packing the paperbacks: the books I’m taking to uni

In little under a week, I’m off to the other side of the country with my worldly possessions, hoping desperately that a holdall lives up to its name. Having to move all my stuff out at the end of each term means that I’ve got to be selective, which in turn means that I have to choose between the books and the clothes. I won’t make any friends if I emerge from my room clad only in a copy of The Essex Serpent and a gown, so I’m leaving most of my books at home. This does involve a few sacrifices – who needs a hairdryer when you’ve got a copy of Ulysses? – but I’ll cope. Probably.

the reading list (AlL THe BoOKs from 1830-1945, basically)

I’m packing all of the books I have which are on the reading list, which comes to a grand total of 12. I don’t know if I’ll need all of them, but better safe than sorry, and I’ve already got a provisional supervision/seminar timetable which indicates that a) I’ll have to finish Middlemarch and b) I’ll have to finish Ulysses, and I don’t fancy returning tear-stained books to the library.

1984 by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan and The Empty Space by Peter Brooke

to remind me of what theatre should be and how it should make me feel. (honestly, my college mum recently said ‘so you’re the thespian’ – although no, I don’t think that camdram and I are ready for each other). 1984 is mesmerising, and Brooke’s writing is visceral and should be sold with either paracetamol or alcohol – headache inducing, but eye-opening)

Engleby by Sebastian Faulks

sentimental?? me?? lol no, get away. It’s actually a great reminder of why stalking is never the best of hobbies.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

I read this earlier this summer, and it reminds me of home. That’s probably because it’s impossible to go outside without hearing birds or seeing birds or yelling ‘Jack DO NOT stalk the birds’. It’s a beautifully written memoir, and the sort of book I would recommend to someone not usually interested in nature writing – personal and graceful, without the RoMANTiciSm which one may expect.

The Complete Works of Philip Larkin

every poem Larkin has ever published, as well as the ones he hasn’t? yes please, because his poetry is diverse and eloquent with a humorous bite which obviously appeals to my ‘deadpan humour’. I also need to take it because my mum only bought it because I told her I might need it for uni, and I need to maintain my white lie. (sorry mum)

To a God Unknown by John Steinbeck, I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

and these are some books on my TBR. I’m doing an English degree, for crying out loud. It’s only my foolishly unbounded optimism which makes me think that I’ll be able to read anything outside of my required reading, but I like the idea of having my own books around me. Far more sentimental than throw cushions (can someone explain the purpose of these to me??) and scented candles, having Larkin and Faulks around gives me grounding and a sense of place. I might have sacrificed other essentials (hairdryer, toiletries, food), but as Cicero said, ‘a home without books is like a body without a soul’. Student accommodation with a shared bathroom isn’t ideal (especially when you’re on the top floor; these legs are going to get a workout), but without books, it could be a hell of a lot worse.

Have you read any of the books on the list? What’s the association between books and atmosphere, apart from ‘you can’t go wrong with a library’? Any accommodation horror stories? let me know!!


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