Friday 19 December 2014

A new chapter -- seven must-have books for students

Published 18/08/2014 | 06:00

Soundtrack of student life: Author Joseph O’Connor’s latest novel The Thrill Of It All speaks to fans of early 80s music
Soundtrack of student life: Author Joseph O’Connor’s latest novel The Thrill Of It All speaks to fans of early 80s music

Every year, staff and students at the University of Limerick select seven non-academic books as a good read for first years as they turn a new chapter in their lives. They have kindly shared their 2014/15 recommendations

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

by Robert Tressell

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists tells the story of a group of working men who are joined one day by Owen, a journeyman-prophet with a vision of a just society. Owen's spirited attacks on the greed and dishonesty of the capitalist system rouse his fellow men from their political quietism. A masterpiece of wit and political passion and one of the most authentic novels of English working-class life ever written.

The Undertaking

by Audrey Magee

Desperate to escape the Eastern front, Peter Faber, an ordinary German soldier, marries Katharina Spinell, a woman he has never met; it is a marriage of convenience that promises 'honeymoon' leave for him and a pension for her should he die on the front. With 10 days' leave secured, Peter visits his new wife in Berlin; both are surprised by the attraction that develops between them.

When Peter returns to the horror of the front, it is only the dream of Katharina that sustains him as he approaches Stalingrad. Back in Berlin, Katharina, goaded on by her desperate and delusional parents, ruthlessly works her way into the Nazi party hierarchy, wedding herself, her young husband and their unborn child to the regime. But when the tide of war turns and Berlin falls, Peter and Katharina, ordinary people stained with their small share of an extraordinary guilt, find their simple dream of family increasingly hard to hold on to.

Things Fall Apart - Classics in Context

(The
African Trilogy #1)

by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which centre around Okonkwo, a "strong man" of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo's fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty, it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society.

The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytising European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonised, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. Things Fall Apart is the most illuminating and permanent monument we have to the modern African experience as seen from within.

Young Skins:
Stories

by Colin Barrett

A recovering addict drifts closer to the oblivion he'd hoped to avoid by returning to his home town; two estranged friends hide themselves away in a darkened pub, reluctant to attend the funeral of the woman they both loved; a bouncer who cannot envisage a world beyond the walls of the small town nightclub his life revolves around. Set for the most part in the fictional County Mayo town of Glanbeigh, Colin Barrett's stories deftly explore the wayward lives and loves of young men and women in contemporary post-boom Ireland. Young Skins offers an utterly unique reading experience and marks the appearance of an arresting and innovative new voice in Irish writing.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

by George Orwell

Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom

The Thrill of it All

by Joseph O'Connor

At college in 1980s Luton, Robbie Goulding, an Irish-born teenager, meets elusive Fran Mulvey, an orphaned Vietnamese refugee. Together they form a band. Joined by cellist Sarah-Thérése Sherlock and her twin brother Seán on drums, The Ships in the Night set out to chase fame. But the story of this makeshift family is haunted by ghosts from the past…

Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations

by Mary Beard

Mary Beard, drawing on 30 years of teaching and writing about Greek and Roman history, provides a panoramic portrait of the classical world, a book in which we encounter not only Cleopatra and Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Hannibal, but also the common people - the millions of inhabitants of the Roman Empire, the slaves, soldiers, and women. How did they live? Where did they go if their marriage was in trouble or if they were broke? Or, perhaps just as important, how did they clean their teeth? Effortlessly combining the epic with the quotidian, Beard forces us along the way to re-examine so many of the assumptions we held as gospel - not the least of them the perception that the Emperor Caligula was bonkers or Nero a monster. With capacious wit and verve, Beard demonstrates that, far from being carved in marble, the classical world is still very much alive.

  • The book list is among the initiatives of the University of Limerick's First Seven Weeks orientation programme designed to provide strong, enhanced and targeted support to students during the very early weeks of their time at UL. The programme was developed as a result of research carried out by the UL which has shown that this first seven weeks time period is crucial for new students to be introduced to and become familiar with the facilities, services, support systems, and opportunities that are available to them on campus.
  • UL Professor Sarah Moore, Associate Vice President Academic at UL said: "research has shown us that incoming students who do not engage with certain aspects of university life in their first number of weeks are unlikely to do so throughout their time at university. With this programme we are recognising that successful early adjustment is linked to subsequent success. We are targeting our resources, and interacting with our new students in ways that make them know we care about them and are interested in their adjustment to student life.

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