Academic Books Don't Have To Be Boring - Classics To Read While Stuck Inside

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

There's a huge misconception that classic novels are incredibly difficult, hefty books that seem impossible to start. However, after reading my fair share whilst studying English literature at university, I want to assure you that this isn't the case. Don't get me wrong, there have been some books that have felt absolutely unbeatable and I've had to battle through them (although I won't name and shame), but there have been quite a lot that I've thoroughly enjoyed and that will appeal to people who don't study English. Since we all have a bit too much time on our hands lately, it's the perfect opportunity to delve into a book you might not otherwise commit to, so here are my recommendations for academic books (or books that I've studied in my degree) that are worth picking up. Just note that I've studied a lot of novels over the past 2 years of my degree, so there are definitely many others that I enjoyed, but I've managed to narrow it down to 6 that I think you'll like.

The book - Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
The course - Writing, Identity and Nation
I've mentioned this book on my blog before, but it's too good to not include in this post as well! I really enjoy it when my university incorporates some more modern texts onto the syllabus, and this 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction winner definitely earned its place. If you're interested in hearing about the process of radicalisation on the vulnerable and isolated, as well as the conflicts of being a Muslim living in Britain, this book is one that you need to read.

The book - Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The course - World Literatures
This autobiographical graphic novel is completely unique in its moving, retrospective depiction of a child growing up in Iran. I'll be honest, graphic novels have never really appealed to me, but this one had me completely hooked and I couldn't put it down. It gives you a glance into Iranian culture and Marjane's adolescent experiences in a hilarious yet tear-inducing way, and it won't fail to make you question your own privileges and experiences.

The book - Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The course - Literature and History
This is an extremely clever and detailed dystopian novel that has strong connections to Fordism and the economic crisis of the 30s, making it an incredibly interesting vision of the future whilst also preserving a moment in our past. I found this novel fascinating from cover to cover, and you'll particularly enjoy it if you're interested in ideas of state control, technological advancements and genetic manipulation.

The book - Disappearance by David Dabydeen
The course - Literature and History
I absolutely adored reading this novel and the lyrical impulses of Dabydeen's work, despite it being one of the more lesser-known books on the course. It centres around a Guyanese engineer working on the coast of England whilst staying with an elderly woman, and offers some fantastic images of Englishness and the legacies of empire, as well as the disappearance of past experiences and memories. It isn't very plot-focused but if you're someone who can appreciate beautifully crafted writing like myself then you need to read this.

The book - A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
The course - English Literature Tutorials
Although Virginia Woolf is incredibly famous for her novels, it was this non-fiction text that completely blew me away more than any other piece of her work. After spending a majority of my school life studying male authors and masculinised novels, it was very eye-opening to read Woolf's prose about the erasure of women in history and the social and material conditions required for women to write literature. If you're interested in gender politics then I'd definitely recommend reading this, but I also think it's beneficial for everyone to read as it completely changed my perspective on the intrinsic misogyny within and surrounding literature.

The book - Gifted by Nikita Lalwani
The course - Writing, Identity and Nation
Gifted follows a young maths prodigy who struggles to manage this talent alongside the expectations and restrictions of her family, all whilst trying to grapple with her identity as a British-Indian. Out of all of the novels that I have studied, I have never felt so immersed and embedded in the story, and despite being from a completely different background than Rumi I felt as though I was living through her struggles. It's ultimately a story of endurance and how far someone can or is willing to go, and it's definitely a novel that is worth making time for.

I hope you enjoyed this post and that I've inspired you to pick up a book that you might not have otherwise considered. Like I said, I've studied many more novels in university and could easily compile another post like this one, if that's something you'd like to see!

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