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Life-Changing Books: Recommendations from Literature Lovers

As a lot of people have taken up reading during the lockdown, I’ve started to see requests for book recommendations. As an English Literature student, it’s hard to resist the temptation to jump in with a list of hundreds of books. So, to add to my choices, I called upon my fellow literature students and book lovers here in the UK to send me their recommendation of books that, as stated, changed their lives.

1) The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald. This jazz-age novel follows the story of characters entangled in wealth, love, and lies, with the watchful eyes of T.J. Eckleburg looming over American society. Fitzgerald creates a 1920s Inception, by writing this novel, in his novel.

2) Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig. An honest and frank approach to mental health and the struggles of living with it. A true story about Haig’s journey and success over his mental illness, described as “more than a memoir”.

3) The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, Jon Ronson. A non-fiction novel that explores the ins and outs of psychopathy, alongside the mental health “industry” and mass media.

4) The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini. Not an easy read, but worth the time. Hosseini tells the story of Amir, and his best friend Hassan, living through the inter-religious tensions in Afghanistan and invasion of Russian soldiers in the twentieth century, but bonded through the competition of kite fighting.

5) Holding the Man, Timothy Conigrave. A memoir by an Australian author and activist. Conigrave shares the story of his life with his long-time love and husband John Caleo; meeting in the mid-seventies at a Jesuit Catholic school in Melbourne, and struggling through the HIV/AIDS crisis of the eighties.

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6) You Are A Badass, How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, Jen Sincero. A simultaneous self-help and how-to book, written for the people that “want to improve their lives but don’t want to get busted doing it”. Sincero teaches readers to approach situations with a positive mindset, identify and change habits that only self-sabotage, all through humorous and inspiring anecdotes.

7) Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth’s Lost Civilisation, Graham Hancock. A pseudoarchaeological book that theorises a civilisation that may have existed in the prehistorical era, who passed on to their inheritors, knowledge on astronomy, architecture and mathematics, just before ending in cataclysm.

8) How to Make It Happen: Turning Failure into Success, Maria Hatzistefanis. Founder of brands Rodial and NIP+FAB, Maria Hatzistefanis shares her motivational tips and tricks, and her three golden rules of business: set your goals; plot your trajectory; make it happen!

9) The Night Circus, Erin Morgernstern. Set in Victorian London, Le Cirque du Rêves (The Circus of Dreams) gives audiences sights of pure magic, but only appears from sunset to sunrise. Morgernstern provides readers with a chance to escape entirely from reality.

10) The Autobiography of a Geisha, Sayo Masuda. A heart-wrenching reveal about Masuda’s life in Japan in the twentieth century. Readers follow her journey from a child nurse-maid, to Geisha from the age of 12, living through the WWII bombings and relationship struggles. A short but difficult read, Masuda sheds the light on life as a Japanese woman before, during, and after war.

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If you’re looking for a series to get into, here are a few!

  1. Uglies, Scott Westerfield. A dystopia where “prettiness” determines privilege.
  2. Slated, Terri Terry. A fictional but plausible future where the government uses memory wiping to control antagonists.
  3. Skulduggery Pleasant, Derek Landy. A fantasy series that follows a skeleton detective, his protégé, and other friends.
  4. The Maze Runner, James Dashner. The government releases a virus that eats at your sanity after the earth has suffered from sun flares, then carry out a series of trials using kids to find a vaccine.
  5. The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion. Geneticist Don Tillman discovers what love is when he meets Rosie, and much to his surprise, it isn’t an exact science.

Reading isn’t for everyone, but these are just a few suggestions to escape from the current climate. Whether it’s out of boredom, or you’re a reader, here’s something new to dive into!