My University Reading List

Sunday, 3 June 2018


Starting this off by saying this is going to be a very long post. I'm talking 143 books long. Because this post is essentially a degree recap. For those of you that don't know, I just finished a 4 year Bachelors degree in English Literature at Dalhousie University, and to say that it was an experience is an understatement. University experience aside, my reading was challenged. I read books that I had no interest in, books that totally changed the way I viewed things, and books that I could honestly take or leave. But reading so much for school kind of meant that I was ignoring the blog. And reading for school, specifically for an English degree, is different than reading for fun, because you're actively combing through the text. So when I wasn't reading for school, the last thing I wanted to do was read for fun. I was totally burnt out. But after having some incredible professors, and feeling the incredible itch to get back into it, I'm saying goodbye to academic reading (for the time being, as I start my MA in September), and giving it a good send off.

Undergrad, hate to say goodbye, but love to see you go.

Onto the Books!

First Year
So I only took 3 English courses in my first year, as I was getting my GenEd requirements done. But I had a class with a professor who would eventually become my one of my favourite professors (Shout out to Dr. Bart Vautour!), and all in all, It wasn't a bad year. I learned a lot, but the books were all kind of crap, save for a few. My favourite book that I read was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which I had never read before, but was really fun to read in the context of it being a seminal text for science fiction. My least favourite book was The Shiek by E.M. Hull, which was the most garbage romance novel that I had ever read. I think I was the only person in my whole 120 person lecture group that actually read it.


Writing for the University Student (ENGL 1100) 
Rebel Angels by Robertson Davis 
Introduction to Poetry and Drama (ENGL 1020
Volpone by Ben Jonson | Oedipus Rex by Sophocles | The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde | King Lear by William Shakespeare
Pulp Fiction (ENGL 1051) 
The Sheik by E.M. Hull | The Sandman by E.T.A. Hoffman | Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs | The Musgrave Ritual by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling | The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson | King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard | The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson | 


Second Year
So, my second year was maybe the best year in terms of my classes. I had classes with all of my favourite professors, and it was in second year that I took my favourite class ever. The full year Shakespeare class that I took was iconic, thanks to our wacky TA turned professor. There were days when we questioned -- is he a real human being?? That class was iconic, though. I met my best friends there, and made more memories than I care to recount.
My favourite book that I read was What We All Long For by Dionne Brand. I actually read it in two different classes, in two different contexts, and I loved it. A close second would be Midsummer Nights Dream. The worst book? Probably Fanny Hill or Uncle Tom's Cabin. Just... problematic, if I'm being honest, but still interesting. Dr. Trevor Ross taught me both of those books and made the discussion super interesting and thought provoking. None of the books I read this year were horrible, which thank god for that.


Canadian Lit. (ENGL 2004) 
The Wars by Timothy Findley | What We all Long For by Dionne Brand | This Time a Better Earth by Ted Allen
Literature and Propaganda (ENGL 2050) 
Henry V by William Shakespeare | Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland | Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe | Maus by Art Spiegelman | Eight Men Speak by Oscar Ryan et al.
Literature, Multiculturalism and Identity (ENGL 2090) 
Brick Lane by Monica Ali | What We All Long For by Dionne Brand | The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri | What is the What by Dave Eggers | The Selector of Souls by Shauna Singh


Shakespeare (ENGL 2701)
Titus Andronicus | The Taming of the Shrew | Romeo and Juliet | A Midsummer Night’s Dream | Henry IV Part 1 | Hamlet | King Lear | Timon of Athens | The Merchant of Venice | The Tempest 

 Close Reading (ENGL 3000)
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton | 1984 by George Orwell 
American Lit (ENGL 2003)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Third Year
Third year was the hardest one to get through. Third year actually holds the bulk of my reading, because this was the year that I decided to take three 4th year seminars, and take a lot of classes with heavy reading loads. While in 2nd year I read a lot of Shakespeare, this was the year where I read a lot of his contemporaries. Dr. Faustus by Marlowe became one of my favourite plays of all time, and I really got into Renaissance Theatre. I also realised that the English Renaissance playwrights were weird. I mean, John Ford's Tis Pity? That one still weirds me out.
This was also the year that I took some classes by my favourite professors again. I took Modern and Contemporary Canadian Lit, and learned a lot about the current culture of Canadian lit. I also started an initiative with some classmates called Public Poetics Halifax, where we aimed to make poetry more accessible and public. I also took a class on contemporary english literature with an amazing professor named Dr. Alice Brittan who changed the way I think forever. Serious, she taught me so much about trusting my gut and my intuition. I don't know if I would have been able to write my thesis if it wasn't for her. 
My favourite books of this year had to be Dr. Faustus, Let the Great World Spin by Colm McCann (Which I wrote a great essay about), and In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje. I also really loved the poetry collections by Sue Goyette, Ocean and The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl. My least favourite books were the ones I had to read for Restoration drama (seriously, I hated the majority of them), and Cockroach by Rawi Hage.

 Renaissance Drama (ENGL 3015)

Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe | Edward II by Christopher Marlowe | 
Volpone by Ben Jonson | B


artholomew Fair by Ben Jonson | 
Revenger’s Tragedy by Thomas Middleton | 
The Knight of the Burning Pestle by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher | 
The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd | 
Tis Pity She’s a Whore by John Ford | 
Women Beware Women by Thomas Middleton | 
The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster | 
A Chaste Maid in Cheapside by Thomas Middelton | 
The Changeling by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley
 
English Drama, 1660-1800 (ENGL 3020)

The Country Wife by William Wycherley | The Man of Mode by George Etheredge | The Rover by Aphra Behn | All for Love by John Dryden | the London Merchant by George Lillo | Venice Preserved by Thomas Otway | A Bold Stroke for a Wife by Susanna Centlivre | The Conscious Lovers by Richard Steele | The Beggars Opera by John Gay | She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith 
Modern Canadian Literature (ENGL 3231)

Eight Men Speak by Oscar Ryan et al. | By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart | The Double Hook by Sheila Watson


British Literature of the Later 20th Century (ENGL 3235)

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys | The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro | The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald | A Distant Shore by Caryl Phillips | Brooklyn by Colm Tobin | Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann | Atonement by Ian McEwan | Pond by Claire Louise Bennett 
Shakespeare and the Bible (ENGL 4623)
King Lear by William Shakespeare | The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare | Henry V by William Shakespeare | Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare | The King James Version of the Bible

19th Century Fiction: Dickens to Hardy (ENGL 3032)

Bleak House by Charles Dickens | Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell | Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon | Adam Bede by George Elliot | Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy 
Contemporary Canadian Literature (ENGL 3270)
In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje | Ocean by Sue Goyette | Wenjack by Joseph Boyden | Cockroach by Rawi Hage | Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson | Inventory by Dionne Brand


New York in Fiction and Poetry (ENGL 4406)

Washington Square by Henry James | Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote | The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald | Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane | Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Letham 
Canadian Poetry: 20th and 21st Century (ENGL 4471)
RUSH: Wut Fukkin Theory by Bis Bissett | Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent by Liz Howard | Men in the Off Hours by Anne Carson | Un/Inhabited by Jordan Abel | The Brief Reincarnation of a girl by Sue Goyette | MxT by Sina Queyras 


Fourth Year
Fourth Year was a year of extremes. Of the books I read this year, the ones I loved, I loved and the ones I hated, I hated. I tried this year to take classes with professors that I loved, and on subjects that I was really passionate about, as I had fulfilled all of my requirements. This was also the year that I wrote my thesis. My thesis was entitled: "The Wreckage of the Wealthy Survivors": Class, Conflict, and New York City in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby', and I'm so proud of it. My advisor, Dr. Bruce Greenfield, was so helpful and is such a brilliant mind. He really helped me figure out my voice here.
I took two classes this year with one of my favourite professors, Dr. Alice Brittan, and they were just as amazing as her first one. It was in her classes that I continued to fall in love with Colm Tobin, and continued to find my academic voice. In her class on Beauty and Justice, I read The Schooldays of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee, which was also incredible. 
I also took a class solely on the works of Michael Ondaatje, taught by the amazing Dr. Carrie Dawson. While I really liked Ondaatje before this class, I took the class because of Dr. Dawson. I found out how amazing he was in the class, though, and how much I love his work. In the Skin of a Lion is still my favourite book of his by far. 
My favourite books of this year were The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham, The Life Writer by David Constantine, and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. The worst? Tom Brown's School Days and, the absolute bane of my existence, The Wild Boys by William S. Burroughs. 
Children's Literature (ENGL 2238)

Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes | Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll | Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson | The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit | The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis | Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone  by J.K. Rowling | Animal Farm by George Orwell
Fiction of the Later 20th Century (ENGL 3239)
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery | Exit West by Mohsin Hamid | The Lazarus Project by Aleksander Hemon | We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo | The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham | The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante | Nora Webster by Colm Tobin |A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgard



The Beat Generation (ENGL 3245)
Go by John Clellon Holmes | On the Road by Jack Kerouac | Howl by Allen Ginsberg | The Wild Boys by William S. Burroughs

Marriage and Adultery in Early Modern England (ENGL 4606)
The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster | Othello by William Shakespeare | The Tragedy of Mariam by Elizabeth Cary | A Woman Killed with Kindness by Thomas Heywood | A Chaste Maid in Cheapside by Thomas Middleton | Women Beware Women by Thomas Middleton | The Changeling  by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley



English Honours Capstone (ENGL 4999)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Is Beauty Just: Writing and Ethics (ENGL 4811
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White | On Beauty and Being Just by Elaine Scarry | Memorial: A Version of Homer's Illiad by Alice Oswald | H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald | The Life Writer by David Constantine | How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu | Go Went Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck | The Schooldays of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee 



Feminisms: The Three Waves (CTMP 2350)
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche | The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath | Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Michael Ondaatje (ENGL 4019)
Running in the Family | The Collected Works of Billy The Kid | Coming Through Slaughter | The English Patient | The Cinnamon Peeler & Other Poems | The Cat's Table | In the Skin of a Lion




On June 2nd, I walked across the stage to receive my Bachelor of Arts, with Honours in English. And on my parchment it says that, with this degree, come responsibilities. That responsibility, in my mind, is to thank the teachers and mentors I've had over the years, from the amazing professors I've had, to the authors, living or dead, who wrote the things that I read. Whether I liked them or not, they affect me and my education, and I'm forever grateful. 

An English degree is tough work. Reading sometimes lost its magic, and I forgot how great books were at times. But by the end of it, reading is so much richer, and so much more interesting to me. So thanks, Dal. And thanks to the incredible English department there for getting me through it. 

Cheers, and happy reading.

1 comment

  1. Congrats on your degree! You got a lot of reading done in college with your major. I initially wanted to major in English but ended up just doing a minor in it (I switched my major to graphic design and I'm LOVING it). I've had to read quite a few of the books on your list for my own university classes. The Great Gatsby is a personal favorite. I hope you have a good summer!
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

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