Every year, the University of Limerick (UL) draws up a recommended reading list for first years, a carefully curated collection that they believe will be of benefit to students as they take the big step into higher education.
t draws from suggestions offered by the campus community and is compiled by the Centre for Teaching and Learning for the university’s First Seven Weeks (F7W) programme, which supports new students.
Maura Murphy, manager of the Centre for Transformative Learning at UL, explained that the thinking behind the First Seven Weeks Recommended Reading List initiative is to encourage its new students to continue to enjoy reading.
“The idea is that our students would draw from a range of resources as they embark on their studies here at UL,” says Murphy.
“The list is not designed to be compulsory reading or an additional burden on students’ time. It’s simply a way of championing an orientation towards reading and encouraging students to focus on becoming generally better read and informed.
“With this in mind, each year we ask our campus community to suggest books and the final seven are drawn from these suggestions.
“We aim to produce a list that will feature both fiction and non-fiction, and ideally represent different facets or disciplines of learning.”
1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, like dissenters, she will be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness.
However, even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of 21st-century America gives full rein to Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit and astute perception.
2. Dear Life by Alice Munro
Alice Munro captures the essence of life in her brilliant new collection of stories. Moments of change, chance encounters and the twists of fate that leads a person to a new way of thinking or being are explored. The stories in Dear Life build to form a radiant, indelible portrait of just how dangerous and strange ordinary life can be.
3. I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
Pilgrim is the codename for a man who does not exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation. However, that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. In addition, it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where he finds the body of a woman face down in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, and her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder – and Pilgrim wrote the book.
What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation, will become a terrifying race against time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace. He must also cross the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush, in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.
4. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
It is early 1945 and a group of people trek across Germany, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. Four young people, each haunted by their own dark secret, narrate their unforgettable stories. Fans of The Book Thief or Helen Dunmore’s The Siege will be very absorbed.
This inspirational novel is based on a true story from the Second World War. When the German ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff, sunk in port in early 1945 – it had over 9,000 civilian refugees, including children, on board. Nearly all drowned. Ruta Sepetys, acclaimed author of Between Shades of Grey, brilliantly imagines their story.
5. Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker
Peter Drucker is widely regarded as the father of modern management, offering penetrating insights into business that still resonate today. However, Drucker also offers deep wisdom on how to manage our personal lives and how to become leaders that are more effective. In these two classic articles from Harvard Business Review, Drucker reveals the keys to becoming your own chief executive officer as well as a better leader of others. Managing Oneself identifies the probing questions you need to ask to gain the insights essential for taking charge of your career.
6. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
An extraordinary story of love and hope from the bestselling, Man Booker-shortlisted author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
Nadia and Saeed are two ordinary young people, attempting to do an extraordinary thing – to fall in love – in a world turned upside down. Theirs will be a love story, but also a story about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow, of a world in crisis and two human beings travelling through it. Civil war has come to the city that Nadia and Saeed call home. Before long, they will need to leave their motherland behind – when the streets are no longer useable and the unknown is safer than the known. They will join the great outpouring of people fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world.
7. What We Cannot Know by Marcus Du Sautoy
Britain’s most famous mathematician takes us to the edge of knowledge to show us what we cannot know.
Is the universe infinite? Do we know what happened before the Big Bang? Where is human consciousness located in the brain? In addition, are there more undiscovered particles out there, beyond the Higgs boson?
In the modern world, science is king: weekly headlines proclaim the latest scientific breakthroughs and numerous mathematical problems, once indecipherable, have now been solved. Are there limits to what we can discover about our physical universe?
In this very personal journey to the edges of knowledge, Marcus du Sautoy investigates how leading experts in fields from quantum physics and cosmology, to sensory perception and neuroscience, have articulated the current lie of the land. In doing so, he travels to the very boundaries of understanding, questioning contradictory stories and consulting innovative data.
Is it possible that we will one day know everything? Alternatively, are there fields of research that will always lie beyond the bounds of human comprehension? If so, how do we cope with living in a universe where there are things that will forever transcend our understanding?
In What We Cannot Know, Marcus du Sautoy leads us on a thought-provoking expedition to the furthest reaches of modern science. Prepare to be taken to the edge of knowledge to find out if there is anything we truly cannot know.