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The Best Books I Read During My First Year of College

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

As a first-year English major at Florida State University (FSU), it’s only expected that I get assigned a lot of reading. This isn’t unusual, as most college classes usually have a ton of assigned readings, whether that be from textbooks or fiction books. Thankfully, I can say that I love reading and I often enjoy completing the assignments for my English classes. These are some of my favorite books I have been assigned to read this year, in ascending order! 

The first book I chose to include was Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor. I read this book this semester for my Women in Literature class. In short, it’s about a girl named Sankofa, who is known as the ‘adopted daughter of death’ after discovering a mysterious object from space that gives her the power to kill anyone/anything around her. However, sometimes this power was too much for her to control.  

Okorafor is a super prominent writer in the Afrofuturistic literature space, with one of her other novels, Who Fears Death, being made into an HBO television series. There are so many reasons I love this book, one of which is that it’s super short. The novella’s length kept the plot’s pace moving relatively quickly, making it an exciting read. It’s also very descriptive of its setting, Ghana, which was informative and beautiful! 

Next was The Fifth Season, written by N.K Jemisin. This is the first novel in Jemisin’s series The Broken Earth. I’ve only read the first one, but the other two are definitely on my summer reading list! This novel follows three different storylines: a young girl named Damaya, a mother named Essu and a young adult named Syenite. They all exist in a dystopian world, where there are a group of people with special powers, “orogenes,” that can kill all life surrounding them (similarly to the last book). All three storylines follow different orogenes who are battling with their powers and what it means to have them. The main thing that I love about this book is Jemisin’s world-building. Everything about the society she created is so detailed and intricate and is incredibly fascinating to read about.  

Finally, my all-time favorite is Suleika Jaouad’s Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted. This autobiographical work centers on author Jaouad’s battle with leukemia, recounting her long and difficult journey as her disease ‘interrupts’ her life. Not only is this a New York Times (NYT) best-seller, but it’s also an extension of Jaouad’s NYT column, “Life Interrupted,” which went on to win an Emmy award. Simply put, the only way I can describe this book is ‘life-changing.’ 

Jaouad makes so many profound realizations and expresses the raw truth about both what it’s like to struggle with having cancer and trying to return to her old life after recovering from her leukemia. She also highlights other difficulties she faced as a survivor of a life-threatening illness, such as the grief she faced for all her friends who did not survive their illnesses or the guilt she felt for those taking care of her. This novel is so impactful and inspiring. I cannot read it enough times.  

While these books vary quite a bit, the main reason I have loved reading and studying them so much this semester is that they have the unique ability to make you feel like you live in the world that they create, whether it exists or not. I am so lucky to have professors here at FSU who are so in tune with current literature and they have worked hard to assign texts that we, as the students, enjoy reading.  

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Alyssa Yon is a first year student at Florida State University studying English literature, media, and culture. She loves painting, writing, and listening to music!