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Must-read books for first years

The University of Limerick encourages freshers to read widely, and here Declan Mills shares its top seven picks for the year ahead

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Declan Mills. Photo: Skye Murphy

Declan Mills. Photo: Skye Murphy

Declan Mills. Photo: Skye Murphy

This list is not designed to be compulsory reading or an additional burden on students' time.

It's simply a way of championing an orientation towards reading and encouraging students to focus on becoming generally better-read and informed. The books are supplied to students through a free lending library system in the First Seven Weeks HUB.Students have an opportunity to enter competitions based around reading and reviewing the books.

This year saw over 60 books being suggested by everyone from senior professors to support staff. This longlist was then whittled down to seven titles by the Centre for Teaching & Learning's manager, Maura Murphy. With the list drawn up, the promotional materials informing UL students about each book were compiled by myself along with Jordan Lynch from UL's Regional Writing Centre.

The number of people from across various UL departments and divisions involved in the process is just one demonstration of how engrained in UL's culture the Seven Recommended Reads initiative has become.

This year's books range from a 1920s travelogue to a 2018 Man Booker-shortlisted novel, by way of Primo Levi's essays and Ta-Nehisi Coates' sociopolitical zeitgeist-catching Between the World and Me.

As always, we have tried to offer UL students a selection of windows onto different eras, ideas, and approaches.

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The Leavers, by Lisa Ko.

The Leavers, by Lisa Ko.

Lisa Ko. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Lisa Ko. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

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The Leavers, by Lisa Ko.

If you're starting in UL, you're going to be calling into the HUB and meeting both me and the HUB staff during your orientation. Why not come back to pull up a couch, have a cuppa, and take a look at one of the following books?

1. The Leavers (Lisa Ko)

This acclaimed American debut is now the first book published by Little, Brown's new British publishing imprint dedicated to inclusivity.

One morning, Deming Guo's mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. Deming is adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate.

The Leavers unfolds through the eyes of Deming, now Daniel, as he drops out of college and returns to live in New York to ostensibly further his music dreams, but really to find out more about his mother and, in turn, himself.

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From A Low And Quiet Sea, by Donal Ryan.

From A Low And Quiet Sea, by Donal Ryan.

Author, Donal Ryan. Photo: David Conachy

Author, Donal Ryan. Photo: David Conachy

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From A Low And Quiet Sea, by Donal Ryan.

2. From a Low and Quiet Sea (Donal Ryan)

Shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, Donal Ryan teaches on UL's creative writing programme.

This is a new, moving novel of three men, searching for some version of home, their lives moving inexorably towards a reckoning that will draw them all together.

The story follows Farouk, a Syrian refugee, escaping his homeland with his wife and daughter, for what he hopes will be a brighter future in Western Europe; Lampy, who is trying to navigate his small-town life in Ireland; and John, an accountant and lobbyist filled with remorse over a failed relationship with a much younger woman, who is thrown off balance by an unexpected crush that quickly turns to obsession and violence.

3. The Drowned And The Saved (Primo Levi)

Shortly after completing The Drowned and the Saved, Primo Levi committed suicide. There are some who argue that he killed himself because he was tormented by guilt that he had survived the horrors of Auschwitz when others had not.

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The Drowned And The Saved, by Primo Levi.

The Drowned And The Saved, by Primo Levi.

Primo Levi

Primo Levi

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The Drowned And The Saved, by Primo Levi.

The Drowned and the Saved is a book of essays on life in the Nazi extermination camps by Italian-Jewish author and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, based on his personal experience as a survivor of Auschwitz. Drawing on history, philosophy, and his own personal experiences, Levi asks if we have already begun to forget about the Holocaust.

4. The Story of San Michele (Axel Munthe)

The extraordinary and enduring memoir of Axel Munthe, a travel bestseller since it was first published in 1929, captures the spirit and feel of an era.

The Story of San Michele is a book of memoirs by Swedish physician Axel Munthe. The author takes us on a highly colourful autobiographical tour of his medical career - his personal life never enters this account - from a classical medical education in Paris as a young expatriate Swede to his internal medicine practice in France, including a tour of Naples as a volunteer during the cholera epidemic of 1881 and his finally settling in Italy.

5. Between the World And Me (Ta-nehisi Coates)

This New York Times No. 1 bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist was inspired by James Baldwin's 1963 novel The Fire Next Time.

Between the World and Me is a 2015 book written by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It is written as a letter to the author's teenage son about the feelings, symbolism and realities associated with being black in the United States. In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding America's history and current crisis.

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The Story Of San Michele, by Axel Munthe.

The Story Of San Michele, by Axel Munthe.

Axel Munthe

Axel Munthe

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The Story Of San Michele, by Axel Munthe.

6. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Hunter S. Thompson)

This book was adapted into a film starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro in 1998.

This cult classic of gonzo journalism is the best chronicle of drug-soaked, addle-brained, rollicking good times ever committed to the printed page. It is also the tale of a long weekend road trip that has gone down in the annals of American pop culture as one of the strangest journeys ever undertaken.

The novel confronts "the brutish realities of this foul Year of Our Lord, 1971", when the "whole scene" consisted of the state of America as a nation, the squandered promise of the 1960s counter-culture, and the inadequacies of traditional journalism to cope with the chaos that confronted it.

7. At Swim, Two Boys (Jamie O'Neill)

At Swim, Two Boys is a novel by Irish writer Jamie O'Neill. The title is a punning allusion to Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds. The book is written in a stream-of-consciousness style, which has led to favourable comparisons to James Joyce.

Set during the year preceding the Easter Uprising of 1916 - Ireland's brave but fractured revolt against British rule - At Swim, Two Boys is a tender, tragic love story and a brilliant depiction of people caught in the tide of history. The book's teenage heroes, Jim and Doyler, latch onto each other in the midst of a mutinous Dublin. Together, they find no fury worth fighting for, but love worth living for.

 

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Between The World And Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Between The World And Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Author Ta-Nehisi Coates. Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Gordon Parks Foundation

Author Ta-Nehisi Coates. Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Gordon Parks Foundation

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Between The World And Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Declan Mills is a PhD candidate in history and First Seven Weeks Co-ordinator

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Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, by Hunter S Thompson.

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, by Hunter S Thompson.

Author Hunter S.Thompson. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Author Hunter S.Thompson. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

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Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, by Hunter S Thompson.

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At Swim, Two Boys, by Jamie O'Neill.

At Swim, Two Boys, by Jamie O'Neill.

Author Jamie O'Neill. Photo: Ray Ryan

Author Jamie O'Neill. Photo: Ray Ryan

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At Swim, Two Boys, by Jamie O'Neill.

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