A room of one’s own, Virginia Woolf
Written rather as an address than a novel and published as an essay, Virginia Woolf’s exposition on why a woman must have a room of her own if she is to write successfully is one of the most intelligent yet accessible pieces of modernist writing. We see her track the course of her own ruminations on the subject of being a woman in a world – and educational system – dominated by men.
The issues and questions Woolf explores range from the food put on her plate in a Cambridge college to the imaginary form of Shakespeare’s sister, forgotten and buried at the cross-roads because she was born female. This essay is pithy and brilliant, and can be read several times before it is fully digested and understood.
Milk and honey, Rupi Kaur
The only poetry in this list, ‘Milk and honey’ is an anthology by the young Punjabi poet Rupi Kaur (who also has a fantastic twitter feed). Moving through sections of hurting, loving, breaking and healing, her poetry is simple, accessible and incredibly relevant to anyone who has ever been young.
The raw, easy language echo’s back our own sentiments. The best way to explain this poetry is to give an example:
‘I didn’t leave because
I stopped loving you
I left because the longer
I stayed the less
I loved myself’
‘I know I
For better reasons
But have you seen
That boy he brings
The sun to its
A history of the world in 10 ½ chapters, Julian Barnes
Julian Barnes is an award winning author, perhaps best known for his novel ‘The Sense of an Ending’ which has been dramatized and received the Man Booker prize. It is, however, another of his books that will challenge and change your perception of the world. ’10 ½ Chapters’ is a fictional, non-chronological retelling of the world’s history, each chapter taking on a vastly different and often abstract voice.
From the moment that we hear from the woodworm which snuck aboard Noah’s ark to the final pages of the novel, Barnes interrogates moral dilemmas and motivations. These tales could easily be read is isolation, but are much better when consumed as a whole.
The bell jar, Sylvia Plath
This is a coming of age story about struggling with self, and will resonate with anyone who has ever moved to a new place or felt out of place in their own skin.
As the reader follows the protagonist Esther as she gets her big break in New York City, we see the pressures to conform to a certain way of being act upon a young impressionable girl. Her journey becomes ours as we follow her on her journey to a mental health clinic and beyond. The varied cast of characters is nuanced, but Plath really excels in presenting us with a study of an individual psyche and its interactions with the people and environments surrounding (and acting upon) it.
Silence, Shusaku Endo
Having been recently been made into a blockbuster film directed by Martin Scorsese, you may well have seen posters for ‘Silence’ on buses or the tube. This book, however, is far more than sweeping Japanese landscapes and well-designed costumes, detailing a man’s inner struggle to come to terms with his God as he tries to help others do so.
The protagonist travels from his native Portugal top the shores of Japan in the 17th Century, where Christianity is strictly opposed and executions are commonplace. This tale of hardship, perseverance and inner turmoil will leave its readers confronting their own inner demons and questioning what they truly believe.
The yellow wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This is a very short novel whose unreliable narrator will delight and chill you. Charlotte Perkins Gilman tackles post-natal-depression through the eyes of one of its victims, and the woman at the centre of the plot is trapped both in a world of men, and the world of her own mind. And through it all is the seething, writhing yellow wallpaper with its shifting, enduring patterns.
If you do one thing tomorrow, take half an hour to read this story of what it is to suffer the confines of your own mind.
The fault in our stars, John Green
If you have ever had illness reach its claws out to grip your life, you will see yourself in this book; and if you haven’t, this book is a window into a world of understanding which will resonate with you. The two central characters meet at group cancel therapy, and their first throws of teenage love are overshadowed by their diseases. Whilst this book is about teenagers, it should be read by all ages and captures emotion in a way books rarely do.
Cancer does not need to be depressing, dull and pitying – let this book lift you up, even if it does break your heart.
Alexandra Jane is the writer and editor of graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate marketing jobs are currently available, as well as their graduate jobs Manchester page for further opportunities.