The first few months of a new year can feel like a pressured time – everyone is doing new challenges, health kicks and ‘new year, new me’ spirit can be felt in the air. Or at least that’s what it looks like if you look on social media… While having new year goals can be a great way to get yourself motivated, it can also add an unnecessary pressure. We’re here to tell you, there is nothing wrong with not wanting to change who you are! However, you should at least consider taking up a new hobby or remembering the one you may have neglected.
Considering this year January has been marked by the return to lockdown, which particularly impacted students across the country, it’s likely that you are currently spending a considerable time indoors. And while there are countless TV shows you can watch and hours upon hours of music or podcasts you can listen to at your student accommodation, how about the real feel of a physical book? When is the last time you actually picked up one? We’re here to inspire you and help you get back into reading! Check out our list of great books, that won book prizes throughout the years, that are perfect for reading this winter:
If there is one book you read this winter, make it this one. This clever and unique novel by Bernardine Evaristo won Fiction Book of the Year, shared with Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Testaments’, at the Booker Prize 2019. And it’s so clear why! The book tells a story about 12 people in Britain, mostly women and mostly black, and follows their journey throughout the years as they face various challenges. This incredibly smart, incredibly emotional, and undeniably original book gives us a different kind of history of black people’s lives and experiences in the UK, from the 1950’s to the present day. Take this time we have in lockdown to delve into these unique and personal stories – you never know, it might change your outlook on the world all together!
The Book of the Year and the Debut Book of the Year at the British Book Awards 2020, ‘Queenie’ is another book where a black woman features as a protagonist and dazzles its readers with a painfully funny coming-of-age storyline set in modern Britain. With this debut book, Candice Carty-Williams depicts life as it is experienced by a young, single black woman in the city, and touches on a variety of topics, including mental health, race, class and consent. This story is incredibly important, but also easy to read which makes it perfect for those cold winter evenings!
If you’re not really into fiction, check out Michelle Obama’s memoir which came out a couple of years ago. In this book, which won the Non-Fiction Narrative Book of the Year at The British Book Awards 2019, she tells us a sincere and inspirational story of being the first black woman to become the First Lady of the United States. Since its publication in 2018, ‘Becoming’ caused a media frenzy and was praised by many critics and readers for being a lot more personal and passionate than many had expected. Michelle Obama is a true inspiration and her book, which is full of honesty and emotional subtlety, is definitely worth your time!
Have you heard of the TV show called ‘Normal People’? What you might not know is that it is based on an award-winning book by Sally Rooney. The Winner of the Costa Novel Award 2018, the book tells a girl-meets-boy story with a twist and interrogates the difficulties of sincere communication in a complicated, post-ironic world. Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. When they both start studying at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years. If you’re into romantic, complicated stories, you’ll definitely enjoy this story which makes you think about how other people impact your life and how you impact theirs.
This highly prized novel is an interesting philosophical take on spirituality and mental health. If those themes are something you’re interested in, give ‘Life of Pi’ a chance. The protagonist of the book is Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, an Indian Tamil boy from Pondicherry who explores issues of spirituality and metaphysics from an early age. This 2002 Man Booker Prize winner may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but its deep story lines can be perfect for those long winter nights. Being stuck at your student accommodation means you have more time on your hands to delve into stories like this one!
Now this might be one of the newest books on our list, and it has recently been awarded The 2020 Booker Prize. Written by a Scottish-American author, ‘Shuggie Bain’ tells a complicated story of the youngest of the three children, Shuggie, growing up with his alcoholic mother, Agnes, in the 1980s, in Thatcher-era post-industrial working-class Glasgow, Scotland. If you’re looking for a novel that wouldn’t just be centred on romantic themes and would actually make you think and see the world differently, this intimate and detailed exploration of a mother-son relationship might be the one.
Have you read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ before? If you have, you might also enjoy ‘The Testaments’ which is its sequel. Margaret Atwood is a legend, and her books are on many readers’ favourites list. The newest book was the winner of The Booker Prize 2019 (shared with Evaristo’s ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ we already mentioned), and is definitely Atwood at her best! Set 15 years after the events of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, the story alternates between the perspectives of three women and fills in the gaps of what happened to some of the characters and concepts you’ll know from the first book.
Another Man Booker Prize winner, ‘Milkman’ actually marked the first time a Northern Irish writer has been awarded the prize. Set during a unique period in history, The Troubles in Northern Ireland, the story follows an 18-year-old girl who is harassed by an older married man known as the “milkman”. The Troubles is what we now call the ethno-nationalist period of conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted about 30 years from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. If you’re into political novels, that also tell a personal story, make sure you check it out!
Your reading list for this winter wouldn’t be complete without a book that tackles equality issues and themes. ‘The Great Believers’ is one such book, specifically centred around the AIDS crisis that occurred in 1980s. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, Yale finds his partner is infected, and that he might even have the virus himself. The only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister. This novel about friendship and redemption takes us through the heartbreak of 80’s and the chaos of the modern world. The book was crowned the winner of The Stonewall Book Award and Carnegie Medal.
Not all great books you have to read page by page, some you can pick up and use to make yourself some delicious meals! ‘Pinch of Nom’ became the fastest selling non-fiction book of all time and won lots of awards, including Non-fiction Lifestyle Book of the Year at The British Book Awards in 2020. While it is a recipe book, it’s not your regular recipe book – it features 100 slimming home-style recipes (around 80 of them brand new) that are bound to get you back to cooking and eating healthy in the new year! And if you’re looking for a simple place to get you started while you’re waiting for your book to arrive, check out our top 5 recipes to try in your first month at university.