I think my lecturers would be surprised to know I am writing this post and the fact I loved my degree. I was very lucky that I picked the right university for me, and incredibly lucky to have so many lecturers who are specialists in their fields to teach me. Unfortunately, due to outside factors, I wasn’t the best student and often had to return home to help my family out with issues which occurred. But despite everything, I was introduced to some amazing books due to my degree, that I know will stay with me for the rest of my life. Because of this, I thought it would be great to write a post about all the books which I adored throughout my time at university.
I cannot believe that my first-year started almost three years ago now! Time really does flies and I still can’t believe that I am now officially a university graduate… That is kinda scary.
Anyway, during my first year, I undertook six modules (we didn’t get a choice in them at all) but out of those six, I was introduced to three books that I still think about and go back to now. The first book which became a favourite was Ovid’s The Metamorphasis which was actually my introduction to classics as I’ve never really studied them before. I adored this class and remember always looking forward to it on a Tuesday in the really cold rooms upstairs. I think the reason I loved The Metamorphoses was because it was one of my first classes that I didn’t feel lost in and I actually met one of my closest friends from university in that class. It was so interesting and having the opportunity to do a creative assignment from one of the stories was something I loved (especially when I got my first 2:1 grade from that piece).
Now, when I went to university I would say the spectrum of books I read from was quite limited and often I stuck to what I liked which meant I felt like I was one of the few people on my course to never have read Kazuo Ishiguro or Margaret Atwood before the start of the course. However, both authors were quickly brought to my attention with Never Let Me Go appearing in my first semester and The Edible Woman in my second. Both novels were really impactful to me and challenged my thought process and how I engaged with different themes. Never Let Me Go deals with cloning and organ donation to the extreme and the morality of those extremities, topics which really interested me whenever I got to study them in science at school. While The Edible Woman which was the first published novel by Margaret Atwood considers the loss of identity, an analysis of gender politics and roles along with disassociation. It was the first of Margaret Atwood’s novels that I had ever read and despite being interested in reading more by her it is only since leaving university have I returned to her work – recently finishing The Handmaid’s Tale.
In my second year, I choose after a year of living in halls to move back home and commute for the year to and from university, one hour each way, on the train. For me, at the time it was a good decision as I am quite fond of trains and that hour period gave me the opportunity to give me time to read either the books or secondary reading I had to do for the week. Though, admittedly some books for fun often slipped into my allotted reading time – Nevermoor being one such book!
Anyway, the first book for the second year I encountered in one of my favourite modules that I took during my entire time at university which was called ‘Adaptations’. It was simply a fantastic module which once again forced me to read authors that I had not encountered before but also challenged how I engage with television and film that has been adapted from a book. Particularly Micheal Cunningham’s novel, The Hours which I adored. I feel in love with this triple narrative that focused on three different women and how a single novel can connect them all. It was incredible and being given the opportunity to study and consider it’s adapted counterpart was enlightening; particularly when considering how the stream of consciousness narrative is translated onto the screen. This module completely changed my perception of how books can be translated onto the screen and gave me so much to think about. Also, this module was one of the few were both assessments came out with a good 2:1 marks and was a module which made me feel more confident in my abilities.
With my second semester came my personal chaos in my private life which wreaked havoc with my studies – something I was very reluctant to admit to my lecturers, so I just like to say to anyone struggling personally while attending university DO NOT DO WHAT I DID AND TELL SOMEONE.
However, despite all that was going on in my personal life I still found two outstanding novels with I connected with and ended up focusing my assignments on them. First was for my Conflicting Words module were we were introduced to Rena’s Promise which is an incredible memoir of a woman named Rena Kornreich Gelissen who was one of the first women imprisoned in Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. I found this memoir incredibly impactful, I learn so much because of this book that I didn’t care what grade I achieved because of how much impact it had on me. If you haven’t read this and are interested in world war two memoirs then this is one that you must read!
I think my second year had the most variety in terms of different types of books which I loved, there was a contemporary, a memoir and also a science fiction/post-apocalyptic novel too which was Station Eleven by Emily St.John Mandel. Quite a popular and recent release at the time, I was unsure of going into the novel as the narrative was split between different narrators and into before and after the apocalypse. With a variety of characters that you are never entirely sure how they connect, being able to see the links and ties begin to form was increasingly satisfying. I loved being introduced to Emily St.John Mandel’s writing style and am determined to pick up her other novels now and see how they compare.
I think there was something about my second semesters during university as something always occurred in my personal life and unfortunately my third year was not an exception. This time though, I actually went to my lecturers and admitted I was struggling and that I really needed help and I got some unbelievable support from my lecturers. I honestly think I would have dropped out if it wasn’t for them. As I mentioned before, pre-university I had not studied the plays of Shakespeare that are normally studied in school and that was the same with A Streetcar Named Desire which I had never ever studied before. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this and watched several amateur performances on Youtube, I found it to be quite thought-provoking especially concerning the character of Blanche. I became quite intrigued by her and her behaviours – she was an excellent study because there was so much to analysis!
Have you read any of these before? What were your favourite books from your degree or school?