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books-1015594_1920As much as I grumble (a lot) about assigned reading, I often come across fantastic books that I wouldn’t have read otherwise unless my grades depended on it. As an English major, I have to read so many different books in so many different genres. Here are my top 7 (not 10 – because this is thealleycat7 after all!) best books I have read for my university classes…

 

  1. 1984 – George Orwell

eye-491625_1280I don’t think I have met a single person who has read 1984 and hated it. It is nearly impossible to hate this book. For whatever reason, this book was in my to-read list for years. I had this book recommended to me many many times, and still I ended up waiting until I had to read it. This winter-spring term (2017), I decided to take a class on modern British novels. For those who aren’t English majors, the modernist era begins in the early 1900s until the 1950s. 1984 was the last book on the list that I had to read. I had just finished all 900 pages of Ulysses by: James Joyce (another assigned novel), and felt as if I had banged my head against a wall for a month. I couldn’t wait to read 1984 and find out who Big Brother was. I had heard the quote “Big Brother is watching you” so many times in reference to today’s technology and surveillance. I really wanted to know what sort of a character Big Brother was. I imagined a teenager boy with sandy hair with an easy-going smile. Well, I was wrong!

I loved the narration style, the characters, how Orwell reveals the creepy undertones of his society. It is a wonderful novel and probably the best novel I had to read for university. {see my review on 1984}

2. Pelagie: The Return to Acadie – Antonine Maillet 

grand-pre-1873042_1920Okay, so I know this book isn’t well-known at all! You are probably sitting (or standing) thinking “she goes from 1984 to this obscure book?!” As you probably know from reading my blog posts, I am from Canada. More specifically, I grew up on the east coast of Canada. Most of the literature courses I have taken in university tended to be either focused around British novels or American novels. I wanted to take a course where I could learn about the literature of my country and the region where I am from. Last fall, I took a course called Maritime literature which covered novels such as Anne of Green Gables, Rockbound, Barometer Rising, The Mountain and the Valley, George and Rue, For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down, and Pelagie: The Return to Acadie. Probably, the only book that sounds familiar on the list is Anne of Green Gables. For me, Pelagie: The Return to Acadie really resonated with me. I have Acadian family, and Pelagie: The Return to Acadie (original French title: Pelagie-la-charette) is a historical fictionalized account of the deportation of the Acadians. I fell in love with the way Antonine Maillet tells the story of Pelagie. She captures the essence of Acadian storytelling so very well. I love the fairy tale and mythic aspects of the text. Though most of all, I like the fact that the novel was written by an Acadian (cough cough Evangeline). {See my review}

3. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

little_women_-_frontispieceI was very surprised that I deeply enjoyed Little Women. I remember reading the first page of Little Women when I was in middle school. I quickly set the book down. “Nope, not for me!” I thought the book was too cheesy and overly sentimental. I’m not a chick-flick friendship/sisterly love kind of girl. So, when I was assigned to read Little Women and the second volume Good Wives, my heart sank. Then, something surprising happened. After reading through the first few chapters, my opinion of the book changed completely. I actually really liked it! I often mentally compare Little Women to Anne of Green Gables. Both books are about growing up, and both books explore the growth of their characters through comedic misadventures. I liked how each sister in Little Women had their own vices and virtues. I enjoyed the subtle romance. I wish I could go back in time and tell my thirteen-year-old self to give Little Women another chance! {See my review of Little Women}.

4.  Wenjack – Joseph Boyden

rails-1030792_1920After finishing high school, I gradually ended up realizing how many things I should have learned in school, but didn’t. A few months ago, I completed a course on Indigenous literature (in particular Canadian indigenous literature). I believed that I was going to learn about Indigenous myths and legends. I had purchased all of the books I needed well in advance. Wenjack was the first novel that I picked up. It is a short and small volume and can be read in under an hour. Don’t let it size fool you. This novel grabbed at my heartstrings until I was crying when I finished the book. Wenjack is based on the true story of a young boy named Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack, a young indigenous boy who was taken to a residential school during the 60’s. Charlie tried to escape from the school and go home. Many residential schools abused the indigenous children physically, emotionally and sometimes sexually.  Now, here is where my lack of education comes in. I didn’t know about residential schools. No one had ever told me about them, and there was a great lack of resources to inform people about residential schools when I was in school. So, this book was the book which opened the veil into Indigenous history and current issues. {see my review of Wenjack}

5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

Adventures_of_Huckleberry_Finn_1885-Frontispiece_01I had taken a course on 19th century American novels. Huckleberry Finn was one of them. I was astounded by how funny this book really is. I had thought it was just another children’s adventure story, a book that you could only truly appreciate if you were American. Although I am not American, I loved Mark Twain’s satire on American southern society in the 19th century. I can also understand why this novel is very important when discussing American literature. It critiques social norms, and explores the harmful effect of racism and slavery. I ended up having to write a ten-page essay on Huckleberry Finn, and I loved every minute of writing that paper (which rarely happens, trust me).

6. The Return of the Soldier – Rebecca West 

monument-140320_1920Ever since I was twelve, I had always challenged myself to read as many classic novels as I possibly could. Yes, I am an overachiever, so what! I would search lists after lists of popular classic novels in order to know what to read next. For some reason, I had never heard of The Return of the Soldier. Apparently, it was popular when it was published in the early 1900s, and then subsequently vanished. This is a shame because The Return of the Soldier is really interesting. The Return of the Soldier is about a man who returns home World War I with amnesia. He has no memory of the last ten years of his life (which includes marrying his wife, the war, his dead son, and his job). The soldier wants nothing more than to reconnect with his girlfriend from ten years ago which places his marriage, his reputation, and his duty as a provider in jeopardy. I liked how Rebecca West uses Freudian psychoanalysis in her novel to explain the traumas of war. This novel is really unique because it explores how someone can be traumatized by war without experiencing the effects of war first hand.

7. Anne of Green Gables – Lucy Maud Montgomery 

anne_of_green_gables_-_coverLast but not least on my list… Anne of Green Gables. I had read Anne of Green Gables once before when I was thirteen. I didn’t really care for it. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. When I had to read this novel for Maritime fiction, I hoped that I could remember enough to skip through many sections of the novel. Fortunately, I didn’t really remember what went on in Anne of Green Gables and I had to read it again. This time around, my perception of the novel was completely different. I was able to approach it with a young adult’s sensibility. I also find that as an adult, I am more aware of my identity as a Canadian, and as Maritimer. When I was thirteen, I didn’t really care, or realize that I should care. So, Anne of Green Gables really brought back flashbacks from when I was growing up as a child in the Maritimes. I compared my own misadventures to Anne’s misadventures. I remembered how I loved and hated my first crush who was a little like Gilbert Blythe (but Gilbert Blythe is better).  Even though I didn’t grow up during the early 1900s, I found that I could really connect with the novel.

So that is my list of the best books I have read in university. Are you surprised? Shocked? Flabbergasted? Let me know, and please share with me the best books you have read in school or university (or college etc.).

Until Next Time,

-Alice

 

 

 

 

 

 

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