A project I would like to work on over this summer is starting my own mini book club. More than anything it is an opportunity for me to share some of the things that I have learnt about literary analysis (in the forms of a review) with those such as yourself who are looking for a personal project to keep you thinking over the summer and prepared for your degree/next round of exams. Especially with reading being such a popular summer activity, it seemed a good idea to put this into practice now when there is a larger amount of time free than there usually would be due to the summer holidays.
Many of you will not yet know your reading lists or might be looking for something university appropriate to read over the summer. If this is the case and sounds like something you would be interested in, all you need is a copy of the book to read along and at the end of the month there will be a post with some further literary analysis of the text, a discussion of some of my own ideas in relation to the themes and a few other comments which will (if all goes to plan) allow you to see into the mind of a student going into the second year of studying literature at undergraduate level. I don't know everything about the subject yet mind you (and with the number of books available it is unlikely that I ever will) but for me, literature is an open conversation and the best part of it is sharing ideas. Sharing that conversation and all of those ideas is something that I, as an individual, am extremely passionate about.
This month our student read will be When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
This memoir focuses on not only the time in which Kalanithi was suffering with lung cancer but also on the time he took prior to this training to be a doctor, studying literature and his engagement with a variety of interests. As an individual voice, he has already brought so much to the page from what I have read so far. He has that rare gift that others cannot gain through merely practice; That being his voice which springs so willingly from the page. It is like he is sat right next to you, telling you his story. I have a feeling this will make it a difficult read at times and incredibly moving, for this memoir was published posthumously - yet still, despite this, there is always a desire to know what he says next. For Kalanithi may now have passed away, we may know how this story ends, but his entire personality lives on in this collection of thought and memory.
Whilst previous reads have focused in on speculative science fiction and even children's literature somewhat in June (with Harry Potter) I decided upon this as our first student reads non-fiction book because it is one which bears much in common with a lot of people and more so, a lot of students. During sixth form, I myself went through a tremendous amount after my grand dad's diagnosis of terminal cancer during which I became a young carer within my family. Cancer is a big part of many peoples lives and too often we do not share the conversation about it, when it is so important to keep it open. Grief and health are subjects which touch all of us and we all have something to contribute to that conversation even if we do not realise it at first. Seeing the world from a different perspective always has a valuable asset because there are always things we can learn from those around us, including how to be empathetic, patient and kind. That is what makes humanity so endlessly fascinating and complex.
If you would like to get involved with our Student Read this August, be sure to pick up a copy of When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanthi. I'll see you later on this month with a review + analysis, featuring how you might write about this work of non-fiction/memoir to the standard of a literature degree.