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Back to Uni

By Sam Chambers, Lauren Jones, Amy Wright, and Ana Matute

As we kiss goodbye to the August sun (and August rain) and consider making the obligatory stationery trip to WHSmith, it is time we turn our attention to the start of term. Whether school, college or university beckons you, these books might help to ease the pain.

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

University life can often be stupid, farcical and unfair — and always has been. Nowhere is this fact better illustrated than in Kingsley Amis’s 1955 famous satire, which describes the misfortunes of James (Jim) Dixon, the new Medieval History professor at an uninspiring red-brick university somewhere in the Midlands. Though he finds his subject loathsome, to keep his job Dixon feels he ought to abase himself before his superior, Professor Welch: the greatest depiction of a bore in English literature. Welch is provincial, self-involved and extremely dull. His insufferable rambles and madrigal (acapella singing) weekends provoke in Dixon a singular talent for pulling faces — special mention goes to his “sex life in Ancient Rome” face. Equally funny is Dixon’s insinuating commentary: “If Welch didn’t speak in the next five seconds, he’d do something...” Hangovers, fights, elusive lecturers, a toxic situation-ship and the struggle to find a job feature heavily in this savagely hilarious cry of frustration at the modern English university.

Night School by C. J. Daughtery

Wildchild Allie’s parents have finally had enough when she’s arrested once again, and they pack her off to Cimmeria Academy: a posh countryside boarding school which is a far cry from her London life of graffiti, crime and school expulsions. Red-haired, Doc Marten-wearing Allie doesn’t fit the private school’s usual mould, but she quickly settles in and finds a path at Cimmeria Academy. Until she works out that things aren’t quite adding up and some of the students and staff might be hiding something.

The first in the Night School Series, Daughtery’s YA novel is both masterful and mysterious. The blurb gives little away about the plot of the book, building suspense and preserving the surprise of all the unexpecting twists and turns of the book. The world-building and devotion to creating unique characters with their own backstories contributes towards a convincing narrative, which is richly textured and filled with intricate details. Not just your typical romantic YA novel, Night School combines a romantic love triangle with much more intense themes such as betrayal, friendships and growing up in a world that you’re not old enough to understand.

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

My Oxford Year is an unusual and heartwarming novel that tells the story of Ella Duran, a determined and intelligent twenty-four-year-old American who is about to begin her Oxford University experience. Since the age of thirteen, Ella has dreamed of studying at Oxford, and now as a Rhodes Scholar, this dream is able to become a reality. Just as Ella arrives in England to start her academic year abroad, another opportunity arises as she receives a call offering her a life-changing political role working on a presidential campaign. Ella decides she can take on both opportunities, working on the campaign remotely but with the intention of moving back to the US once she has completed her studies. However, after crossing paths with academic Jamie Davenport, this plan becomes less certain. Whilst the two have an unpleasant first encounter, and Ella is shocked to learn Jamie will be her lecturer, the attraction between them grows and develops into a relationship. With lots of twists and turns throughout, My Oxford Year is an exciting read featuring adventure, a unique setting and an enemies-to-lovers storyline.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

There is always that time when we are looking through books to find something fun to motivate us or help us to see our day-to-day in a different way, and for that time, Lab Girl by Hope Jahren is one of my favourite books of back to uni season. It is a memoir by Hope Jahren who works in science and tells all the ups and downs of her life.

It has funny stories where we will feel connected, as being a student always has many challenges. As well, all of it is beautifully written showing her passion for literature and botany, an interesting and unique way to narrate how in life we always cultivate multiple passions. This book is quite personal about how building a career is not always a straight path, which makes it different from other books, and it is perfect to get that extra inspiration for uni.


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