Do I Need Every Book On My Initial Booklist?

Many young students that simply want to start off on the right foot needlessly spend hundreds of dollars to fill out a booklist that is a fairly useless document.  The short answer is that you almost certainly do not need every book on your booklist.  Textbooks are a major money pit for most students, so anything you can do to lessen that burden means more money for shenanigans!

Who Decides Which Books Make “The List”?

In order to understand why you have a booklist that is 8-10 books long when you will actually only need one or two of them, you need to understand how those lists are generated.  The vast majority of planning for universities gets done in the spring.  This is when most professors are asked what books will be needed for their courses over the next year.  If not spring, then in early summer, so that administration can input those lists into your student account and you can race off like a good little student to the campus bookstore to pay the not-so-little mark-up that the school knows and loves.  At the time most professors are asked to provide booklists for the following year they are knee-deep in year-end essays and exams.  There is a ton of pressure on them to get final grades out in a timely manner, and they also have to continue the activities for which they truly get paid such as research and sitting on various committees.  If they aren’t slogging their way through these activities they are planning the trips they are about to take on their sabbatical and are just as anxious to see their last day as many of their students are.  Does this sound like someone who wants to put a lot of thought and consideration into a booklist for a course that won’t begin for several months?

Instead of putting themselves in their debt-ridden students’ shoes many professors (not all) will often throw in a bunch of books that they might pull from throughout the course.  Obviously as the course gets closer and progresses they will pare the list down.  Likely any of the books they throw on the list will be fine and provide you with supplemental reading if you want to try and jump from that A to A+, but most of them you won’t need to do well.  In my experiences, most courses have one or two main texts that will be highlighted on the first day in class, and the rest will fit into this supplemental reading category that 99% of students will never look at, and will sell back to the bookstore (still in shrink wrap) for 10-30% of what they paid for it.  From a professor’s point of view, it isn’t a big deal if you buy these “extra” books because they are good resources that contain information on their subject area.  If you have met a professor who does not think that information in their subject area is THE most important thing in the universe I’d love to meet them.

This Author Behind This Book Is Particularly Brilliant…

Oftentimes many of the books that are tacked on in addition to the main text of a course are ones that are authored by the professor, a friend of theirs, or someone in their faculty.  Hey, I’d promote myself too if I went through the trouble of writing a book that no one really wanted to read.   Professors will tell you that they don’t make much money per book (and they don’t), but it all adds up and they have student loans to pay off as well!  Also, wouldn’t you want to show off to your students if you wrote a book?  Talk about an easy way to gain authority!

Save Your Money… Beer Prices Aren’t Going Down Afterall

If you are a humanities student, several books that are on your list will be needed for a single assignment (if at all).  Make sure and check around to see if you can get them second hand, on Amazon, at the library or even rent them.  Often, only one chapter or section is required from these books and while I want to make it clear that I in no way encourage copyright infringement I have saw several financially-savvy students make liberal use of a photocopier in order to save a fair amount of coin over the years.

For more tips like this one on how to save money in an area no student wants to spend more on than they have to, check out our article: 10 Way To Save Your Money From The Textbook Blackhole

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11 years ago

Maybe it’s because I did an arts degree, or maybe it’s just my experience, but the first few years at university I would be every single book needed for the course only to find out near the end of it that we didn’t even touch some of them. In my last year of school I didn’t buy one book, and just checked them out of the library if I needed to and I did just fine. I also made sure to always sell my books once the course was done.

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