Apparently, the average McGill student has no interest in reading for pleasure — just ask my friends how many times they have rejected my book recommendations. I know it feels like the only way to relax is by watching a show or scrolling through social media, but I am here to tell you that reading is relaxing! If you find the right book, sooner or later you will be reaping the benefits.
No, I am not an anomaly of an Arts student who isn’t drowning in jargon-filled readings. I know what you’re thinking — “Arly, if you’re drowning in reading, how and why do you read more than you have to?” Well, reading has become my way of relaxing and disassociating from my schoolwork. It’s a reliable way to destress and improve mental health. Since I enjoy the books I read, they don’t feel like extra work. I guarantee that if you found the right book, you’ll feel the same way.
Here are my recommendations (based on areas of study), of some of my favourite books I read this year to get you started on your new favourite pastime!
For the education major: Educated by Tara Westover
In this riveting memoir, Tara Westover chronicles her life as a child in a survivalist Mormon family, living in isolation for her entire childhood with no medical care or education. Seeking an outlet for her feelings of displacement in her family, she teaches herself mathematics and grammar, leading her to apply to Brigham Young University, which then leads to Harvard, and finally, Cambridge. Exploring the value of education, this book perfectly captures what education offers and how transformative it can be. A must-read.
334 pages; *available as an eBook at the McGill Library
For the economics major: Red Notice by Bill Browder
Bill Browder’s harrowing memoir reads more like a screenplay than a book, and it’s hard to believe that he is recounting his own life. After stumbling upon an incredible business opportunity in Russia following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Browder made a fortune and became one of the most successful businessmen in Europe. But Putin and the Russian government set out to make him their enemy — and what ensued was dark and dirty. This is an important book about human rights activism and compassion; you won’t be able to put it down.
380 pages; *available as an audiobook at the McGill Library
For the political science major: From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein
Not all of us are as lucky as Beck Dorey-Stein, who accidentally gets a job as one of President Obama’s stenographers through an ad on Craigslist. Laugh-out-loud funny, tear-jerking, dramatic, and endearing, Dorey-Stein’s memoir opens doors to an unseen world of American politics. Its wonderful mix of beautifully written anecdotes and personal memories capture the changing political climate in the United States. One of the most fun and engaging books I read this year!
For the psychology major: My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward by Mark Lukach
I don’t have enough words to express how incredibly beautiful this exquisite memoir is. Mark Lukach, with grace and eloquence, recounts his wife’s psychotic breakdowns, weaving in stories of both of their experiences. He humanizes mental illness and exposes the physical and emotional strain it puts on a family. This honest and brave account had me laughing and crying, as well as reflecting on societal perceptions of mental health and mental illness.
320 pages; *available as an eBook at the McGill Library
For the classics major: Circe by Madeline Miller
Anyone who has read The Odyssey will recognize the title of this book as the name of the nymph who interacts with Odysseus in Book 10. In this enthralling novel that captured the literary world by storm, Miller flips the classic on its head, narrating Homer’s epic through Circe’s eyes. This feminist retelling gives a voice to the beautifully complex and strong Circe through inventive storytelling and beautiful imagery, making for a compelling and inspiring read.
393 pages; *available in print and as an audiobook at the McGill Library
For the environmental science major: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
In her first novel, zoologist Delia Owens paints a stunning picture of the life of Kya, a young girl isolated in the marsh of North Carolina in the 1950s and 60s. A tale of representation, mistreatment, strength, and resilience, this beautiful novel explores Kya’s coming of age, particularly in the months leading up to and in the wake of the murder of the small town’s star quarterback. It is a fantastic read because of its ability to capture human experience, but also because of how flawlessly Owens uses her expertise to portray the wildlife. It was so creatively different than the books I am used to.
For the history major: The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Deeply personal, this epic of a novel explores the history of Ireland through the lens of a homosexual man. Boyne takes us back to 1940s Ireland, as we follow Cyril Avery’s entire life through seven-year increments. Using a fictional story, Boyne illuminates Irish culture toward LGBT+ individuals from the 1940s to the present day. It’s a hefty read, but this book is one-of-a-kind brilliant — a commitment worth making (but maybe not during midterms).
582 pages; *available as an eBook and audiobook at the McGill Library
For the music major: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Love rock n’ roll? Fleetwood Mac? Stevie Nicks? This book is for you. This book chronicles the rise and fall of a fictional band “Daisy Jones & The Six”, the world’s most popular group in the late sixties and seventies. Written as an oral history, Taylor Jenkins Reid builds a world of music that makes you feel like you’re living the glamorous and not-so-glamorous life of a rockstar. I finished this electric yet touching novel in 24 hours.
368 pages; *available as an eBook at the McGill Library
For the theatre studies major: Too Much is Not Enough by Andrew Rannells
Stage and screen star Andrew Rannells pours his heart into the pages of this beautiful memoir to produce, for anyone aspiring to work in film, television, or theatre, a series of lessons he has learned from his experience in the industry. Raw and honest, Rannells shares his captivating life story and journey to where he is now. This charming memoir captures it all — success, failure, heartbreak, love, loss — making it an excellent read.