Mammoth reading lists govern the life of most Oxford students’ lives. They dictate your evening plans, your library adventures and your closest friends will inevitably be those whose reading lists are comparable to yours. However, I’m asking you right now to do the unthinkable – forget these all-powerful lists for a while, because before you begin to delve into them, Freshers’ Week looms ahead. As a well-wisher and someone who remembers her first week as if it were yesterday, allow me to be the prescriber of a reading list for this undoubtedly excitingly scary, dauntingly amazing and overall tumultuous week, where you’ll learn so much about life in Oxford, about yourself and, above all, realisation will finally dawn about how brave and wonderfully independent you now are.
The following three books were my refuge in Fresher’s Week, above all because they helped me remember: that no problem is too small and that seeking help is never wrong, that this ‘rite of passage’ while communal is a unique experience to embrace and that, despite the absolute chaos that ensues, there’ll always be someone to reach out to on Freshers’ Week, because the strangers you see today will soon become your family away from home. Take my word for it.
- Looking for Alaska by John Green – Don’t judge it until you try it: this book has all the drama, comedy, tragedy and surprises one could ever ask for. It mirrors the emotional rollercoaster that is Freshers’ Week and was oddly comforting to me to know that I wasn’t alone in ‘growing up’, as the protagonists’ rants echoed mine!
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz – This particular novel is not my ordinary go-to – I generally steer clear of high-school dramas, steeped in cheesy quotes and rather grossly misrepresented, romanticised tales of school. However, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was suggested to me by a friend and was surprisingly inspiring as the protagonist learns the importance of embracing his past and starts a new chapter in his life, having learnt from, and repaired wounds of, the past. This became practically my mantra in Freshers’ Week, as that is exactly what university is – a fresh start!
- The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides – This last novel is a highly amusing read and reflects on some of the complexities of university life, providing a fresh perspective on cliché university experiences and is encouraging in its tone – it helped me realise that I needed to take control of my experiences, and do what makes me happy.
So, there it is – a touch of nostalgia on Freshers’ Week and a rather short reading list that I hope won’t be a burden but rather a comfort during the week to come. So, with that: good luck and welcome to Oxford!