So considering my degree lies solely around reading and most of my followers out there probably also love reading (because why else would you have a blog?), I thought why not compile a list of all the books I’ve read so far for uni and what I think of them. Looking back at this semester, it’s actually crazy how much I’ve read. Compared to school, where I literally had no time to read, I’ve now read about 10x the amount of books I would normally have got through. Yes, they haven’t been texts of my choice, but I’m surprised how much of them I genuinely enjoyed – whoever chose them, picked well!
It would be hard to compile this list into some sort of ordered structure – I think there’s too many to be able to put them from best to worst – however I think through my comments it will be obvious which ones particularly stood out to me.
- The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley – This was the first book I read for the course. As I was reading it, I remember thinking it was pretty boring – nothing much happened and it was pretty uneventful. However, after completing it, I actually kind of liked it. It’s one of those books that once you grasp a particular concept or idea you like and analyse it to its depth, it suddenly makes the book 10x more interesting. This made writing the essay pretty fun, but I can’t say I’d ever reread the book.
- The Book of the Duchess by Chaucer – Overcoming the initial language barrier in this book is pretty overwhelming at first! I’d never read Chaucer before so the fact that there was no standardised spelling and every word was pretty much written however it wanted to be written, it was difficult to make sense of. I can’t say I was a massive fan even after understanding it, but it was interesting to read something different for a change.
- The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd – This play pleasantly surprised me! Looking at the cover, it really did look boring not gonna lie, but as I read it it reminded me so much of Othello and I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much. Of course, Kyd didn’t take it lightly when it came to killing off characters at the end, but I liked the idea of it being a play within a play.
- Politics and English Language by George Orwell – This is actually an essay but I genuinely found it so interesting. It made me think a lot about how we use words and how a lot of the time we use them out of habit rather than out of meaning. Orwell discusses the way, in politics particularly, how speeches are repeated and yet their purpose has just diminished and become simply lazy. It made me think a lot about my essay style and how we become accustomed to using block phrases such as ‘it is interesting to debate’ and ‘one may argue that’ when really these have become unnecessary. It was a very thoughtful read.
- The Description of a New World Called the Blazing World (extracts) by Margaret Cavendish – This text was really interesting because it was the only known work of utopian fiction in the 17th century and arguably an example of what we now call “proto-science fiction”. I really liked the philosophical approach, despite it being pretty confusing at parts (there was a lot of body swapping going on) and I enjoyed writing an essay in reference to its proto-feminism.
- Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett – This is a very short play that simply revolves around a man sitting at a desk playing back cassette tapes and yet I really enjoyed it. There was something about the way it was written and the way he spoke and was presented that made it seem so real and raw. It’s quite a strange text but I think it wholly encapsulated his depressed state of mind and I loved it for this.
- Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas DeQuincey – This was a bit of a weird book to be honest. I’m not entirely sure whether I liked it or not. It was interesting to get into DeQuincey’s state of mind, but at the same time he was just such an unlikable and arrogant character. Due to it being a book of reflection, nothing much really happened and I just felt like it was lacking something.
- Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky – ahhh this is 100% my favourite book I’ve read this semester! I don’t know why, because it’s such a weird and uneventful book, but I just feel like the narrator’s ramblings about life and mentality and truth are just so interesting and also relatable. There’s some particular lines in the book which really resonate with me and got me thinking a lot about the world, so much so that there’s no way I could write down all my thoughts on it right here, so within the next few weeks I’ll hopefully be putting up a separate post. For now, I’m actually really enjoying writing my final essay on this text! And I’ll definitely be reading some more Dostoevsky in the future.
- The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West – It’s pretty weird that this one showed up on my module list because I studied WW1 for English Literature A Level and as a homework we had to find an extract and I took an extract from this very book! I hadn’t read it in its entirety before, but I’d analysed a particular section in depth so I had a basic understanding of it. Whilst the language in this novella is pretty simple, I think it really works and I love the descriptions of nature and colour. The notion of ‘returning’ physically and mentally is also really interesting to analyse.
As well as these texts, we’ve also read quite a bit of poetry (Ozymandias, Dunt, etc.); short stories (by Virginia Woolf, Ian McEwan, etc.) and a lot of criticism and historiographical material, but apart from that these were the main texts we studied and as you can see from my reviews, I really did enjoy the majority of them!
If I had to pick my favourites, it would probably be those that made me think beyond the book and those that I would say changed my thinking in some way or another. Therefore I would choose Notes from the Underground, Krapp’s Last Tape and Orwell’s Essay.
If you’ve read any of the books mentioned, let me know! I’d love to discuss them 🙂