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October 14, 2013 | by  | in Arts Books |
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Books to Read Before You Leave Uni

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

It’s like Les Miserables, but actually good. Aside from the fact that casually mentioning Dickens has the immediate (and slightly strange) effect of making you sound well-educated, I always think that Sydney Carton is a good test of humanity: if he doesn’t break your heart, then you’re probably not ready for the real world, and should definitely take an extra paper or two—FEELINGS 101 for a start.

See also: Crime and Punishment.

Simulacra and Simulation – Jean Baudrillard

Buy a copy; you’ll need to read it at least three times, but it’ll be the most fun you’ve had being the most confused since CHEM 114 (really only applies to Science nerds).

See also: any and all Foucault, although by this stage you might as well just reapply and spend the next three years doing a BA.

Twelfth Night – William Shakespeare

Before you leave university, you should read at least one Shakespeare play for pleasure (i.e. not with Sparknotes open on the computer next to you and your Year 11 English teacher breathing down your neck). But few people enjoy the big tragedies the first time around—a lot of them are too long and/or woefully inconsistent, and you know what Hamlet’s about and most of the speeches in it without having read the play, right? Twelfth Night, on the other hand, is consistently brilliant; funny, beautiful and eminently quotable.

See also: Cymbeline—delightfully weird, but not for the faint-hearted.

The Shipping News – Annie Proulx

It seemed over-hyped, so I ignored this novel for far too long. Huge mistake, Michael. Beautifully atmospheric and beautifully written, it will make you scared about the world and it will comfort you about that fact; perfect for leaving uni.

See also: Close Range: Wyoming Stories also by Proulx, which includes “Brokeback Mountain”. (y).

Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino

Unf. Marco Polo tells Genghis Khan tales of the cities he has explored in Khan’s empire, but it soon becomes clear that he is really just trying to recreate a single lost city. It’s such a fine, delicately wrought piece of work that you scarcely notice the narrative work at play. A+ would recommend, especially for future travellers.

See also: Big Weather (Poems of Wellington) for you soon-to-be ex-Wellingtonians; If on a winter night’s a traveler for new Calvino-inductees.

The Second Sex – Simone de Beauvoir

Her feminism isn’t perfect, but this is a fascinating read, and, despite being written in the 1940s, much of the analysis of patriarchal norms is (depressingly) quite apt today. Read, weep, understand institutional sexism better, become a card-carrying feminist. It’s for the good of the planet.

See also: A Room of One’s Own.

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

Because everyone needs to experience a 1000+ page book at some point in their lives, and if you don’t read it now, when will you?

See also: for the quitters, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám – transl. Edward FitzGerald

A collection of 100 11th-century Persian poems translated by a 19th-century English poet—all with a vaguely nihilistic spin and tales of drinking to excess under trees—is, as you would expect, massively cool.

See also: Beowulf.

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