Hi, friends! I have never made a personal post, but today I have something very exciting to share with you!!! Just a few days ago, I got a reading list for one of the classes I’m taking this semester. And so I started to think of how cool it would be to do a recap of my university readings! Wouldn’t that be fun????
So, I want to start out by pointing out that I’m a lucky duckling who gets the amazing chance of going to university. In my country, bachelor’s degrees are three years long (six semesters) and I’m already halfway through! I have finished my third semester just a few weeks ago and I’m still enjoying all the time I have off until it’s time to go do some learning again!
So far, my experience has been so different from what I was expecting. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but sometimes I wish university was more… challenging? I don’t mean to imply that I’m crazy smart (I’m not!!!). But I wish I had access to more challenging lectures with longer reading lists that really push me out of my comfort zone. Maybe that wouldn’t be a good idea — who knows!! I think I’ll find out if I ever decide to get a Masters.
By the way, if you’re doing a degree related to literature, let me know what you read for these past semesters. I love knowing what other universities assign their students to read!
🌿 Now, a little about my degree!
I am getting a degree in Humanities with a major in North American Studies and a minor in Editing. (I will get another minor in my last year of university, but I’m still not sure which one to choose!) Given that maybe 50% of my degree is focused on literature, this means that, at the end of the day, I have a fair amount of required readings to do. Is it weird if I wish I had even more university readings???
These books I will be mentioning are just some of the books/works I’ve had to read for university. I was a dummy not to write them all down, but I’ll do better from now on!
Note: to see the books on Goodreads, click the images and they’ll redirect you!
Othello by William Shakespeare 🎓 My first-ever Shakespeare tragedy!!! I was scared to tackle this because of the language used, but I was so pleasantly surprised. I think it’s a great way to get into the tragedies since the plot is easy to follow. I read this play for a class on the study of cultures and really enjoyed it. It surely sparked a love in me for Shakespeare!
Hamlet by William Shakespeare 🎓 Would you look at that — another tragedy! I loved this one a lot more than Othello, but also had a harder time getting through it. We had an amazing lecturer for this class and he made me fall even more in love with Hamlet. I really want to reread this play, especially after having read it once and having watched the movie. The 1996 adaptation is amazing!
Sidereus Nuncios by Galileo Galilei 🎓 Admittedly, this is an odd title to be here. But it was actually one of the most engaging lectures I’ve attended. This short book, written by Galileo, compiles data collected by the scientist on his quest to prove that the earth is not the center of the universe and that it moves. The guest lecturer for this one session was a science historian — how cool was that???
Pygmallion by George Bernard Shaw 🎓 Another book we read for that culture class was this play by George Bernard Shaw. I adored it from the first page to the last. It was funny, had its serious moments, and I loved the commentary we extracted from this. I really like how my lecturer tied this amazing play with colonialism. It definitely made me think more about the plot!
A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen 🎓 The last play we read for that culture class was this one by Norwegian playwright Ibsen. I so wanted to love it, but I just found myself nodding along as everything played out. I did like the main character and can see how revolutionary she was for her times. And maybe I’m just being hard on this one… It probably warrants a reread.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison 🎓 The only full book I read for my 20th-century American History class was this classic and man did I love it! The writing style and the slow pace build an incredible atmosphere. The characters are all so complex and interesting to read about. I love what the writer did with all the symbolism and metaphors — they add so much depth to the novel. I’d say that it’s a must read!
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo 🎓 As our final project for my 20th-century American History class, we had to write a paper analyzing two cultural objects and comparing it to the time period when they were produced. I picked this novel I had never read and The Great Gatsby, my all-time favorite classic. As soon as I got familiar with the odd writing style, I couldn’t put this book down. The story is heartbreaking and there is so much to unpack. If you’re into anti-war novels, pick this one up!!!
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck 🎓 Although I h a t e d the class I had to read this novella for, I fell in love with Steinbeck’s writing. I adored the characters, the setting, and the building up of tension. It’s such a sad story (I admit, I cried at the end there) and I still think about it more often than I’d like. The tragedy that all the characters, in one way or another, face (even the dogs!!!) was set up perfectly.
Daisy Miller by Henry James 🎓 What a trainwreck of a novella. I could barely finish it. I’m blaming that on either the terrible descriptions of female characters or on the fact that the lecturer was an insufferable asshole. One or the other. But I really did not like how Winterborne described any of the female characters. For a book supposed to be so feminist (while still being from the 19th century), all the female characters were eye candy, dumb, or the object of desire. Blergh.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid 🎓 I really, really liked this novel! The writing style and the magical element of the doors are what make it a terrific read. Seriously, the writing style is the perfect mix between lyrical, flowery, and sober. I had to write an essay on this book, lead a close reading exercise, and deliver an oral presentation about Exit West, so I’m a liiiiittle fed up with it now. But if I weren’t, I’d definitely reread it!
Benito Cereno by Herman Melville 🎓 I was not expecting to love this book nearly as much as I did. This classic is unlike all others I’ve read. It creates a spooky atmosphere in which we start to second doubt all our intuitions. It doesn’t matter whether or not you know where the story you’re going (if you’ve seen enough horror movies, you’ll have a pretty clear idea) — the story is still phenomenal and keeps you at the edge of your seat.
“Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau 🎓 I really liked reading this essay. It’s one of the most memorable essays in political discourse in Western history, so of course it would be interesting! While I don’t agree with Thoreau on a few things (duh, I’m living in such a different time!), I can go back to this essay time and time again and not get bored of it.
“What Is An America?” by Hector St. John de Crèvecour 🎓 While this is just a short letter (you can read it here), this was one of the most interesting works I read this semester. I took a Colonial American History class and one of the works we touched upon was this one. Crèvecour, a naturalized American man, describes in a series of letters this new, elusive country being born. This one letter I highlighted goes over the spirit and character of the newly forged American man. If you’re interested in American history, make sure to read this quick letter.
“The Poet” (here), “The American Scholar” (here) and “Self Reliance” (here) by Ralph Waldo Emerson 🎓 Emerson was an author whose works we read for both my literature and history classes. And while I think his writing is somewhat hard to get into at first, as soon as you get the hang of it, you will adore him. I know I did! After seeing so much of his work reflected on my personality, I want to keep reading more of his essays.
“V” by Tony Harrison 🎓 One of the most surprising things I’ve read during my academic career has been this poem by Tony Harrison. We read it in English class and had to write an essay over it, and I thought the use of slang and accent was so clever here. I hadn’t yet read any other poem like this, and I thoroughly recommend you listen to the poet read it out loud here (the playlist includes parts 1 through 4: the full poem).
“Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman 🎓 Whitman is not the most famous modern American poet for no reason. And I think that “Song of Myself” is a poem most people will enjoy reading — even if outside the classroom. The free verse, the ideas of freedom, democracy, body acceptance, and brotherly love struck a chord with me. I could never put into words how much Whitman’s poetry soothes me.
Selected Poems by Emily Dickinson 🎓 We studied way too many Dickinson poems for me to remember them all, but I have to say that reading her work is not easy at all! I like the reading-literally approach my lecturer (only the most interesting man in the world) took, but even so, it’s hard work! But oh so rewarding at the end… Of course we went over her most popular poems (“I heard a fly buzz when I died,” “Because I could not stop for Death” and so on) and I’m going to be extra basic and say those were my favorites.
These were some of the readings I did for university. There are so many more essays and textbooks I didn’t mention because this would be too long and boring. I’m excited for the semesters to come, too. I’ll be taking two literature classes this semester AND probably five or more in my final year. Have you read any of these books?