Whether you’ve found yourself searching recently for the next book on your reading list or for your memories of certain nights in college, you may be surprised to learn that there’s no reason these two experiences can’t be combined—or at least, why not use what you do remember from college to help you pick your next great read?
Aesthetic is the essential question. Why read something that isn’t going to fit with your college vibe—the atmosphere you crafted at the very time you were discovering yourself? If you don’t learn something about yourself, at least you’ll learn something about the person you were trying to be.
With so many great books out there, choosing an atmospheric read may seem overwhelming. But don’t fear! Read on to discover the next book on your reading list based on how you decorated your dorm room in college.
When dopey freshmen were still wandering in search of their orientation building, you were moving in with a purpose, and a style! You knew before you even saw your dorm room that each of your Lilly Pulitzer® bed sheets, Vineyard Vines® pullovers, monogrammed wall art, and countless Vera Bradley notebooks, pens, and organizers would have a special place in your 8 by 12-foot new home.
The only suitable literary accompaniment to such a well-organized room is a novel about a woman of class and stature: Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf. Just as you prepared the intimate details of your bedroom with a mind for its presentation to others, so is Clarissa Dalloway preparing to host a party in the evening. As the clock strikes closer to the hour of the engagement, you’ll find yourself increasingly enchanted by Mrs. Dalloway’s quiet distinctiveness.
It was clear from your college dorm room what you cared about, and exactly how much you cared about it. While other so-called fans were napping in their bland-sheeted beds, you were taping up posters and adjusting your portable Bluetooth speaker to max volume. Even when you napped, you were taking one for the team.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach is a novel for those who truly love the game, but are willing—from time to time—to explain it to their friends who can’t seem to remember what a pitch around is. If you love baseball, you’ll love this novel, and if you don’t love baseball, you’ll still get a fair degree of enjoyment out of it.
It’s not that you ~tried~ to decorate your dorm room, but you also didn’t not try. You have an obsession with aesthetic that others can’t quite match, but that’s not a problem—it means you get plenty of oohs and ahhs when friends visit your room. Look at the size of that tapestry! Is that a collection of artisan coffee décor? Does it smell like smoke in here?
You need a book fitting with your room’s ambiance. Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong, with its flavoring of romance, memory, hunger, and melancholy, is the exact sort of poetry collection to stash on your shelf and mention, at key moments, with an air of careless familiarity.
When I say chic comfort, the emphasis may be more on comfort than chic, but come on, comfort is chic! Who isn’t trying to pile their bed with blankets and pillows, line their walls with low-level string lights, and burn the blue candle they smuggled past their RA dangerously close to their furry ottoman cube?
When your style is napping, it can be hard to get into a story that isn’t Netflix. But sometimes something quiet and laidback is exactly what you need. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey is the nonfiction recount of Elisabeth’s bedridden days, when she learned to marvel in the simple things: the life of a garden snail on her bedside table.
Okay, you’ll admit it: you didn’t try. Maybe you tried to try, but really, you didn’t try that hard. Midway through first semester you noticed that probably you should at least put a poster or something on the wall, but then you forgot this until the start of second semester and by that time the year was basically over so why fix it now?
When I recommend you read The Stranger by Albert Camus, it’s not that I’m telling you that you’re having an existential crisis, but really, who lives in a room for an entire year and can’t decorate even a little bit? Maybe you should have an existential crisis. Either way, Camus’s simple language and apathetic protagonist will appeal to a person of your indifference to decorating.