Required reading

A quick education on getting an education

How to be a Person: The Stranger's Guide to College, Sex, Intoxicants, Tacos and Life Itself

by Lindy West, Dan Savage, Christopher Frizzelle, Bethany Jean Clement and the Staff of The Stranger

Sasquatch, $16.95, 250 pp.

The all-purpose guide to your formative years, or, should you come to this later, reformative years. With Dan "Savage" Love and his colleagues from Seattle's The Stranger explaining this, you might guess that sex looms large among the other topics — and you'd be right. The guide to regions of the United States gets six pages. Sex and dating in general get 15, being gay gets nine, sleeping with your professor gets six, and a grab-bag of Savage Love-style questions gets 50, etc. But if you take to Savage Love's sass-with-a-conscience, you'll find no better one-stop guide to ... well, life itself. 


A lot of heterosexual men get very angry when women don't look the way they think women "should" look. But guess what? "Should" is not a thing. Women's bodies are none of your business. What women weigh is none of your business. Women's body hair is none of your business. What women wear is none of your business. Whether or not women want to fuck you is none of your business, unless they do want to fuck you, in which case you should go for it (high-five!). 

10 Things Employers Want You to Learn in College: The Skills You Need to Succeed

by Bill Coplin

Ten Speed Press, $14.99, 

304 pp.

There may be only 10, but they're whoppers, big character items that you won't get in any one class: taking responsibility, developing physical skills (even, yes, legible handwriting), learning to communicate verbally and in writing, working well with people. After you get those big 10, you'll come to advice on 38 narrower skills such as learning software programs beyond Word and Excel, developing in-depth knowledge about something, capitalizing on sports skills, etc. The author is a faculty member and administrator at Syracuse University and cites extensive interviews with employers, recruiters and the like in developing this newly revised edition. 


Talking to groups means presenting and listening to any number of people, ranging from a few to thousands! The technique that you use will vary depending on the size and the group setting, but they are essentially different from one-on-one conversations. You will not be able to maintain eye contact with everyone in the group or ask questions about mutual understanding when speaking to a group. Successful group presentations require careful organization and specific ways to find out whether you are getting your message across. ... 

Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution

by Jon Friedman

Berkley Publishing Group, $15, 232 pp.

It's the 50th anniversary of "Blowing in the Wind," and Dylan — like the Beatles and the Stones, Motown, etc. — is virtually an academic industry. Check your course guide and see if you can find Dylanology 101 making the lad from Hibbing part of the grand sweeps of literature or social history. In contrast, Media Web columnist Jon Freidman's take on what makes Dylan Dylan and Dylan a success reads almost like a self-help book. He wants to liberate your inner Dylan. And for all the advice and admonitions in Dylan's songs ("May you stay forever young ... You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows ... To stay outside the law, you must be honest ..." etc.), Freidman takes cues from the poetry to turn Dylan into prosaic advice.


This is one of the most difficult things any of us can do: take control of our lives and change our destinies. It seems so much easier to let someone else — a family member, a boss, a business manager, an agent, a financial planner — make the tough decisions for us. Dylan had done that for years but decided, as he later said in a 1974 interview with Rolling Stone, that the "leeches" in his life had played a part in creating a vicious circle of stress for him. 

Several short sentences 

about writing

Verlyn Klinkenborg

Knopf, $22, 210 pp.

This wouldn't be our first recommendation for getting you through the hundreds of thousands of words you'll need to write to get through four-or-so undergrad years. More basic suggestions would include E.B. White's classic Elements of Style, Karen Elizabeth Gordon's The New Well-Tempered Sentence and The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, Bruce Ross-Laron's Edit Yourself and (for those who feel a little muddle-headed, fess up, it's OK) Rudolf Flesch's How to Write, Speak and Think More Effectively. But once you've got a sense of how to write for profs, you might start to think about whether there's more to writing. The New York Times' Verlyn Klinkenborg thinks there is, and that he can help you: "I had to overcome my academic training, which taught me to write in a way that was useless to me (and almost everyone else). Unlearning what I learned in college — teaching myself to write well — is the basis of what I know."


You know how to theorize and summarize,

How to indentify ideologies in the texts you read.

You do very well on the reading comprehension portion of the test.

But no one said a word about following a trail of common sense

Through the underbrush of the sentences themselves.

No one explained the whole life of the language

Lies in the solidity of the sentences and cannot be extracted. 

F My Life World Tour: Life's Crappiest Moments from Around the World

by Maxime Valette, Gaullaume Passaglia and Didier Guedj

Berkley Publishing Group, $15, 197 pp.

This successor to the earlier F My Life, which in turn was a spin-off from the website, doesn't exactly teach or advise. It does help you put your woes — and there will be woes — in context.


Today I went to a secluded mountain my boyfriend took me to for our first date. As I saw another couple hooking up in the bushes, I phoned my boyfriend to tell him someone found our secret spot. His Bob Marley ringtone started playing from the bush. FML 

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