50 books every student should read
Student reading book

The beginning of term time is slowly but surely closing in on returning and new students; some of whom are going to have a mound of free time on their hands between lectures, tutorials and hangovers.

What better way to fill that vacuum than with some quality, thought-provoking reads?

Here’s a list of books every self-respecting student should get stuck into at some point during their time at university.

The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Che Guevara’s memoir chronicles his epic two-wheeled tour around South America, which shaped his outlook on the world. Encounters with social injustice and outcasts transform Guevara from a middle-class medical student into a Marxist revolutionary.

The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley details his first experiences and insights while taking psychedelic drug mescaline, in this curious philosophical essay. Huxley scientifically outlines his reasoning for the experiment, before delving into various theories on the effects of the mind-bending substance.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The reader follows a couple of days in the life of fed-up teenage narrator Holden Caulfield in this 20th century classic. Salinger’s novel perfectly captures adolescent feelings of angst, innocence and alienation.

Annapurna by Maurice Herzog

Maurice Herzog describes his company’s triumphant ascent of Annapurna – the first summit of a mountain over 8,000 metres. However, it is his nonchalant description of the harrowing descent that makes this book one of the best in the field of adventure writing.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Orwell’s satirical masterpiece draws up a dystopian vision of a Britain ruled by a totalitarian regime, with the enigmatic Big Brother at its head. The terms thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101, telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5 were all coined in the prophetic, haunting novel.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

Rick Deckard is tasked with hunting down several rogue androids determined to evade his capture. Dick’s book – loosely adapted into the film Blade Runner – is more relevant than ever due to its central theme of artificial intelligence.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

A stormy book for another stormy day 🌸☁️💨

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Wuthering Heights follows tortured romantic hero Heathcliff in Emily Brontë’s only novel. The character has proven divisive due to his complicated and at times bizarre nature, but he still endures as one of the great romantic figures in literature.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

One of the first and perhaps the finest example of gonzo-journalism, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas follows Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo as they chase the American Dream with the assistance of an extensive library of illegal narcotics.

Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

Relendo e revendo. #bukowski #hamonrye

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Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical account of growing up in California during the great depression is written in his typical pessimisitc but witty prose. Struggles with an abusive father, chronic acne and alcohol are all covered in this desolate coming-of-age tale.

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

The tragic tale of Tess Durbeyfield, a downtrodden woman torn between the detestable Alec Stoke-D’Urberville and the pipe-dreaming Angel Clare. Hardy set himself apart from his contemporaries with his non-traditional portrayal of women.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

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Set in New England, On Beauty focuses on two feuding families and a handful of doomed affairs. Smith’s moving, award winning novel ruminates on why we love who we love, with outstanding insight and wit.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Notorious for its controversial topic, Lolita’s protagonist Humbert Humbert seeks to win the love of the eponymous 12 year-old. Nabokov humorously spends the novel questioning Humbert’s sanity, defining whether he’s a tortured soul, or a monster.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The devil pays a visit to Moscow accompanied by various demons, including a giant black cat, determined to turn the city into a living hell. Only a man dedicated to the truth – the Master – and his lover – Margarita – can resist the devil’s destruction, in this sublimely bizarre read.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Victor Frankenstein stitches dead remains together to create a living ‘monster’ in Mary Shelley’s thought-provoking horror masterpiece. Believed by many to be the first example of science-fiction, Shelley created Frankenstein following a bet with Lord Byron over who could make the scariest ‘ghost-story’.

Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

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Sherman McCoy’s life as a bond trader and self-proclaimed “Master of the universe” begins to fall apart when he is involved in a hit and run incident in the Bronx. Themes of race, social class and human greed are all skilfully navigated by Wolfe in one of the finest books of the 1980’s.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

A trio of friends who attended a secluded boarding school find that there lives are not all that they seem. That’s all we can say without spoiling the plot of this fantastic read.

Mr Nice by Howard Marks

Startin a New Book #mrnice #howardmarks

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Britain’s most infamous drug dealer, Howard Marks, passed away earlier this year. In Mr Nice he chronicles his unbelievable life, detailing his black-market business and his time in one of America’s toughest penitentiaries.

Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

William Boot seeks the ‘scoop’ on the beginning of a “very promising little war” in a fictional East-African country. Waugh’s satire on fleet street sensationalism is a must read for any budding journalists.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Brutal landowner Fyodor Karamazov is murdered, drastically altering the lives of his two sons, one of whom is placed under suspicion.The final and perhaps finest piece of work by the great Russian writer, was a philosophical novel that focused particularly on the topics of God, free-will and morality.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Set in the farmlands of the Salinas Valley, this sprawling novel revolves around two different families: the Hamiltons and the Trasks. A modern take on the biblical tale of Cain and Abel; East of Eden was Steinbeck at his very best.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Eponymous heroine Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky cause a stir in high-society Russia, when they indulge in a scandalous affair. Tolstoy’s story of doomed love is a hefty undertaking, but its masterful prose and exploration on how to live a fulfilled life make it a worthwhile one.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Set on the Isle of Skye, Woolf’s tale of family disputes explores conflict between man and woman. One of the most powerful examples of the stream-of-consciousness literary technique.

The Trial by Franz Kafka

Joseph K. wakes one day only to be accused of an unspecified crime that he didn’t commit. His subsequent arrest, release and attempts to regain control lead to him descending into a hopeless, yet humorous, downward spiral.

A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Arthur Dent is plucked from the earth minutes before its demolition by his alien friend Ford Prefect. The pair then set out on a quest across space, encountering all manner of weirdness on the way. Brilliantly witty, and often hilarious.

The Stranger by Albert Camus

The titular stranger in this novel is the protagonist Meursault, due to his failure to mourn at his mother’s funeral and failure in general to adopt social norms. Camus said that his book explored “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd”.

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Creditor dodging Tom Ripley is offered a clean slate in life when his friend offers him a one-way ticket to Europe. Driven by a desire for the good-life, Ripley goes to extraordinary lengths to carry on living his lavish lifestyle, in this devilish crime thriller.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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Plath’s semi-autobiographical account of her depression is a heartbreaking and harrowing story. Published only one month before her suicide, The Bell Jar is a vital read.

Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller

Absent minded teacher Sheba begins an affair with one of her pupils and when confronted by authorities, finds her only defendant is spinster colleague Barbara. It becomes apparent that Barbara’s intentions are far from noble in Heller’s sinister tale.

For Two Thousand Years by Mihail Sebastian

Set in 1920’s/30’s Romania, a young Jewish student observes the rise in extremist beliefs in his home country, as he suffers at the hands of left and right wing anti-semites. Sebastian explores the loneliness he endures as he becomes alienated by all those around him.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

John Krakauer studies the death of graduate Chris McCandless, who perished in the Alaskan wilderness. Drawing on experiences from his own youth, Krakauer explores the recklessness and innocence of male youth.

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

Lecturer Jim Dixon joins the history department at one of Britain’s red-brick universities and proceeds to hilariously navigate the pretentious world of 1950’s academic life.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Following a group of down and out heroin addicts in 1980’s Edinburgh, the use of strong dialect can make this a hard read for those not from the Scottish capital. However, Irvine Welsh’s novel is every bit as good as the fantastic film that followed.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Set in Japan, Norwegian Wood Follows Toru and his initial hopeless attempts at finding love. Norwegian Wood is a fine coming-of-age love story.

A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Set in the distant future, one man desperately tries to break free from the “perfect”, manufactured world that he finds himself in. Huxley’s philosophical novel looks at what bring humans genuine happiness, issues of class and social determinism, and why state-sponsored ‘utopia’ is problematic.

The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

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The Dalai Lama applies Tibetan principles and wisdom to provide solutions to everyday life. Applicable to all walks of life, The art of happiness offers an insight into spiritual and mental freedom.

The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

In his revolutionary work, Sigmund Freud proposed the idea that our dreams represent our subconscious wishes. The book discussed infamous theories such as the Oedipus complex in this seminal piece of work.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Bora ler um pouco! #beornottobe #hamlet #shakespeare #britishliterature #coloredskull #nicebookcover

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Shakespeare’s tragedy on the tormented Prince of Denmark is simply one of the best plays you’ll ever read, with thematic relevance even today.

Money by Martin Amis

Money follows John Self and his undying desire for the less-fine things in life: alcohol, drugs, porn, money, etc., following the disasters that he leaves in his wake.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Truman Capote travels to Kansas and dissects a brutal quadruple murder in this pitch black true-crime book. Capote’s ability to build suspense and empathise with ruthless killers is astonishing.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughter house-Five is a non-linear, absurdist piece of work that leaps between several different phases of protagonist Billy Pilgrim’s life. Vonnegut draws on traumatic experiences as a prisoner of war, in this dizzying semi-autobiographical account.

A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft

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“Mother of feminism” Mary Wollstonecraft passionately declares her own female independence, putting forth demands such as; an end to prejudice, equal education for boys and girls and for woman to be defined by their occupation, rather than their partner.

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Initially banned in the United States for its vivid descriptions of sexual encounters, Tropic of Cancer assisted in laying the foundation for a more candid brand of writing that became commonplace in the 20th century.

Naked Lunch by William Burroughs

Burroughs is unflinchingly descriptive in this challenging and – at times – jarring read. Naked Lunch is a patchwork of loosely connected stories, detailing the life of a drug addict.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

A father and son travel across North America in this sprawling tale of self-discovery. A truly human philosophical piece of work that wonders over questions of existence.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Protagonist Lin immerses himself in Mumbai’s slum-life, following his escape from an Australian, maximum-security prison. Gregory David Roberts paints a staggeringly real picture of India in this epic odyssey.

The Shining by Stephen King

Recovering alcoholic and writer Jack Torrance moves his family into a remote hotel in the Colorado Rockies, and things quickly go south in this spine-chilling horror novel.

Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg

Contemporary of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, Ginsberg,openly discussed drug use and homosexual activity when the two were very much still a taboo subject. Upon their release this set of poems were banned in the United States under obscenity laws.

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Orwell attended Spain in 1936 to cover the ongoing civil war, before joining the fight against the fascists. Orwell’s vivid descriptions of the farcical, tragic conflict make it one of the best ever autobiographical accounts.

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

"I simply state that I'm a product of a versatile mind in a restless generation-with every reason to throw my mind and pen in with the radicals. Even if, deep in my heart, I thought we were all blind atoms in a world as limited as a stroke of a pendulum, I and my sort would struggle against tradition; try, at least, to displace old cants with new ones. I've thought I was right about life at various times, but faith is difficult. One thing I know. If living isn't seeking for the grail it may be a damned amusing game." F. Scott Fitzgerald, This side of paradise. #fitzgerald #fscottfitzgerald #thissideofparadise #paradise #life #love #philosophy #generations #book #books #bookstagram #read #reading #readingtime #thoughts #coffee

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel follows Princeton student Amory Blaine and offers an insight into the jazz age and “the lost generation”.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari studies the history of homosapiens, meditating on how we became the dominant human species and the breakthroughs of cognitive and agricultural revolutions; before predicting what the future holds for our species. Barack Obama shortlisted the book as one of his favourite reads of 2016.

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