English Readings That Changed My Life

Posted on February 5, 2022

If you’re in university like me, chances are you’ve had to do some readings for class. Actually, chances are you’ve had to do a lot of readings for class, most of which you probably forgot about shortly after completing them. 

I’m minoring in English, which means that I’ve had to get through a pretty large reading list during my degree. I definitely struggled to get into (or even really get through) some of those readings, and they have faded from my memory. But there are also certain readings that truly changed the way I think about the world. These books will always hold a cherished spot on my bookshelf, reminding me why I wanted to study English in the first place. Better yet, I probably wouldn’t have read a lot of these if it wasn’t for my classes. 

Here’s a list of my top 7 favourite readings from university!

7. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - Short Story

The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story about a married woman whose doctor husband has prescribed her a summer of ‘rest’ to cure her depression. She is stuck in a house with nothing to do, and as the story goes on, she grows more manic, more detached from her husband, and more obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room. This is one of those reads that sticks with you. It’s also free to read online here

6. The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimalie - Novel

If you like The Hunger Games and other post-apocalyptic novels, you’ll like The Marrow Thieves. It’s a post-apocalyptic novel set in a climate change ravaged Canada. In this world, everyone has lost the ability to dream, except for Indigenous people. They are now being hunted for their bone marrow, which can restore the ability to dream from those who have lost it. This is definitely a tough read, but its impact can’t be understated. 

5. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel - Graphic Memoir

This is a coming- of- age memoir with a twist – it’s also a graphic novel. Recently adapted into a Broadway musical, Fun Home details the interesting life of Alison Bechdel, including her family’s funeral home business, her coming out story, and how she grappled with her father’s mysterious death. Expect to laugh, cry, and want to read it again!

4. Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead - Novel

Jonny is a two-spirit / Indigiqueer twenty-something year old who has moved away from the reserve where he grew up, and is now a sex worker in the big city. In this novel, Jonny tells a series of anecdotes from his life, as he prepares to return to the reserve for the first time in years. The narration in this character driven novel is darkly funny, heartbreaking and poignant. 

3. I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya - Memoir

Sometimes prose, sometimes poetry, I’m Afraid of Men is a creative memoir by Vivek Shraya. She details her experience coming out as trans, transitioning, dating and love, and overall, her changing relationship with men. This is a quick read that examines gender roles, transphobia, homophobia, and racism in Western society. 

2. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga - Novel

Nervous Conditions is a novel about a young girl named Tambu, growing up in Rhodesia in the 1960s. Her dream is to go to school, and when her older brother dies, she takes his place at the missionary school, and goes to live with her wealthy relatives. This is a fascinating read that draws on themes of gender, colonialism, and class, in Zimbabwe. I can’t recommend it enough! 

1. Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics - bell hooks - Book

This reading holds a special place in my heart, because it was the piece of writing that introduced me to bell hooks, now one of my favourite writers. Feminism is for Everybody is a short book / series of essays that basically serves as Feminism 101. You should definitely read more of bell hooks’ writing other than this, but this is a good place to start! You can also read it for free here


I hope you enjoy these reads as much as I did!

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