Essential Reading For Starting An English Degree

Picked English? Get ready for people to snigger, question the importance of the course and tell you to ‘go write a poem or something’.

English is a vast and extremely broad degree. You will quickly learn that you need to be very learned about pretty much everything. An English student keeps up with current affairs, reads a range of genres and authors, knows sociology and has to be able to read twice as fast as other students.

Choosing English and not expecting to have your face in a book 24/7 is a tad naïve. The more you read, the more you’re helping yourself to be knowledgeable.

Here’s just a few broad topics you should keep an eye on.


The news

It sounds simple but, the news is important. It can reflect in someone’s writing and change our social perceptions. This doesn’t just mean today’s News; it means the news in history also. Big events such as the World War, Civil Rights and other worldwide topics should be on the tip of your tongue.

Current affairs are certainly a huge factor when it comes to reading texts, understanding them and even writing your own. If racism makes you feel poetic, write about it. If you have a crush on Trump, write about it – although you may be questioned.



If you’re reading this in preparation for university, I’d highly advise choosing Sociology as an A-Level. Your English essay questions may very well be based on gender, class or race.

This may seem odd but, when your lecturer starts talking and the Bourgeoisie and Rise of Feminism, your understanding of these will play in your favour. Getting a background in social studies is helpful to study as writers will reflect on their lives and the zeitgeist of their generation. Comprehending all the sociological vocabulary beforehand will make it seem not so daunting and save you from extra work.


Specialist terminology

It’s not everyday that we speak of soliloquys, caesura and pathetic fallacy. However, for an English student, this stuff is your bread and butter

Try to brush up on terms that’ll be very casually used by your lecturers and that’ll earn you bonus points in essays. Opting for fancier words is fun but you need to know their definition whilst using them.


Guides for English students

There are plenty of books out there just waiting to assist you. Scholars, writers and English-lovers alike have written thousands of books about how to write effective poetry and how to perfect the art of screenplay.

Most likely your tutors will recommend the current and chart-topping books for you but, there is never any harm researching into extras and taking them out at the library. It’ll work wonders for your essay bibliography.


Your reading list

Duh! Reading SparkNotes synopses on the way to your lecture is not the same as reading it yourself. Doing English is about inferring from the text yourself and seeing what you take from it. Your original ideas are bound to get more credit than the same old broken-record explanations and theories.

Keep up on the reading list so you don’t fall behind and have no idea where you are in the year. If you keep on top of it, you’ll know which books you have the most to talk about for essays and further assignments.

English degrees are taxing stuff but, working hard and keeping your wits about you will certainly be helpful.


Nikita studied English with Creative Writing at Brunel University London. Her loves include literature, travelling and writing. She is a spiritual soul and a bit of a wanderer. Stalk her on Twitter and Instagram.

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