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Five books to read before starting your English Literature degree


Faculty: Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
School: School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Course: BA (Hons) English Literature
Category: Language, literature and media

15 May 2017

Kaileb picks out her best reads to help you prepare for studying English Literature ARU.

If you’ve chosen to study English Literature, you’re probably already aware there is going to be one heck of a reading list!

You're not obligated to buy any books before you start, and bear in mind you may be eligible for Books Plus, but here are my five suggestions to get started:

1. Tory Young, Studying English Literature: A Practical Guide (2008)

This is very useful if you don’t have much academic practice, which, coming from A-Level, you probably don’t. And that’s okay! This book from our very own Tory Young is a great guide full of tips for essay writing, creating arguments, and even sentence structure.

2. ARU Library Cite Them Right guidance

This referencing guidance from the ARU Library isn’t strictly a book, I know. But it's a fantastic guide to Cite Them Right, which, if you didn’t already know, is what you will need to do in every single one of your essays. And it’s tricky to get your head around at first.

3. Rhian Williams, The Poetry Toolkit: The essential guide to studying poetry (3rd ed., 2019)

You’re probably used to analysing poetry, but not to degree level. This book has some next level terminology in it, and is pretty complex in places. But if you can learn even some of this jargon, you’re going to look like you know what you’re talking about in seminars, and more importantly, your assignments.

4. Cambridge Companions (various)

I haven’t specified an exact Cambridge Companion for you to read, as there are so many. It really depends on what you find most interesting, or where you would like further information. There is one for basically every topic, and they are very useful.

5. Very Short Introductions (various)

These books are great for further knowledge. If you can’t quite get to grips with something, these give a brief overview of the basics and can be a handy reference to turn to. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, by Jonathan Culler (2nd ed., 2011) is a particular example.

Ultimately, any reading is good reading, and you can never do enough of it when you study literature!

Kaileb studies English Literature at ARU in Cambridge. Find out more about this 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.