Poll: What’s the best book you read in college?

I posed this question to some friends on Facebook, and got a lengthy list of responses. Looking back at the responses, there are some fantastic reads on here. There’s a good list of conventional classics, race and gender centered staples, textbooks, and contemporary non-fiction.

It was incredibly difficult to pick my top books, because so many of my favorite readings were short stories or articles within an anthology. That said, my top four (in no particular order):

  1. The Power Elite, by C. Wright Mills– This may have been one of the first books I ever read in college, and was definitely in one of the more difficult courses (The Sociological Imagination). It’s a great beginner for those who are interested in class dynamics and struggles.
  2. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire — The following three books were all mandatory reads in my freshman year of college, regardless of your major. Pedagogy was a highly critical look at the “banking” method of education, which treats students as vessels to be filled with knowledge. I likened this to Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, wherein teachers barked “facts, facts, facts.” To Freire, the utilitarian pedagogy,  is insufficient. He proposes something greater– a relationship between society, students, and teachers that encourages students to take a more active role in the creation of knowledge.
  3. Wretched of the Earth (Les Damnés de la Terre), by Frantz Fanon– Fanon, an virulent supporter of the Algerian War of Independence from France in the 50s’, wrote Wretched of the Earth as an examination of the psychological affects of colonization. More importantly, it’s creates a framework for discussing decolonization, and the violence that oftentimes accompanies it. At times, it’s an emotionally trying read, but that’s part of what makes it so honest.
  4. Discourse on Colonialism, by Aimé Césaire– This is a great book to follow Wretched of the Earth, because Césaire was Frantz Fanon’s friend and mentor. As a result, their works address similar subject matter. If you’re going to read them both, I’d recommend starting with Discourse, which is a much shorter and easier read. After those, you have to continue with other Negritude movement authors, such as Léopold Sédar Senghor ( future President of Senegal). Bonus points if you can read French!

That’s my list, but feel free to comment with your top books from school! Check below for the list from my friends– the starred ones have my stamp of approval:

  • Ecofeminism: Feminist Interactions with other animals and the earth, by Carol J. Adams
  • Crick Crack, Monkey, by Merle Hodge*
  • Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinsky
  • Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
  • Jonah’s Gourd Vine, by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Faces at the Bottom of the Well, by Derrick Bell
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire*
  • The Book of Chuang Tzu, by Chuang Tzu
  • The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • Orientalism, by Edward Said
  • Words of Fire, by Beverly Guy-Sheftall*
  • The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt
  • To Joy My Freedom, by Tera Hunter
  • Black Boy, by Richard Wright*
  • Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe*
  • Lose Your Mother, by Saidiya Hartman
  • Dreams of my Father, by Barack Obama
  • The Autobiography of MLK Jr., by Clayborne Carson
  • The Bottom Billion, by Paul Collier
  • Dead Aid, by Dambisa Moyo
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
  • Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  • Black Skin White Masks, by Frantz Fanon
  • Theory of Justice, by John Rawls*
  • Kindred, by Octavia Butler
  • Whose Black Politics? Cases in Post Racial Black Leadership, by Andra Gillespie


  1. […] to the Jean-Paul Sartre’s introduction to The Wretched of the Earth, which we talked about here. I PROMISE you: if you like Chimamanda, you’ll like Tsitsi. The cultural references and […]


  2. “Venas Abiertas de America Latina” by Eduardo Galeano. One of the foundational pieces of literature that radicalized me.


  3. Tess of the D’Urbervilles.


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