5 books every student should read…
1. Fifty Shades of Grey
2. Katie Price: Love, Lipstick & Lies
3. The Tab Top 5 Top 5’s 2014 Anthology
Lol jk LOL JK, they’re all quite serious (and good). Have a gander:
Little History of… the World / Philosophy / Science / Literature
A brilliant series of adorably written surveys that will allow you to hold your own with any combination of humanities, arts and science students… or at least dumbly nod along with a little more conviction.
The original is E H Gombrich’s A Little History of the World, written in 1935 and as useful to 40 year olds as it is to 4 year olds.
Bitesize chapters will brief you on each bone in the subject’s skeleton, fleshed out with a few cute cartoons and brought to life by Gombrich/Warbuton/Bynum/Sutherland’s paternally encouraging and never quite patronising tone of voice.
Get through three hundred or so pages of any of these little histories and you’ll be a superficial expert with deadly pub quiz credentials.
Down and Out in Paris and London
Think you’ve got it bad with your looming deadlines, dirty laundry and plain pasta diet? George Orwell will put your budget student existence into perspective in a 1930s memoir of his time spent wavering just above and below the breadline.
To begin with Orwell is slaving as a plongeur in the capital of cuisine, struggling to make ends meet in the caverns of ‘Hôtel X’ before upping sticks and returning to London to tramp the back streets hunting for a bite to eat and a place to kip, killing time with curious and fascinating characters.
He invented gonzo journalism before Hunter S Thompson had drawn his first breath – although Orwell would have probably called it roman à clef. He was an Old Etonian who pawned away everything to satisfy his urge to understand and illustrate the victims of a crude capitalist system, the antithesis of a champagne socialist (I’m looking at you [insert name of any student politician]).
Raw, honest and deliciously left-wing.
A Tale of Two Cities
With the French Revolution as a vicious, gory backdrop, Dickens spins a typically epic yarn of murky pasts and unrequited love. It’s all a bit complicated, but basically Charles Darnay is trying to outrun an aristocratic heritage that could easily get his head removed by Madame Defarge et al., Sydney Carton realises that he’s wasted his life as a boozy barrister and decides to do something (drastic) about it, and a variety of Dickensian oddballs provide all the Victoriana trimmings you could ask for.
Dickens has a reputation, and deservedly so, for writing ponderous haw-haw tales about the great unwashed with a few aristocrats thrown in for good measure. A Tale of Two Cities breaks the mould because it never loses momentum, there’s little lineage given over to self-indulgent scene setting and the historical context curbs Dickens’ tendency towards rose-tinted enthusiasm and pleasant surprises.
If you feel obliged, this is bearable Dickens at less than 400 pages.
Ok, this one is a bit heavy. But if you’ve got even the faintest desire to be a beret-donning, smoke-swirling, coffee-supping existentialist worth their salt, you’ve got to get acquainted with Albert Camus.
This is the epitome of ‘what’s the point?’ fiction, with Camus taking us inside the head of a detached Algerian named Meursault. His objective commentary of the events leading up to and following his seemingly arbitrary murder of a man on a beach illustrates the benefits of total emotional bankruptcy and makes a mockery of our institutional and social judicial systems.
Meursault may be a total void when it comes to all things touchy-feely, and for this he is condemned, but at the same time he is also one of the most honest characters you’ll ever have the pleasure (?) of meeting.
There aren’t many laughs in the process, but once it’s over you’ll be able to pull of a wry chuckle at the absurdity of humanity like a boss.
Carry On, Jeeves
Pure English escapism: daft as a brush, mad as a hatter and outrageously aristocratic, the inimitable PG Wodehouse had the impudence to create the comedy series of the 20th century when we were only 15 years into the bally thing.
You won’t find any social commentary, wartime anguish or sop inside this collection of ten short stories, you’ll only tale after tale of the mentally negligible aristocratic Bertie Wooster landing himself in the soup and being extracted by his polymath of a valet Reginald Jeeves.
Bertie bounces around from country house to country house getting himself mixed up in all sorts of bizarre (and some cynics might say inconsequential) matters of the heart and mind due to his innate and often misplaced sense of chivalry. He’s always keen to help out a chum and absolutely bloody terrified of getting married.
But what makes these stories of a bungling bachelor so perfect is the utterly brilliant prose they’re wrapped up in, something which no screen adaptation has ever been able to hold a candle to (sorry Fry and Laurie). Wodehouse’s innocent humour glitters and fizzes in every sentence, no word feels misplaced and yet there is nothing diligent or mulchy about the thing. You’re instantly made to feel like one of Bertie’s closest pals at the debauched Drones Club.
Better than any drug and your sides will be split.