Suggested Summer Books for potential English Literature University Student.

I've been given a list of about a hundred books from my school that I should read to impress interviewers when it comes to applying to Universities for English Literature, and while I do plan on reading as many of these as possible, I would love to find something, maybe more recent, that I really love. Perhaps something that doesn't just look like I read it because I thought it would look good.

If anyone has any suggestions I'd love to here them, preferably something I can get hold of relatively easily and cheaply in the UK.

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I'm just finishing my first year at uni and although I'm no expert I'll tell you what I think. Firstly an awesome welldone for picking literature as a potential course at university it is such an amazing subject! Hope you love it as much as me. I also went through a stupid long list of old titles that would accordingly 'impress' interviewers and for it to be something to put on my personal statement. What I found is unless you are applying for somewhere like Oxford or Cambridge universities want to see you passionate about what you are reading. They know not everyone is into Dickens or Seamus Heaney (for the record I have a dislike for both writers). So read whatever you want. When it comes to the interview they want to see a passionate student whether that passion is for Edgar Allen Poe or the Twilight series. I mean I'm not recommending Twilight (never not in a million years) but the titles shouldn't bother them they can get you to read all the titles what they want is that raw spark of excitement. They want you to love reading. So read what you love and don't be afraid to talk about that love in an interview. 

But if you are looking for a few interesting reads I will point you in the way of anything by Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith. 

Though let me know what books you are into and I'll give you some proper recommendations.  
Really hope this helps.

Where are you applying to if you don't mind my asking?

Hey thanks so much for responding :)

I'm really into all sorts, i do love classics but more recently i'm currently reading The Kite Runner which i love and i do have a particular interest in history.

I'm definitely looking at Manchester and Queen Mary's, possibly Royal Holloway and Sheffield. I am more in the preliminary stages but i want to really have built up a good background of a wide range really, and just because that's what i want to have generally as well. 

No problem! 

Nice choices in Uni I hear Manchester is really nice. The Kite Runner is great he has also written another book called A Thousand Splendid Suns which is equally brilliant. 

I've been reading recently Margaret Cavendish's book The Blazing World and other stories. Which is a really old renaissance women writer who is actually pretty feminist for her time. I mean if you want someone who isn't as well known as lets say Shakespeare or Edmund Spenser that's really good and you can put a lot of history behind it. They are also pretty short stories which makes it nice and easy to digest quick. 

Manchester was lovely, other than the rain!

yes A Thousand Splendid Suns is definitely already on my list, and i will also check that out it sounds good., i love a good historical feminist. 

Thank you so much.

If you're like me, then interviews set butterflies and nervousness alight. So, to repeat what everyone else is saying: find a book you love. You are selling it and what it spoke to you to these people who will afterwards ask themselves "Why should X be accepted here?" If you enjoy and like classics, then show your passion and love in the interview. I've heard of people who've talked about their favorite comic books. 

As for classics, I'd recommend Chaucer (see are translations into more modern English, and it's a lot of fun to read. "He uses the tales and the descriptions of its characters to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English society at the time, and particularly of the Church." (from the wiki about the Canterbury Tales).

Paradise Lost by John Milton is another great classic. I'd recommend getting at least the first book on audio tape- it makes great bed-time listening and you get the real depth of feeling throughout.

"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n."


Although I am not as big a Literature buff as I'd like to be, here are a few works that I thoroughly enjoyed reading:

The Shadow of the Wind
The Art of Racing in the Rain
The Count of Monte Christo
Slaughterhouse 5 (a bit mainstream, I know)
Flowers for Algenon
(to add a nice play to the list) The Importance of Being Ernest

Hopefully this helps in some small way :)

Very helpful, thank you, i haven't read any of them, other than Ernest, and i'll definitely check them out :)

Thank you very much, Milton is already on my list as is Chaucer, but it's good to hear that you enjoyed them! 

I don't actually find interview situations nervewracking, Drama student!, but i just want to feel prepared really. 

Hey Roma,

I'd recommend Toby Barlows Sharp Teeth. I don't know what it is about it, but once you start reading it, you can not let it go. It's prose but looks like poetry and it has a very awesome story to tell. It's basically Romeo and Juliett with werewolves. :D  Though, Barlow is as far as I know American.


If it has to be British, another great choice would be D.H. Lawrence: Lady Chatterley's Lover, which is about an independent woman living in the early 20th Century. The book starts out in 1917, so during WWI. A little teaser: "We've got to live no matter how many skies have fallen." My edition has an introduction by Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing, so that's pretty awesome too. It was first published in 1928 - is that recent enough? I picked it, because you said you were interested in history.


If you want a book that has a ton of hints on English literature and its theories, read David Lodge's Small World. It starts with a quote of James Joyce: "Hush! Caution! Echoland!" which means: "Beware! You'll get drowned in intertextuality!" Reading this you should already have a good grip on English literature – including books like „The Faerie Queene“ and „Parcifal“ (Otherwise you’ll have to research a lot).

Hope I was helpful :)


it doesn't have to be British per se, i only meant that it wasn't so obscure i can't get hold of it here.

Thank you for your suggestions i will definitely check them out, i'm a huge fan of Shakespeare so that sounds very interesting. 


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