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17 Books You Should Read Before (or at) University

Updated on 11 May, 2023

Pragya Sharma

Pragya Sharma

Sr. Content Editor

Getting ready for university can be exciting and overwhelming. Feeling apprehensive and nervous about the new environment, lifestyle, and education system is natural. Reflecting on my college days, I can identify many things I wish I had known that would have helped me sail through my journey more efficiently and productively. The most significant of them is developing a reading habit. Amazed? Well, this habit will help you scale not just your academic and professional endeavors but also your personal life.  

Here are the 17 must-read books to alleviate the journey to university and prepare for a new era in your academics. These books include themes such as time management practices, study skills, mental health, personal development, valuable insights, and practical tips that are valuable for a fresher as well as a senior. 

So, grab a cup of coffee, find a comfortable place, and get ready to immerse yourself in some serious reading.

How Do Books Help in Benefitting the Students Going to a Different Country To Study?

Studying in a different country can be an exciting and rewarding experience. It is an opportunity to learn about various cultures, connect with new people and broaden your horizons. However, it can also be challenging, especially if you're unprepared for cultural differences and academic expectations. That's where books come in handy. Here are some ways books can benefit students studying in a different country.

Books tell you a lot about the culture of a country.

Every country has its own culture, traditions, and customs. Understanding these components of culture will help you evade culture shock and seamlessly transition to your new surroundings. Books can teach you about the country's history, geography, and social norms. 
For example, if you want to study in Japan, you can discover Japanese culture and customs by reading works like "The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture" by Roger J. Davies and Osamu Ikeno.

Books provide insights into the experiences of other students who have studied in the same country. 

Reading about their experiences prepares you to face life's challenges and opportunities. You can learn from their successes and failures and acquire beneficial insights into the academic and social expectations of the country. 
For example, Gareth Davey's "The International Student's Survival Guide: How to Get the Most from Studying at a UK University" offers practical guidance and suggestions for overseas students studying in the UK.

Books provide an understanding of the academic environment and the knowledge required to excel in your studies. 

Everything from the teaching style to the coursework differs from what you know. Books can be an excellent resource for helping international students understand their new academic environment. The university academic system and expectations books help international students understand the grading system and the level of rigor they can expect in their coursework. Also, books on study skills, time management, and academic writing develop the skills to excel in your courses. 
For example, "How to Read a Book" by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren provides tips on reading more efficiently and effectively, and "The Study Skills Handbook" by Stella Cottrell offers helpful directions on improving your study skills.

17 Must-Read Books to Prepare for University Success

Now that you know how books can benefit students going to a different country for study, here are 17 must-read books to prepare you for university success. These books have been carefully curated for students on various themes.

Book Title


"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey

It is an excellent self-help book that has sold millions of copies worldwide and is hailed as one of the most influential books of all time. Covey's 7 Habits is a powerful framework for personal growth and development. 

The first three habits focus on personal effectiveness: being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, and putting first things first. The next three habits are about interpersonal effectiveness: think win-win, seek first to understand, then to be understood, and synergize. The last habit is about continuous self-improvement. This habit encourages you to take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to grow and improve.

"How to Win at College" by Cal Newport

In this book, Newport provides a wealth of advice on how to succeed in college, from practical study tips to how to network effectively. He also offers insights on making the most of your college experience and setting yourself up for success after graduation.

"Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" by Carol S. Dweck

In this book, Carol S. Dweck shares her groundbreaking research on the power of mindset and how it can impact your life. 


The central theme is that there are two mindsets: Fixed and 

growth mindsets. A fixed mindset is your abilities, talents, and intelligence are predetermined and cannot be changed. A growth mindset is that you can acquire abilities and intelligence with hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

"The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg 

In this book, Duhigg explores the science behind habits and how these can be used to achieve success in life. He delves into the three-step loop of cue, routine, and reward and explains how they can be harnessed to make positive habits. 

The author also highlights the importance of identifying and changing the habits holding us back. With real-life examples and practical advice, "The Power of Habit" is an insightful read that empowers you to take control of your habits and transform your life.

"Deep Work" by Cal Newport

This best-selling book offers a compelling argument for the benefits of focused, distraction-free work. Newport argues that in our hyper-connected world, the ability to concentrate on a single task is becoming rare and valuable. "Deep Work" offers practical strategies for cultivating this skill, including time-blocking your schedule to minimize digital distractions.

"Atomic Habits" by James Clear

This book helps improve habits and ultimately achieve their goals. Clear provides readers with practical strategies for breaking bad habits and forming good ones. He emphasizes the importance of small, incremental changes and how they can compound over time to create massive results. With "Atomic Habits," Clear has an easy roadmap for success backed by science. 

"The Productivity Project" by Chris Bailey

In Chris Bailey's book, he shares his findings, experiments, and insights on improving productivity, focus, and time management. From mindfulness practices to attention management techniques, "The Productivity Project" is a must-read for anyone who wants to get more done in less time and live a more fulfilling life. 

"Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman

This book covers how humans make decisions and the two different systems of thinking we use - the fast and intuitive system and the slower and more analytical one. The book is a masterpiece that delves deep into the human psyche and helps readers understand how our minds work and how we can improve our decision-making abilities.

"The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking" by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird

In this book, the authors break down the five essential elements of effective thinking: understanding deeply, failing effectively, processing information, raising questions, and making connections. With practical examples and exercises, this book will help you cultivate a mindset that promotes creativity, innovation, and success.

"How to Read a Book" by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren

The book has the basics of reading comprehension to more advanced techniques for analyzing and interpreting complex texts. The key takeaway from "How to Read a Book" is the importance of actively engaging with the content you are reading. 

According to Adler and Van Doren, there are four levels of reading: elementary, inspectional, analytical, and syntopical. Each level requires a different approach and set of skills, and the book provides detailed guidance on how to master each level.

"A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking 

The book is a fascinating journey through the mysteries of the universe, and Hawking does an excellent job of explaining these complex ideas skillfully. The book covers the big bang theory, black holes, and the nature of time itself. This book challenges your thinking and gives a deeper understanding of the universe.

"The Art of Asking" by Amanda Palmer

In the book, she shares her experiences and struggles with vulnerability, creativity, and the power of asking for help. The memoir is filled with anecdotes and insights that are entertaining and thought-provoking. The Art of Asking is a must-read for inspiration, creativity, and the courage to ask for what they need.

"The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture" by Roger J. Davies and Osamu Ikeno

The book offers insight into the Japanese people and their way of life. The authors explore various aspects of Japanese culture, including their values, beliefs, and customs. The authors delve into Japan's unique identity's historical and cultural roots and how it has evolved. The authors explain how the Japanese approach problems and challenges with a collective and long-term perspective rather than an individualistic one.

"The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business" by Erin Meyer 

"The Culture Map" is divided into eight chapters, each dedicated to a different aspect of cross-cultural communication. Meyer covers topics such as communication styles, feedback, persuasion, and decision-making. The compelling aspect is Meyer's ability to break cultural differences into tangible and actionable insights. She provides a framework for understanding different cultural dimensions and their impact on communication and behavior.

"The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work" by Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor's research-backed insights provide a roadmap for creating a positive mindset for greater success and fulfillment. With "The Happiness Advantage," you'll learn how to reframe your thinking and focus on the positive, leading to increased motivation, creativity, and overall well-being.

"The Defining Decade" by Meg Jay

Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, draws on her years of experience to provide practical advice and strategies for young adults to take charge of their lives and set themselves up for success. "The Defining Decade" covers everything from relationships to career choices. Meg Jay's writing style is engaging and easy to follow. It is a page-turner from start to finish.

"The 4-Hour Work Week" by Timothy Ferriss

This groundbreaking book offers a detailed blueprint for achieving a life of luxury, leisure, and productivity. Ferriss challenges conventional wisdom, encouraging readers to think outside the box and embrace unconventional strategies for success. From outsourcing to automation, he provides practical tips and tricks for streamlining your work and maximizing efficiency.


You can achieve great success with the right tools and resources, especially when starting a new life as an international student. Books provide valuable insights into the country's culture, history, academic knowledge, and customs. They also prepare you for academic challenges and develop your skills to succeed. The 17 books above are a great way to start your worthwhile journey. So, grab a copy and get reading.

Pragya Sharma

Sr. Content Editor

Pragya Sharma is a content developer and marketer with 6.5+ years of experience in the education industry. She started her career as a social media copywriter for NIELIT, Ministry of Electronics & IT, and has now scaled up as a 360-degree content professional well-versed with the intricacies of digital marketing and different forms of content used to drive and hook the target audience. She is also a co-author of 2 stories in an anthology based on the theme- women empowerment.

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