"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four Great Coming-of-Age Novels

by Melanie Foster
I've come across a myriad of books and novels in my life that have had a significant, lasting impact on me. What's more interesting is that many of the most memorable books I've ever read were ones I discovered during my young-adult years in college. Indeed, the four or so years of college is the perfect time for readers to start exploring numerous genres they can continue reading throughout their twenties, thirties, and so forth. In fact, as the mother of two college students, I always make sure my kids have a good book in their hands so they can become proficient, savvy readers.
Below are four novels, I think, would be of interest to the college generation. Inevitably, this post leaves out many great novels that are worthy of attention. With that said, if you feel I've overlooked an important one, please leave a comment and let me know what I've omitted and why it's a great read for college students.
1)  This Side of Paradise - Written in 1920 by well-known American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, "This Side of Paradise" takes place at Princeton University and is themed around several young adults who must deal with the perils of World-War I in a time of extreme and inevitable change in the United States. For any young adult who has had to face a grown-up experience much too young, this book will definitely resonate. I read "This Side of Paradise" during my college days, and I often revisit its beautifully written passages. If you're a fan of "The Great Gatsby," then you'll definitely appreciate "This Side of Paradise."
2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Before it was a film, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" was a young-adult book by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the screenplay for Rent. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is a beautiful yet haunting story about a shy teenager named Charlie who is beginning the freshman year of high school shortly after his best friend commits suicide. At the start of school, Charlie meets two quirky seniors, Patrick and Samantha, who open Charlie's eyes up to the joys, perils, and difficulties of growing up. This book is about the importance of savoring life's every moment and being as much alive as possible within each of these passing moments.
3) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" is by Junt Diaz, a world-famous writer whose bestsellers include "This is How You Lose Her" and "Drown." "The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" is about a young man named Oscar, an intelligent, gifted child from the Dominican Republic who grows up in a ghetto New Jersey neighborhood.  As Oscar grows into a young man, he becomes an overweight nerd and drifts into desperation, devoted to fitting in with the rest of society. The story is told through the eyes of Oscar, his poor mother, his pessimistic sister, and his aging grandmother. It's a witty, addictive read that highlights those painful, yet inevitable, coming-of-age years.
4) The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite writers of all time. Her most successful novel, "The Interpreter of Maladies," won a Pulitzer Prize and has been credited as one of our generation's best novels. Although I adore "The Interpreter of Maladies," I think "The Namesake" is Lahiri's greatest work of art. "The Namesake" is a about the Ganguli family, an immigrant family from Calcutta, India that is adjusting to numerous cultural transformations and differences after coming to America. The book's opening introduces us to Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, a married couple that settles in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has a son named Gogol Ganguli, who must adjust to life as a first-generation immigrant in with Indian-born, Indian-raised parents. Lahiri creates a powerful sympathy for Gogol, who severely struggles with being a first-generation immigrant. Through Lahiri, we uncover the power of family names and cultural traditions and how they have a tendency of defining who we will become. It's a great read for any foreign-exchange student who is leaving the comforts of home for the first time and exploring unchartered territory.
These are just some of the many books that would be beneficial reads to college students. Feel free to utilize the comments section to let me know other books I've left out.

Melanie Foster is a guest post writer and professional blogger who writes about all things academia for onlinephdprograms.com and other education-related websites. When Melanie's not writing, she's reading great novels and books. Please leave your questions and comments for Melanie below.


Anonymous said...

Great suggestions. I've read Diaz's book-- very engaging.

D.G. Hudson said...

I'm reading Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I plan to read This Side of Paradise after that. I was more interested in the Lost Generation phase of Fitzgerald's writing.

Glad to see at least one classic made the list.

Nicole said...

Wow, I don't think I've read any of these. Maybe I'll have to check them out.