As little old New Zealand slowly opens back up, we decided to ask University of Auckland’s Ubiq for ten great books for students to get lost in, as we all need some actual reading material to balance out the two months of Netflix. Compiled by Ubiq’s Emma Paton, these comments represent the varied and well-read input of their many great staff, who are adamant you’ll enjoy these works as much as they do.
All listed books can be found on Ubiq’s website.
Know My Name : A Memoir – Chanel Miller
“Some of this book is quite hard to read so if you find it difficult or triggering to read about violence against women then I’d suggest approaching it in a very gentle way. That being said, as soon as I started reading this book I never once thought of Chanel Miller as a victim, I thought of her as an excellent writer. This book is so beautifully written; it is eloquent, lyrical, heart wrenching, and human, and I can’t wait to see what else she does and where she ends up. I hope she keeps writing!”
Beer in the Snooker Club – Waguih Ghali
“I loved this book! A semi-autobiographical novel about the combined arrogance and vulnerability of youth. The main character struggles to find his place in the world, too English for Egypt but too Egyptian for England he spirals into alcoholism and political violence. This book has it all; love, racism, beer and communism. A fantastic and underrated international novel that can introduce you to an Egypt beyond the tourist traps.”
The Testaments – Margaret Atwood
“Set 15 years after the ground-breaking novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments was a thrill from start to finish. While The Handmaid’s Tale was written as an internal monologue, from the perspective of one woman – Offred; in The Testaments Margaret Atwood chose to jump into the brains of three completely different women. The desire for the revolution of Gilead was strong within every one of these women, no matter their age, their circumstances or their perspective. We, as the reader, got to experience that. It is very different, and delivers us immediacy in a way that The Handmaid’s Tale monologue nature shielded us, showing us the lengths people will go to for freedom, and how sisterhood is so significant in a dangerous patriarchal world.
That being said, there is a way The Handmaid’s Tale was left, the “what if” nature of its finale that makes us question, was The Testaments necessary? Either way – it is a great book, and I can understand why it won The Booker.”
The Winter Soldier – Daniel Mason
“This is one of the most beautifully written novels that I have ever read. After only a few pages, I was swept up in the world of Lucius. He is a 22 year old medical student in Vienna during the outbreak of World War I. There are so many jewels of information that are revealed about him, and of course the medical discoveries that were happening at the time. It is difficult to describe the quality of writing that makes it so exquisite – the only sure way to appreciate it is to see this writing for yourself. The journey that Lucius has is one that is truly extraordinary. This novel lingered with me long after I finished reading it. I yearned to know more, and yet it really is appropriate for it to have ended the way that it did. If you are in the mood for a brilliant historical novel, I heartily recommend this one.”
Matilda – Roald Dahl
“A classic that I religiously re-read every year! Lessons on love, tolerance, courage, perseverance – all in one package! And what’s not to like about a little girl who loves to read AND has telekinesis?”
Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata
“Meet Keiko, a thirty-six-year-old single woman who has happily worked full-time in a convenience store since graduating university. The author (who also works in a convenience store in real life) projects her image onto this somewhat broken autobiographical character, and makes me think long and hard about what it means to fit into society, and why attempting to do so is actually a waste of time. ‘The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects. Anyone lacking is disposed of’.”
Mophead – Selina Tusitala Marsh
“One of the best books of 2019 and one of the best New Zealand books ever! It’s a graphic memoir for readers of any age and includes significant moments in the author’s life such as becoming New Zealand’s Poet Laureate, meeting Barack Obama and performing at Westminster Abbey. This gem of a book suggests we embrace our points of difference (even if they are parts of us that we’re not comfortable with) and live with openness, courage, and curiosity. Tusitala Marsh used to get called ‘Mophead’ as a kid because of her thick curly hair. In this book she starts as a kid with big hair holding a smelly old mop and transforms into one of our best poets holding the Laureate’s tokotoko.”
Talking to Strangers – Malcom Gladwell
“A fascinating take on what we get wrong in our assumptions we make about others and how we can better recognise when we are making them. A great take in these often fractured times when we are sometimes quick to judge and make assumptions about others. It’s Gladwell, it’s easy to read and well supported with contemporary and interesting cases that highlight the inherent troubles in the assumptions we make.”
Circe – Madeline Miller
“I have always seen Circe as a witchy footnote in a story about men; Madeleine Miller has managed to bring her fully to life. Circe offers a huge story, a story that spans generations and includes many Greek heroes and gods but in this instance Circe herself is front and centre. The writing is beautiful and rich in description and detail. A beautiful, captivating book that gives a modern, feminist slant to some of the greatest stories of the classical world.”
The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
“One of the best known fantasy books written in the last twenty years and for good reason. A young man chases fairy tales across the world whilst building a legend of his own, the legend of the King killer. A great choice for Game of Thrones fans – the characters are unforgettable and the magic is fascinating. We’ve been waiting nearly ten years for the last book and we still look for updates every day, if that doesn’t show how great these books are then nothing will!”