Since it's about that time of year...
I know it's been quite a long time since I've written you a letter, a dereliction of duty that should have me sent back to the lowest pre-tempter stage. Nevertheless, I've been moved to write by the question posed by Prof. Smith over at the Conglomerate: if I could recommend one book for you, dearest Wormwood, what would it be?
While I gave you some recommendations last year, it certainly wasn't in the context of one book to read before you begin. And I disagree with many of the suggestions given so far. I tried, for instance, reading Glannon on Civil Procedure (suggested by Prof. Kerr) before arriving at Columbia, but while that is an excellent pre-exam study tool, it's not very gripping. Unless Civ Pro is really your thing--and maybe it is--it'll be a hard slog to force your way through. I haven't read Prof. Smith's suggestion of Simple Justice, so I can't comment on that.
But for my money--and yours, dear Wormwood, because I'm afraid I can't be buying books for you--I couldn't suggest anything better than what was recommended to me by one commentor on TYoH when I asked this question way back in the day. And that book would be Chirelstein's primer on Contracts. It's a good overview of what will almost certainly be one of your core 1L courses, while the text is engaging and won't make you feel like you're lost while reading it. As such it's a good cure for both the pre-1L jitters and an enjoyable little tome for a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Well, it certainly didn't do me much harm.