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The UnCollege Blog

The Essential College Drop Out Reading List

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As a former college drop out, I'll admit that one of the things missing from my life the most was one of those curated reading lists. You know, the kind a professor would give you for a course and the beginning of the semester. The type or reading list and subsequent lectures that meant, if you read this and attend class, you are guaranteed to understand the subject. I didn't have this kind of guidance and structure in my new found freedom. Sure, the opportunity to pick up any book that made me curious enough to read the back cover was awesome, but I found myself missing the deep-dive into a subject; the curiosity and frustration and careful study that came from really examining the contents of a book.

The benefits of reading are plentiful: The mental stimulation can slow the progress of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, it can make you more empathetic and understanding toward others, it boosts your mood, decreases stress, and improves overall cognitive function. What’s even cooler is that reading isn’t just a hobby: It’s a skill. Reading develops your vocabulary and communication skills, encourages critical and creative thinking, increases your ability to analyze and understand information faster, improves concentration, and bolsters writing skills. Every single one of those is especially important for a drop out who is looking to continue learning. That’s why we want to bring you the must-have reading list for drop-outs, covering everything from life skills to personal growth to just plain old great reads. Drop in to your local bookstore or library and get those pages turning!

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Dr. Meg Jay


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 Ever been told that “twenty is the new thirty” and what you do in young adulthood doesn’t matter all that much? Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, is here to explain exactly the opposite: The brain changes more during this period of young adulthood than any other point, and Jay explores exactly how we should make the most of it. If you’re struggling to find your path, feel aimless, or worry that time is wasting away, this is a must-read to figure out how to make the most of your decisions. Personal stories make this book compelling, and research renders it meaningful to everyone trying to answer the question: What am I going to be when I grow up?

Tales from Nowhere (Lonely Planet Travel Literature) by Simon Winchester,Tim Cahill, Pico Iyer



We’ve all heard that travel can change your life, but this collection of essays examines the idea of finding yourself in unexpected places and the adventure that comes with opening up your life, broadening your perspective, and maybe even changing the way you see the world. With stories from travel writers and news correspondents who illustrate the idea of kick starting your life and embracing the unknown, this is the book to pick up if you’re looking for inspiration to grab your backpack and get moving.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck



Can anything be learned by anyone? Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., explores a game-changing idea: Success in work, sports, the arts, school, and nearly any facet of life can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and capabilities. In other words? Outstanding accomplishment can be influenced by mindset. This should be on every reading list, but the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset is essential for people choosing to shape their own path.

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How. by Daniel Coyle



Talent is a tricky beast: Most of us are trying to develop it while determining if we have any. In this book, New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle explores how we can grow talent by tapping into a brain mechanism, while offering concrete insight and instruction for people trying to figure out how to fulfill their dreams. It validates steady practice and pushes you to improve your performance--the perfect jumpstart to tackling your goals.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant



This book is a fascinating look at how we can become originals--how going against the grain, battling conformity, and ditching tradition can lead to amazing things. The book examines how to recognize a good idea, speak up, manage your doubt, and choose the right things to act on. In other words, this is a drop-out’s guide to life. If you’re rejecting the status quo and deep down, want to change your life and the world, pick this one up ASAP.

Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi



Reality: We never really get anywhere alone. This book is a deep dive into how to use the power of relationships to network, improve your life, and help everyone win. Detailing his progression from the son of a cleaning lady and steelworker to Harvard grad and executive, Ferrazzi explores how connecting with others is essential to any kind of progress. If you’re wondering how to start networking--and why you need to--check this one out.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport



Okay, so, turns out, “follow your passion” isn’t the best advice. Searching for your passion, though cliche, well-meaning advice, can lead to anxiety and job-hopping. This book makes the case that passion comes after you put in the hard work, time, and value into becoming great at something. In other words, as the book puts it, “what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.” In a world swimming with “chasing your dreams,” this is a must-read for every young person just starting out.

The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose



According to this book, our society measures against “the yardstick of averages”--in other words, how close we come or how far we venture from the norm. Harvard’s Todd Rose says the idea that comparing us to an average, like a GPA or performance review, is scientifically wrong. There’s no such thing as average--and the idea that there is disrupts schools, renders businesses shallow, and removes meaning of the human experience and potential. Rose explores three principles that offer an alternative to sameness. Even better? He’s a former drop-out.