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Recommendations for Writing and English Literature students


Faculty: Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
School: School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Course: BA (Hons) Writing and English Literature
Category: All about university

21 April 2023

Colette Paul

Coming to ARU to study writing or English? Here are Writing and English Literature Course Leader Colette Paul's recommendations on books to read, and online resources to check out, before joining your course.

New Yorker fiction podcasts

Every month a prominent writer choses a story from the amazing archive to read and then discuss in detail.

Check out the full collection of New Yorker fiction podcasts.

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

While Stephen King isn't everyone's cup of tea, this book is interesting reading for anyone who wants to be a writer.

The first half is a memoir of how King became a writer (clue: papered his bedroom walls in rejection letters and didn't give up); the second half is a very accessible & practical guide to vivid and punchy writing.

You can read more about On Writing on Wikipedia, or buy On Writing from Amazon.

Ursula Le Guin, 'The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas'

This short story co-opts the reader into the creation of their very own utopia. By the shocking finale, we are forced to confront our own ethical dilemma: would you walk away from Omelas?

You can read 'The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas' online (requires PDF reader).

The Paris Review interviews

A fantastic interview archive of nearly every famous writer, playwright and poet you can think of. The questions are in-depth and focus on writing craft.

Paul McVeigh's blog

This is a great resource by Northern Ireland writer Paul McVeigh of free reads, competitions, and calls for submissions.

Sally Rooney, Conversations With Friends

This, Rooney's first novel, was published to great acclaim when she was just 26 and concerns a lot of smart conversations (and texts and emails) between university students Frances and her best friend Bobbi.

When Frances embarks on an affair with married Nick, Rooney skilfully manages to gives us both her self-delusion and her self-knowledge.

You can find out more about Conversations With Friends on Wikipedia, or buy Conversations With Friends from Amazon.

Raymond Carver, 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love' / Nathan Englander, 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank'

Two wonderful - and bleak - short stories.

Englander updates Raymond Carver's original dark meditation on love & loss & hate. You can read Carver’s original on the Northern Highlands website (requires PDF reader), and Englander’s version on the New Yorker website.

T. S Eliot, 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'

A haunting, beautiful poem which speaks of Prufrock's (and our) inner condition: alienation, isolation, and hesitation.

You can read or listen to 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' on the Poetry Foundation website.

Alice Munro, Dance of the Happy Shades

My favourite short story writer, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Her first collection, Dance of the Happy Shades, introduces her fictional territory - the rural backwoods of Southwest Ontario, Canada, described in glowing, evocative detail. The stories focus mainly on childhood, on coming to terms with family, and on those on those small, illuminating moments in life when everything but nothing changes.

You can find out more about Dance of the Happy Shades on Wikipedia, or buy Dance of the Happy Shades from Amazon.

Edna O’Brien, The Country Girls

This is Edna O'Brien's (very short) coming of age novel, following the friendship of Kate and Baba, from school girls in rural Ireland (a 'boghole') to young women living in Dublin.

Set in deeply conservative, Catholic Ireland in 50s, it was banned by the Irish censor and famously burned by the local priest. The prose is funny and bright on the surface, but dark underneath, relentlessly exposing the misogyny and hypocrisy of the society.

You can find out more about The Country Girls on Wikipedia, or buy Country Girls from Amazon.

John Fante, Wait Until Spring, Bandini

Another short novel, the first of a trilogy of novels concerning Bandini, the main character, and Fante's fictional alter-ego.

Fourteen-year-old Bandini is in love with Rosa (who doesn't love him) and baseball, and dreams of leaving home and becoming a writer. But first he must survive living with his fractured family in depression-era Colorado in Winter.

Find out more about Wait Until Spring, Bandini on Wikipedia, or buy Wait Until Spring, Bandini from Amazon.

By Dr Colette Paul

Colette is Course Leader and Senior Leader for ARU's BA (Hons) Creative Writing, BA (Hons) Writing and English Literature, and BA (Hons) Writing and Film. Find out about these and other degree courses at one of our Open Days.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.