Tuesday 20 November 2012

Whilst taking some photographs for the Queen Mary Literature Society for a new poster, I thought I'd take pictures of some of my favourite books that I've got at university with me. I find that as I study English, so much of my time is spent reading novels, essays and criticism that I spend barely any time at all reading for 'fun'. My idea of fun reading now is my Art History work, or somehow enjoying my set texts! I was the kind of kid that would go to the library, take out twelve books (or as many as I could carry without my mum having to help) and be back in a week's time to do it again. I'm trying to get back into reading as a past time, but there's just so many things to distract me! From top to bottom:

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
The classic dystopian tale - a world of predetermined population, destiny, desire and control - which takes its name from a passage of my favourite Shakespeare play, The Tempest.

Jose Saramago, Blindness
The story of social breakdown when a mystery illness causes widespread blindness is slightly strangely written (some people find its off-kilter punctuation trying!) but is deeply affective.

Jeanette Winterson, The Stone Gods
A post-apocalyptic love-story exploring the possibilities and dangers of technology, and the future it might bring. Will humans ever learn from their mistakes?

Jeffrey Euginedes, The Virgin Suicides
A favourite of cutesy teenagers all over, but still one of my favourites in terms of Euginides' beautiful turn of phrase and descriptive power.

Sylvia Plath, Ariel
Not strictly a 'novel' but a wonderful collection of poems (and one of the most famous) of Plath's. This version is the very different, original selection of poetry made by Plath herself, rather than the original released in 1965 - that selection was made by her husband, Ted Hughes - and that story is the subject of one of my favourite university essays.

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Another favourite of dreamy teenagers (of which I'm sadly no longer included) is Lolita (not to be associated with the Japanese-based trend!) featuring one of the most illicit love affairs in literature.

Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
One of the first novels that truly blew me away in ages, A Clockwork Orange's bizarre slang and 'ultraviolence' made for great, though initially challenging, reading - as well as a terrifying film and years worth of fairly easy Halloween costumes.

Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
The world-famous neuroscientist with a history of drug experimentation details some of the most unusual cases of neurological nature in his decades-long career. Despite it being a 'scientific' book which might put you off initially when having to look up neuroscience terms, it's really entertaining and fascinating.

Stephen Pinker, The Language Instinct
A linguist explores the way that humans seem to instinctively pick up communication techniques, the 'language instinct' and the ideas of a 'universal grammar' as well as challenging some of our grammatical conventions.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Memories of My Melancholy Whores
Like Lolita, this short novel deals with another illicit relationship, but one with a slightly more unpredictable and even touching outcome.

Nevil Shute, On the Beach
'This is the way the world ends | Not with a bang but a whimper' (T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men). In post-war Australia, a family await the arrival of deadly nuclear fall-out on their beaches.

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber
Often hailed as a book of 'fairy tales for adults', Carter's re-writings of classic folk tales allow the classics to take on - or regain? - a sinister edge.

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
Due to studying this novel on my A-level course, I spent years telling anyone and everyone how much I hated Stevens and how Ishiguro's style annoyed me beyond belief, whilst realising to myself that the tiresome butler had won my heart with his emotional uselessness and misplaced work ethic.

Alice Walker, The Colour Purple
A heartbreakingly beautiful novel concerned with the lives of black women in the 1930's, the power of friendship and bravery, difficult relationships and a non-traditional faith in God.

E.M Forster, Howards End
Another A-level book which I initially found insufferable, but through analysis, thousands of words and repeated readings found a fondness for. Phrases on the wonder of railway stations and the necessity of 'connecting' still drift through my head when I think of it.

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
The well known dystopian tale forsees a terrifying future under the rule of an Old-Testament style hierarchy, where women are reduced to categories including 'Handmaids', concubines used to produce children for the ruling class as the birth rate declines.


  1. You've picked some really awesome books! I know what you mean about reading for fun; I can't wait for my next break!

    I'm currently using The Color Purple for a piece on female empowerment. It's a really interesting read!

  2. I really want to read Lolita and a clockwork orange! I really need to get up on my reading! I'm bookmarking this list to go back to when I'm in need for a read :)

  3. What a steller list. & I'll forgive the inclusion of Angela Carter (one of my pet hates left over from A Level English) for Jose Saramago. You should read his other one, The Double, the twist at the end is like insane & I find his writing style easier as you get into the book.