4 books to help you develop useful life skills

photo of Talk Like Ted book
Vaidehi Bulusu/Staff

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One of the things I’ve always looked forward to about coming to college is being independent. However, the independence that college affords comes with its own costs. From managing your own finances to building self-discipline, there’s a lot you have to figure out by yourself. Learning certain essential skills will make your college life easier and help you achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself. Reading books is a great way to build skills! Check out these four books that will help you learn skills that you’ll use throughout your life! 

Focus: “Deep Work” by Cal Newport

College is full of commitments, including academics, extracurricular activities and work. On top of that, you’ll want to make time for friends while maintaining some semblance of physical and mental health. Juggling all of these things is quite the challenge, which is why the ability to focus is especially important. Being able to focus intensely on the task at hand allows you to get more done in the same amount of time. “Deep Work” is the perfect book for guidance on improving your focus. It talks about how developing the practice of regularly performing deep work – work performed in a state of high concentration and a distraction-free environment – will help you improve the quality of your work as well as get more done. You’ll also find actionable tips on how to develop this practice.

Investing: “Invested” by Danielle and Phil Town 

Managing your finances is a crucial skill you’ll have to develop in college. The topics that are typically covered under the banner of personal finance by books, articles and videos are saving, budgeting and dealing with debt. While learning how to do these things is extremely important, an aspect of personal finance that isn’t talked about enough is investing (specifically, investing in the stock market). College is a great time to learn about investing, as it allows you to start early. A book I think is ideal for investing beginners is “Invested.” It’s a mix of Danielle Town’s anecdotes — she talks about her journey of overcoming her fear of putting money in the stock market and learning to invest — and financial advice. One of the things I enjoyed about this book was the emphasis on investing in companies whose mission you genuinely support.

Public speaking: “Talk Like TED” by Carmine Gallo

Whether you are presenting a project in front of 400 fellow students for a class or giving an election speech for a board position at a club, there are several situations where you may have to exercise your public speaking skills as a college student. Having good verbal communication skills will also give you an edge in your internship or job search, as these skills are highly valued by employers. A book that can help you in your journey into becoming a confident public speaker is “Talk Like TED.” In this book, Carmine Gallo offers nine tips for delivering an excellent presentation, having analyzed hundreds of TED talks and interviewed top TED speakers and researchers. 

Learning: “A Mind for Numbers” by Barbara Oakley

As a college student, you are constantly learning things and pushed to step outside your academic comfort zone. You’ll be required to take advanced courses for your major and even courses outside your major. This is why having strong learning skills is especially important in college. These skills are also crucial outside of the classroom in order to perform well at work and develop hobbies. “A Mind for Numbers” offers strategies for effective learning to help you master difficult material. Despite the title, the advice offered in the book is not just useful for learning math, but also any subject. 

Whichever skill you want to learn, you’ll probably be able to find a book that can help. You can go a long way in your personal development journey by committing just 15 minutes a day to a book of your choice. Perhaps most importantly, make sure to actually apply what you’re reading!

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