As we’re all literature finalists our reading patterns will soon change. After exams, we’ll have a summer solely to read what we want, rather than reading for next year’s modules. Here’s a round-up of what we’re looking forward to.
Connie: Reading through other worlds
Before term began, I went to Waterstones, armed with book vouchers (the most perfect of gifts, no?) to prepare some literary encouragement to get through final year. My choices are all relatively ‘easy reads’, but they’re what I’ve missed: books I want to spend time reading rather than say I have read.
Last year, I devoured Murakami’s Norwegian Wood in they days after exams. It’s a completely perfect book, but it was possibly not the best treatment for a revision-stricken student: it sent my emotions all over the place! To prevent the same from happening, my first choices are funny (the kind of jokes you get straightaway not after checking the dictionary, thanks Chaucer). Andy Weir’s The Martian and Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, with their respective spacy and Discworld fun, should be the pick-me-up necessary for post-exam fervour.
Next there’s The Earthsea Quartet which I’m especially excited for. Up to now, my only encounter with Ursula Le Guin is a short story used to illustrate terms for a narratology lecture. Earthsea is her fantasy epic: critically acclaimed and adored by fans. I don’t really know anything else about it other than there’s a wizards’ school. My edition has all four books in one copy, so, come the summer, I can plunge myself into a brand new fantasy world for 641 uninterrupted pages!
I’ve also got the second book of The Three Body Problem trilogy, The Dark Forest, ready and waiting. The first book blew my mind – despite shooting over it occasionally with hard-core science – and I’ve got it on good authority that book 2 (and book 3, come the translation) is of the same stuff, albeit even more staggering. It’s such an intricate story, that it’s impossible to attempt it without giving up everything else.
To sum up, I’m looking forward to reading my way through other worlds for a little while.
Cleo: Reading across genres
I too cannot wait to make a start on my ever-growing ‘Books To Read Post-Degree’ list. Near to the top of the list is Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman which I’ve specifically saved for post-degree life. My spark of passion to study English Literature was probably first ignited with To Kill A Mockingbird (cliché, I know), and so it seems fitting that I ‘end’ my literary education by coming full circle back to the author where it all began. I also wanted to read this once the hype had died down. I’ve cocooned myself away from all its media attention and avoided reading lengthy articles about it purely because I want to form my own thoughts first. Finally, I wanted to read this one without a highlighter and pencil in my hand! Though I don’t think the ‘student reader’ in me will ever be fully lost (and I wouldn’t want to lose her), I want to sit back and enjoy this one without overthinking it.
After this, I want to turn my attention to something a bit lighter. I am yet to read The Hunger Games series but I’ve been told that they make an ‘easy’ read despite the dark content, so I feel like they will offer a nice break from heavy classics.
Then I’d like to move away from the fictional world a bit and delve into a range of different books. I’d really like to have a go at reading A Brief History of Time, though I’m really not sure whether I’ll understand any of it (an arts student can try). Then I want to dabble in some philosophy if I’m feeling brave enough. My brother also bought me Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road for Christmas, so I’m looking forward to reading that. My list isn’t too strict, so we’ll see where this non-fiction fun takes me.
Finally, I think I shall make an attempt to go back and read all the ‘classics’ which I’m yet to take a stab at (confession of an English undergrad: I’ve not read Wuthering Heights!). One thing I know is that I’ll never complete my list because, knowing me, I will probably add two for every one that I cross off. I’m excited to read so freely though – and to feel one hundred percent not guilty about it!
Vicky: Reading with the times
Though it’s an odd thing to say, my reading habits are definitely somewhat dated: anything written before 1900 is brain fodder (hello, Charlotte Bronte!) and anything after I tend to dismiss as James Joyce-esque or Postmodernist. Naturally I have tried to avoid both, but recently I realised that an up-to-date view of what is happening in the literary world is extremely useful! Therefore for this year my reading resolutions are firmly planted in the twenty-first century.
At the top of my list is The Minaturist by Jessie Burton. Released last year, it has proved extremely popular and the premise- a girl trapped in a strange and loveless marriage in Amsterdam during the tulip craze- will hopefully enrich my knowledge of a time and place that I know very little about. For me, reading is about being absorbed in the story but also learning something as a result, so fingers crossed this should tick both boxes!
At the risk of continuing the historical theme, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is also on my list. Though the book was televised last year, the book promises to offer much more than five hours of television as we delve into the mind of Thomas Cromwell and explore his motivations, past and gradual rise to power through the ranks of the notorious Henry VIII’s court. I have always been fascinated by the glitz, glamour and underlying danger of the Tudor courts- an interest first sparked by Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl- and this promises to put a new spin on what I know. Thomas Cromwell’s actions have gone down in history as a masterclass in machination and opportunism so the chance to unravel more of what really happened will definitely be exciting. Of course, there’s also the whopping 700-page count…this might be one for the Easter holidays!
Finally, given the popularity of Sherlock, I thought I might have a stab (no pun intended!) at reading some crime dramas. Though I have read many of the Conan-Doyle stories, the torch has recently been picked up by Anthony Horowitz in House of Silk, which delves back into the sooty world of 1800s London with Sherlock and Watson. Reading the revamped books rather than the originals will be both fun and a way to put a fresh spin on the crime-solving duo that have been adapted, re-adapted and adapted again since they first appeared in literature. And as a bonus, the sequel focusses exclusively on Moriarty!
Though on reflection I realise that all my twenty-first century books have a solidly historical theme, I’m nevertheless looking forwards to reading my way through two or three centuries’ historical perspectives!