The YUBlog Book Guide to University Success Part 1

Posted by Megan on April 30, 2015

Journey to the Centre of York

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Truer words have never been spoken. Image Source.

Adjusting to university life is no easy feat for many students, and that’s completely OK. The important thing is for students to know where they can find the resources to enhance their academic skill set. York offers many supports for current students, but for those high-school students who want to learn how to achieve success at university, another great option exists.

Reading books is one of the best ways to get started, and since there are only four months until your first year begins, I thought I’d compile a list of influential books to help you prepare in advance.

#1 – Becoming a Master Student by Dave Ellis

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This amazing book could easily be the academic bible for the everyday student. I purchased it in my second year of university after facing a number of academic and mental struggles. With its help I was able to become a successful student, raising my GPA: instead of failing, I got grades high enough to transfer to York to study Psychology.

Becoming a Master Student is divided into chapters based on various important student skills and is full of tips, techniques and exercises. As a result, the book is slightly different for every student who uses it. You’ll find chapters titled “Discovering Yourself,” “Time”, “Memory”, “Reading”, “Notes”, “Tests”, “Thinking”, “Communicating”, “Diversity”, “Money”, “Health”, and “Next Steps.” The best part: you’ll learn and think about important skills that are also useful to your future careers!

I really enjoyed the fact that the authors tailored the book to individual readers, offering resources to help students figure out their own learning preferences and strengths, as well as on how to improve their weakest skills. Chapters offer a variety of content, ranging from personality quizzes to useful illustrations and research-approved tips for success, so that students can practice and discover what works best for them.

Note: this book is considered a textbook, so it is definitely the priciest work on this list, but I promise it’s worth it! To save money, why not look for a used copy or an e-book version? Just keep in mind that if it’s a used book you might want to check that your find doesn’t have the exercises all filled out already.

#2 – Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

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One thing I’ve found about transitioning to university is that it often takes longer for us quiet folk to thrive. Introverts often need more time to feel comfortable in new environments, and with so many people on campus, it can be intimidating to start connecting. Which is why reading this book changed my life — Quiet taught me to value my introversion as a strength, not through pep talk, but backed up by scientific research and interesting case studies. Don’t let the science scare you, though; this book is an enjoyable and worthwhile read!

“An intriguing and potentially life-altering examination of the human psyche that is sure to benefit both introverts and extroverts alike.”
—Kirkus, Starred Review

Cain’s prose makes for a pleasant read, and with its low price (easily found for under $10), it’s a steal. Quiet not only highlights introverts’ many skills but also values them, letting you know that if  you do the same, you can use these skills to your advantage, even in environments you might find challenging (for example, in public speaking).

#3 – Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life by Gregg Levoy

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I added this book to my must-read list after I received a recommendation from my amazing LeaderShape mentor, Mandi Hickman. While I haven’t had a chance to read it just yet, I personally find the idea of living an authentic life highly attractive. I believe I share this attraction with many students graduating high school and working towards their next steps in life. So many different paths lie before us, with numerous pressures coaxing us to one or another direction as we come into adulthood, not only internally but from parents, friends and society as well. Callings is a book for those yearning to find not just a successful path but a fulfilling path for themselves.

Here is what a reviewer on Publisher’s Weekly had to say about Callings:

“A ‘calling’ may not come in the form of a booming voice from the sky, complete with lightning flashes and claps of thunder. Levoy, a workshop leader and adjunct professor of journalism at the University of New Mexico, suggests that callings are in fact everywhere, waiting to be heard and acted upon. Through informal yet encouraging anecdotes and advice, Levoy guides readers to recognize and pursue their callings in work, relationships, lifestyle choices and service to others.

For Levoy, realizing one’s own potential and awakening to callings makes it possible to do virtually anything, from quitting one’s job to saving the whales. Not doing so, he claims, can lead to maladies from restlessness and depression to physical illness: ‘We cannot refuse with impunity.’ In the crowded field of books about letting go and listening to the heart, Levoy’s guidance and encouragement reward those willing to lend an ear to their conscience.”

#4 – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

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Another book I have added to my must-read list was recommended by my fellow student Diana Sheikhman. Carnegie’s well-known tome was actually first published in 1936 — and has since sold more than 15 million copies! This book has inspired some criticisms, such as the fact that at times the advice comes off as insincere and too “schmoozy”, but I still think there might be something to learn here, particularly in the areas of confidence, networking and public speaking. At least that’s why I plan on reading How to Win Friends and Influence People.

What do others think? Here’s an excerpt from a review on Amazon by Joan Price:

“This grandfather of all people-skills books was first published in 1937. It was an overnight hit, eventually selling 15 million copies. How to Win Friends and Influence People is just as useful today as it was when it was first published, because Dale Carnegie had an understanding of human nature that will never be outdated.

Financial success, Carnegie believed, is due 15 percent to professional knowledge and 85 percent to ‘the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.’ He teaches these skills through underlying principles of dealing with people so that they feel important and appreciated. He also emphasizes fundamental techniques for handling people without making them feel manipulated. Carnegie says you can make someone want to do what you want them to by seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view and ‘arousing in the other person an eager want.’

You learn how to make people like you, win people over to your way of thinking, and change people without causing offense or arousing resentment. For instance, ‘let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers,’ and ‘talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.’ Carnegie illustrates his points with anecdotes of historical figures, leaders of the business world, and everyday folks.”

Other Books

Of course many other fantastic books exist, which is why Part 2 of this post will be coming soon.

In the meantime, I’m going to hand the baton to you, dear readers: What books would you recommend because they have helped you be better students, find greater success or learn more about yourself? What books are missing from this list? Let us know by commenting below, on Facebook or by tweeting to @yorkustudents.



Megan is a third-year Psychology student. Follow her on her journey of self-development as she explores and ventures through campus.

See other posts by Megan

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