Three Reads to Prepare You For Your Return to University
There is a widespread notion that the first few months of university are the most magical period of your young adult life — a period of transition, growth, and challenge; a time for immense pedagogical cultivation; an era likely experienced exclusively by those who have never nursed a Pablo-inflicted hangover during a 9am tutorial. This idea may seem a distant notion, one nowhere near the distinctly unromantic experience of running late for tutorials after losing your matriculation card, £30, and several shreds of dignity on a night out. Nevertheless, this semester, we at The Saint encourage you, particularly the freshers amongst us, to slow down and consider how very special this time in your life actually is. We have put together a list of three reads to excite you for your first semester at St Andrews. We hope these indulgent portrayals of academic life may encourage you to see the allure of your own time at university.
Bunny by Mona Awad
Perfect For: The Mean Girls-loving academic
Ideally Read: Following a pier walk when you are feeling particularly cult-like
A decidedly twisted read, Bunny follows Samantha, a graduate student, who falls into the hands of the bunny-clique. Conjoined-at-the-hip, the members of the group are in Samantha’s creative writing workshop and, as devoted academics, host their own workshops outside of class time. The scholarly Bunnies, however, are far more pink and cupcakes than tweed and stale coffee, but don’t let the saccharine veneer mislead you — the book is gory. Set in a fictional American university, Awad satirises the cultish nature of higher education and female friendships through magical realism. Blood, guts, and academia wrapped in delicate pastels, Bunny is a fever dream you will not want to wake up from.
The Idiot by Elif Bautman
Perfect For: The eager fresher hopelessly in love with their academic parent who has not even noticed your absence at family pres
Ideally Read: In the Buchanan Building as you wait for the 9am lecture of that third module you randomly selected to begin
While Bunny combines academia with the alien, the magic of The Idiot and its sequel Either/Or can be found in their mundanity. Following Selin, a student at Harvard University, the two books create a romance around the trivialities of student life. Selin’s romances, friendships, and even classes are discussed at length, and while so incredibly relatable, never dull.
Most of the first and second books come back to her romantic feelings for Ivan, an older Hungarian student. However, Selin never formally enters a relationship with Ivan and he is hardly present in the book, discussions of him thus evolve into a reflection of her own selfhood. Endlessly interior, Selin creates fiction out of Ivan, romanticising and curating, reflecting the oh-so-common urge to shape our crushes into our own characters of desire.
The Idiot and its sequel highlight the particular scholastic experiences so singular to this period of our lives — awkward drunken interactions, fiddly dealings with flatmates, all-consuming crushes. The charm of the two books and university life can be summed up by a single quote from the sequel: "how brief and magical it was that we all lived so close to each other and went in and out of each other's rooms."
Sleepwalking by Meg Wolitzer
Perfect For: The indie music listening English Literature student
Best Read: In the cathedral graveyard, under the moonlight
Sleepwalking by Meg Wolitzer tells the story of the death girls, a group of university-aged students who call themselves the “death girls”. Despite being written in 1982, Sleepwalking’s “death girls” are incredibly reminiscent of the 21st century’s ‘Sad Girl’ trope. The three death girls, dawning all black, are each obsessed with three different poets — Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and the fictional Lucy Asher.
Ritualistically reading their poems under candlelight, the death girls are absorbed with the work, the lives, and the suicides of their idols. While the focus is not entirely on the poets, the novel reflects on academic obsession and the way it can expand to fill one’s entire life. That along with the university setting makes it an inspiring read for the student.
Illustration: Lauren McAndrew