By Naomi Wimsett, Second Year Psychology Undergraduate.
It can be of no doubt that the circumstances that have arisen in the last few months have surpassed anything that we could have expected when starting this academic year. The effects of this current situation have demonstrated many aspects of the good in humanity – from our amazing National Health Service, to those volunteering to deliver groceries to the vulnerable to name but a few. However, this time is also very difficult for many.
“You’ll never be alone if you have a book”… I swiftly created a post asking people to share their favourite books with the group
I became involved with running the John’s Feminist Book Club because I have always been a strong supporter of the Feminist movement and, as my mum is an English teacher and script editor, it would have been quite a feat to have grown up not enjoying books, making it an ideal society for me. As I was thinking of ways the group could provide some happiness to those struggling at this time, my mind was drawn to the quote, “You’ll never be alone if you have a book”. I have no idea where I first heard it but after that moment of insight, I swiftly created a post asking people to share their favourite books with the group – feminist or otherwise – which they have enjoyed and which they feel will allow others to escape the stress and uncertainty we are all currently facing, especially for those who feel lonely at this time.
These are some of the books that have been suggested, including a little synopsis of each by me. A big thank you to everyone who has contributed, including those I haven’t had room to include here. I hope you enjoy reading them!
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
This is one of my own recommendations. It is one of my favourite books as it is the story of one of my biggest heroines.
This is a true and powerful story. Malala was raised in Swat Valley in Pakistan, in a society in which sons are highly prized, not daughters. Malala, however, was raised by parents who were among those who did not share this belief. Her father, a school owner, treasured his daughters and encouraged them to attend school. In 2012, however, whilst the area was under the control of the Taliban who sought to stop girls’ education, Malala spoke out and as a result was shot in the head at point-blank range on her school bus. Counter to all expectations, Malala survived and won the Nobel Peace Prize. This book tells her story.
I would recommend this book to absolutely everyone as, among many things, it shows how fortunate we are to have an education and reminds us not to take it for granted.
This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
This was recommended by Jennie Riley, a John’s alumna, Pastoral Tutor and current PhD student in Theology and Religion. This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay is a particularly poignant read at the moment as it demonstrates the amazing work performed by doctors on top of their incredible efforts in this current pandemic.
Adam Kay was a junior doctor from 2004 until 2010, before a devastating experience on a ward caused him to reconsider his future. He kept a diary throughout his training, and This Is Going to Hurt intersperses tales from the front line of the NHS. The result is a first-hand account of life as a junior doctor in all its joy, pain, sacrifice and maddening bureaucracy, and a love letter to those who might at any moment be holding our lives in their hands.
Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
Frances Holms, a second-year Geography undergraduate, recommended Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard.
The book isn’t very long but provides a great insight into how gender inequality has sadly been seen throughout history and challenges the question, ‘How many more centuries should we be expected to wait?’. Beard also gives a great talk about this which can be found on YouTube.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Lizzie English, a second-year Biomedicine undergraduate, recommended The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
Since its publication in 2005, The Book Thief has become an international bestseller, having sold over 16 million copies in 63 languages. The book is set at the time of the Holocaust, on the topic of the good and evil of humanity in wartime Germany. So, whilst not a light-hearted read, Zusak incorporates a beautifully-written yet haunting personification of death which surrounds the life of the incredibly strong female protagonist, Liesel, as death tells the story in the role of narrator.
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Alice Butler, a second-year Classics undergraduate, recommended North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.
In this novel, Margaret moves to the industrial town of Milton where her eyes are opened to the poverty and injustice of the working and living conditions of the factory workers. This soon causes a great juxtaposition of attitudes as she meets Mr Thornton, a local mill owner. Their fiery opposition brings them into a highly tempestuous connection, masking a more profound attraction.
An added bonus that is that afterwards you can watch the Netflix mini-series based on the book and starring Richard Armitage.
You can find more recommendations on the John’s Feminist Book Club Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/johnsfeministbookclub/
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