals and lifestyle.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
The 4-Hour Workweek The 4-Hour Workweek

This is the book that got me into lifestyle design - the idea that we don't have to simply graduate and just get a job, but that we are instead free to pursue the life we want, as long as we can set up the necessary systems to make it work. It also was partly responsible for giving me the confidence to try turning College Info Geek into my full-time job - which worked out 🙂

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
Brain Rules Brain Rules

If you know how the brain works, you'll be better equipped to manage your own and understand the ones contained inside the heads of the people you know and meet. In Brain Rules, John Medina expertly shows us how the brain does things, and lays out 12 rules that form a basis for using that pile of mush more effectively. It's not just an excellent brain book - it's an excellent business book and an excellent college success book as well.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
Worldly Wisdom: Collected Quotations and Aphorisms Worldly Wisdom: Collected Quotations and Aphorisms

From the author of The Personal MBA comes a book with... not a single word written by the author. Yep, this book is just a big collection of quotes. That's totally cool with me, though - I think curation is just as important creation. I turn to this book when I need a good dose of inspiration. It also sometimes helps to spice up articles and papers!

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
A Mind for Numbers A Mind for Numbers

If you're looking for practical techniques you can use to increase your ability to learn new information effectively, you should read this book. Contrary to what the title would imply, Dr. Barbara Oakley's A Mind for Numbers is applicable to any learning discipline - not just math and science. This book will quickly give you an understanding of how your brain learns and encodes new information, and will also equip you with strategies for learning more while studying less.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

I struggle with having too many interests - and I often fall prey to the temptation to try and tackle them all at once. Of course, this doesn't work; it's as if 15 hamsters in one big hamster ball were all trying to run in their own separate directions. What's more useful is to adopt a philosophy of "Less, but better." Greg McKeown's book Essentialism is an excellent guide to doing just that, and the lessons I took from it have helped me to become a much more focused person.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
The Productivity Project The Productivity Project

This is the best overall introduction to productivity that I've ever read. Other books that you'll see on this list go deeper on specific topics - such as habits or procrastination - but The Productivity Project does an awesome job at giving you practical tips and advice on pretty much all of them. It's a great starting point for becoming more productive.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
The Happiness Equation The Happiness Equation

When you have a lot of ambitious plans, it can be really easy to stay constantly future-minded and focused on goals. But as Neil Pasricha points out in The Happiness Equation, the goalposts of our goals often move the moment we achieve them - and the constant pursuit of them can leave us unhappy. This book is a great reminder to prioritize happiness - and it does a great job at serving as a practical manual for becoming a happy person while remaining productive.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
Deep Work Deep Work

One of my biggest daily struggles is focusing intently on my work - and judging by the hundreds of emails I get from students each month, I'm not alone. Deep Work is by far the best and most effective book I've read on this topic, and it's helped me to become much better at resisting the temptation of distractions and remaining concentrated. This is one of my most highly recommended books.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Other Useful Pages:


The links on this page are affiliate links; as an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission on qualifying purchases made through them (at no extra cost to you).

Photos: Books