Five juicy reads for the term ahead
Five books to get stuck into this Michaelmas
“In the bleak midwinter frosty wind made moan. Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone”. Aside from being the most turgid primary school carol that I can remember singing, In the Bleak Midwinter perhaps best sums up Michaelmas term and British winters in general. Dark, cold, wet and, ultimately, pretty miserable.
So, what better way to escape the bleakness for a few hours than to get stuck into a good book? So, here is an eclectic selection of books to read this term, all vaguely linked to our key themes: winter, Christmas and dampness.
1. The Snowman (Raymond Briggs)
Yes, it’s a children’s book, yes, it’s got pictures, but, considering some of the books on this list, I thought I'd start off with one that might lift your spirits somewhat – which I guess is the point of Christmas. Be prepared for the wall of warm, fuzzy nostalgia which will inevitably hit you when you open up this book. The Snowman is something of a national icon.
2. Grief is the Thing with Feathers (Max Porter)
Christmas is about family. This book is about family. An entrancing mixture of prose and poetry, with enough nerdy Ted Hughes references to keep the literature students happy, Max Porter’s debut work deals beautifully with themes of loss, grief and, ultimately, moving on.
3. Reservoir 13 (Jon McGregor)
Christmas is nostalgic. It reminds us of the cyclical nature of life and the strange way that the cogs of time keep on spinning and we keep living. A deeply human novel focusing on a small Derbyshire town which, despite a New Year’s tragedy, stoically pushes on.
4. The Dead (James Joyce)
BE WARNED! This short story by James Joyce is a bit heavy and a bit grim. An iconic text in English Literature which is required reading for any human being. The final wintry image that Joyce meticulously paints at the end of the story is perhaps the most powerful description in literature and will bring a tear to the eye of even the toughest man – (maybe even the bouncers at Cindies, who knows?)
5. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë )
You’ve heard the song, now read the book. An absolute classic set in the Yorkshire Moors, Emily Bronte’s masterpiece deals with every theme under the sun. Why is it in this list? Well, in many ways Christmas is an oasis in a desert of misery. The one day in the miserable month of December when you can feel supersonic and your prior worries cast no shadow on your mind. Some might say that Wuthering Heights is full of tragedy, yet, ultimately, Heathcliff and Cathy’s love lives forever within the bleakness of the novel. In the same way that our bleak lives become brightened on the 25th December, when we can, hopefully, slide away for a day of fun. (Spot the Oasis references. It just felt right…)
All images are author's own