Along with all the new freedoms of the first year of college, there are typically pangs of frustration and fear. After prodding countless English departments, we’ve come up with a novel list: three classic works that speak to the soul of a transitioning young adult.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

In 27 short works, the author explores his family roots, while also noting how these memories affect his judgment in day-to-day struggles. “What our struggling freshman needs right now is a good laugh,” says Rosemary Graham, professor of English at Saint Mary’s College of California.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man is the classic tale of a young African-American’s search for identity amidst a sea of prejudice. Lars Larson, professor of English at the University of Portland, says, “students, newly on their own and on the hunt for an identity, will find an easy kinship with the nameless narrator.”

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Darkness is a seminal work amongst tweedy sci-fi readers. “[The protagonist’s] adventures are concerned primarily with otherness,” says Davis Schneiderman, professor of English at Lake Forest College. “He’s someone from the outside having to navigate a daunting set of foreign social codes.”

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