_Delia Smith Complete Cookery Course_ by Delia Smith
Delia is notoriously dull, boring, unexciting – find any synonym to these and she’s probably been described as it. It’s probably not the wisest move to open a review with such adjectives, however, I will endeavour to convince you that you do not need, nor will ever use, a ‘fun’ cookbook or student cookbook.
The thing is, Delia is the most reliable recipe writer to be found. Every single recipe works, no matter how terrible a cook you are, because she explains everything, leaving nothing to chance. Even how to boil an egg.
You Freshers’ who plan to survive on Tesco’s Finest ready meals and Dominos for the next two weeks will quickly discover the drain on your bank balance. Here I offer you a solution: Delia Smith.
She takes you through all the basics and updates classics; plus, you can pretty much pick up whatever cut of meat is on offer in Tesco’s and Delia will have a pretty nifty recipe for it. A student cookbook will last you probably one of your three years; my Mum still uses her original Delia. A cookbook is for life, not just for Freshers’. – Rebekah Ellerby
_Art as Technique_ by Viktor Shklovsky
Despite not getting on particularly well with theory, this short essay spoke to me in a way that you don’t find very often. Shklovsky’s essay _Art as Technique_ doesn’t just make statements about literature and language; it makes an argument about life. (I know!)
“As perception becomes habitual, it becomes automatic,” he writes. “Thus, for example, all of our habits retreat into the area of the unconsciously automatic… if the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been.”
The essay explores how art, and literature, use the process of defamiliarisation to present life back to us in a way that is unfamiliar, to make us pay attention to things we may usually overlook. For me it was like stumbling across a great life philosophy. Don’t let life become habitual, it argues. Wake up, smell the roses, and get out there.
It’s an important lesson for all students, first year or otherwise. Take the opportunities surrounding you, say ‘yes’ to everything, don’t sleep through your lectures, and try to remember why you applied to do you degree in the first place! Remember to pay attention to what you’re reading, and enjoy it. Make the most of everything that is possible during your student years and I promise you, they’ll be the best years of your life.
And with “I will not discuss rhythm in more detail since I intend to write a book about it,” Shklovsky ends the essay. By third year you’ll almost definitely be begging to use the same phrase in your own essays…. – Katherine Price
_Just Kids _by Patti Smith
Safe to say, at the start of the year I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the prospect of my reading list (I’m sure any fresher will recognise that sentiment). I therefore decided to have something escapist on hand, something not-too-demanding, that I could read to unwind.
The book that ended up on my bedside table was _Just Kids_, the memoirs of veteran American rock singer Patti Smith. Far from following the standard self-worshipping celebrity-telling-their-side-of-the-story claptrap that one may (nay, should?!) expect, Smith’s narrative of two young artists and soulmates living and working together in early 70s New York gently unfolds with honesty and tenderness, and is carried along by the same confident poetics as her lyrics.
Being a long-term Smith fan, I was sucked in before the first page was up, but I challenge even those completely new to her work not to feel themselves welling up in no time. A fantastic read. – Phoebe Demeger
_Starter For Ten_ by David Nicholls
The only thing I read during Freshers was the _Iliad_, and I’m not sure it’s the best comfort read. Instead, I’ll plump for _Starter for Ten_ by David Nichols, the popular author of mush-fest _One Day_.
_Starter for Ten_ follows 18 year old Brian Jackson as he leaves his maisonnette home in Southend to study English at a Redbrick university. Reading this during Freshers’ you’ll quickly identify with the social faux pas that he almost compulsively commits, and his awkward attempts at forming relationships. Things really kick off when he tries out for the University Challenge team, where he meets the classically beautiful and stereotypically shallow Alice.
Nicholls is a compulsively readable and fantastically funny writer, and this book is an out-and-out romp; his talents far better showcased here than in _One Day_. His version of university is perhaps technicolor, even stereotypical, but there’s enough uncomfortable truth to make it all seem real.
And, if nothing else, this serves as a How Not To… Guide for university. An equally good film version was made in 2007 (featuring a phenomenal cast including James McAvoy, Rebecca Hall, Benedict Cumberbatch, James Corden and Dominic Cooper) and it’d be a great watch when Freshers’ Flu kicks in. – Euan Kitson
_Great Gatsby_ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
For me, the most important qualities of a Freshers’ read have got to be escapism, familiarity, and convenience. Primarily convenience as, let’s face it, not many of you are going to find time to snuggle up with a big novel and a mug of hot chocolate during the first couple of weeks of term, however idyllic that may sound (just me?!).
A few minutes of escapism here and there will probably become a welcome break from the bubble, while a familiar read can be perfect to allay the inevitable pangs of homesickness that are bound to hit you at some point, however much fun you are having. My Freshers’ read is a perfect combination of all three: _The Great Gatsby_. And if the slim paperback isn’t quite convenient enough, how about the (rather geeky) form of a poster*?
_The Great Gatsby_, poster or not, stylishly merges all your Freshers’ requirements: it’s easy to dip in and out of; its 1920s America setting will immediately distance you from campus; and the distinctive characters and beautiful imagery are not only memorable, but also instantly recognisable.
Besides, who could be homesick when reminded of how ‘we beat on, boats against the current’?
* actually available from Amazon… trust me, I have it. – Hannah MacKeith
_The Pregnant Widow_ by Martin Amis
So, you’ve arrived at uni, and, although your course and your accommodation and your reading list will all be weighing (somewhat literally) on your mind, over half your anxiety will probably be over ‘making friends’. And, once you do, you’ll no doubt find yourself feeling stupidly young and free and enraptured by all of them – at least for a couple of weeks.
To supplement this, there is no better book than Martin Amis’ _The Pregnant Widow_. Set in the 1970s, when ‘sex is very much on everyone’s mind’ and the rise of feminism means all the girls are chopping their hair off, wearing French knickers and desperately trying to out-shag the boys, sensitive and bookish Keith Nearing and a group of friends head to a castle in Italy for the summer. With all the witty cynicisms, brutal politics and cutting observations one would expect from Amis.
Poor Keith must juggle the staggeringly captivating and enigmatic Scheherezade, the boisterous and overtly sexual Gloria-and-her-massive-bum, and the sharp, perceptive but painfully self-conscious Lily.
Amis paints a raucous affair: a gloriously young, outrageously hot, and refreshingly liberal student summer holiday. A perfect aid to idealising your housemates. – Rebecca Myers
_The Lonely Londoners_ by Sam Selvon
After finishing a set text it dawned on me: tutors choose syllabus books for some really good reasons. First term is a mess of emotions and experiences for everyone. You’ll be anxious, exhilarated and darn right shell-shocked by it all, but there are things you can read and relate to in your frenzied fresher state in ways you hadn’t thought possible.
For ALL you Freshers, I’d recommend one (very short) novel to you. Sam Selvon’s _The Lonely Londoners_ has it all: feeling like a stranger in a new and confusing place, new (ever so naughty) sexual encounters, and the inevitable feeling of anti-climax that hits almost everyone.
Selvon manages to introduce different cultures and vivid characters whilst leaving space for a simple Warwick fresher to relate to the themes. In first year, you’ll meet a variety of people; some will be funny, eccentric, shy… and just about everything in between.
After the first few weeks you’ll read this book and undoubtedly be able to see aspects of your new friends in each character, as well as developing an understanding of the myriad of emotions running throughout the novel. This book is more than well worth a read, and something I’ll always remember from my first year. – Poppy Rosenberg
_The Lucky One_ by Nicholas Sparks
A note to bright and shiny freshers: don’t forget that reading was fun once. Last year, the mass of set reading weighed down on me week by week. By some trick of fate (namely a movie poster of a shirtless Zac Efron and my flat mate’s coincidental purchase of said movie’s original novel), one novel reminded me how fun it was to read something you didn’t have to think very much about. That novel was Nicholas Sparks’ _The Lucky One_.
The story revolves around US Marine Logan Thibault, who comes across a photograph of a smiling woman that becomes his saving grace across three tours of Iraq. Upon his return to America, he decides to find her and thank her, but when he meets her, he realises that it’s time for him to return the luck she brought him.
_The Lucky One_ isn’t going to be your favourite novel and it doesn’t pretend to be. It is exactly what you expect it to be: quick, fast chick-lit with a plot that a toddler could storyboard.
To his credit though, Sparks’ characters drive the story forwards with a surprising complexity unusually found in commercial bestsellers. The story keeps you entertained by cleverly playing with clichés and subverting your expectations right at the last minute. All in all an entertaining read that exceeds the general cynicism surrounding Sparks’ writing… and a welcome break from course reading. – Megan Hills