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Hate to read or love to read, there are a few essential books to have under your belt before you start college. Part of the thrill of higher education is the amazing conversations you'll have with your peers, your professors and your friends. And great conversations are fueled by great reading (at least in part!). 

So here are a few books to check out before you hit 13th grade. And don't worry, these are fun books. (They'll also make you sound smart, which, come on, who doesn't want that?)

“A People’s History of the United States,” Howard Zinn. Zinn tells you American history from the perspectives of people largely left out of your textbooks. It's an eye-opener. 

“Ways of Seeing,” John Berger. Ever looked at a painting and wondered what you were supposed to be seeing? John Berger teaches you how to look at—and fully appreciate—art. (And not in a boring way!) 

“Breakfast of Champions,” Kurt Vonnegut. Start your lifelong love of Vonnegut here. 

“Their Eyes Were Watching God,” Zora Neale Hurston. Compassionate, heartrending, important. 

"The Journalist and the Murderer," Janet Malcolm. This is a nonfiction account of a man accused of murdering his family, and the responsibility of the media to cover a story fairly and ethically. 

"The Handmaid's Tale," Margaret Atwood. You might've seen the series by now, but the book is essential reading for anyone skeptical of governmental overreach and the power of fiction to make important societal statements. 

Want to know what kind of reading you'll be doing at college? Come visit us and sit in on a class. You can never be too prepared, right? 

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