Books for colleges

A selection of great books which should not be missing from any college library.

I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsI know why the caged bird sings

Maya Angelou

The 1969 autobiography about the early years of African-American writer and poet Maya Angelou. The first in a six-volume series, it is a coming-of-age story that illustrates how strength of character and a love of literature can help overcome racism and trauma. The book begins when three-year-old Maya and her older brother are sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their grandmother and ends when Maya becomes a mother at the age of 17. In the course of Caged Bird, Maya transforms from a victim of racism with an inferiority complex into a self-possessed, dignified young woman capable of responding to prejudice.

 Published by Virago    ISBN: 0-86068-511-X

Girl2girlGirl2girl – the lives of young lesbian and bisexual women
Norrina Rashid and Jane Hoy (editors)

Girls from across the UK write from the heart about being gay or bi, coming out, or falling in love.

Published by DIVA    ISBN: 187374145-6

Oranges Are Not the Only FruitOranges are not the only fruit

Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette has issues - "unnatural" ones: her adopted mam thinks she's the Chosen one from God; she's beginning to fancy girls; and an orange demon keeps popping into her psyche.

Brought up in a working-class Pentecostal family, up North, Jeanette follows the path her Mam has set for her. This involves Bible quizzes, a stint as a tambourine-playing Sally Army officer and a future as a missionary in Africa, or some other "heathen state". When Jeanette starts going to school ("The Breeding Ground") and confides in her mother about her feelings for another girl ("Unnatural Passions"), she is swept up in a feverish frenzy for her tainted soul. Confused, angry and alone, Jeanette strikes out on her own path. Mixed in are unconventional fairy tales that transcend the everyday world, subverting the traditional preconceptions of the damsel in distress.

Published by Grove Press   ISBN: 9780802135162

Captain Corellis MandolinCaptain Corelli’s Mandolin
Louis De Bernières

Corelli's Mandolin is the story of a timeless place that one day wakes up to find itself in the jaws of history. The place is the Greek island of Cephallonia, where gods once dabbled in the affairs of men and the local saint periodically rises from his sarcophagus to cure the mad. Then the tide of World War II rolls onto the island's shores in the form of the conquering Italian army. Caught in the midst of the occupation are Pelagia, a willful, beautiful young woman, and the two suitors vying for her love and affection: Mandras, a gentle fisherman turned ruthless, murderous guerilla, and the charming, mandolin-playing Captain Corelli, a reluctant officer of the Italian garrison on the island.

Published by Vintage Books  ISBN: 067976397X, 9780679763970

skins_the novelSkins: The Novel
Ali Cronin

Effy, Freddie, JJ, Cook, Naomi, Pandora, Thomas and Katie are all dealing with the aftermath of the events at the end of series 3. Effy has fled to Italy with her mum, where she tries to put her feelings for Freddie, and the guilt she feels for stealing him from Katie, out of her mind. The perfect distraction comes in the form of a sophisticated older man, Aldo. Naomi and Emily are struggling with spending time apart when Em goes to France with her parents and battles with her stubborn twin sister, Katie. Back in Bristol, Naomi pines for Emily while wondering about her future education. Thomas and Pandora are sweetly in love but finding it difficult to consummate their feelings for each other. Freddy and Cook are engaged in a vigorous game of sexual one-upmanship with a frustrated JJ as referee. By the end of the summer, the gang will have resolved some issues and brought up some more. Language and sexual references are graphic.

Published by Hodder Children's Division   ISBN: 1444900048, 9781444900040

Julie Burchill

Maria Sweet, aka Sugar, is back. Her husband's done a runner, taking their daughter with him, but at least she has a plan: get a job, get some cash and get the hell out of Brighton. And somewhere out there in the big bad world is Kim Lewis, who might just be the Love of Sugar's Life. Sugar's landed herself a stint as a model for local fashion designers Agnew & Bagshawe. But when she discovers they've exploited her, she's hell-bent on vengeance - and that can only lead to chaos.

Published by Young Picador   ISBN: 0330453718, 9780330453714

Tipping the VelvetTipping the Velvet
Sarah Waters

"Tipping the Velvet" is a historical novel written by Sarah Waters. Set in Victorian England during the 1890s, it tells a coming of age story about a young woman named Nan who falls in love with a male impersonator, follows her to London, and finds various ways to support herself as she journeys through the city. The main character's experiences in the theatrical profession and her perpetual motion through the city allow her to make observations on social conditions while exploring the issues of gender, sexism, and class difference.

Published by Riverhead Books   ISBN: 1573227889, 9781573227889


Pat Barker

Set in a British military hospital during WWI, this novel blends fact and fiction, drawing its two protagonists from the pages of history. The author of Union Street  portrays overwhelmed men who try to come to terms with their outrage of a futile war. Stressed by the war, poet, pacifist, and protestor Siegfried Sassoon is sent to Craiglockhart Hospital, where his views challenge the patriotic vision of Dr. William Rivers, a neurologist assigned to restore the sanity of shell-shocked soldiers.

Published by Plume   ISBN: 0452270073, 9780452270077

The Eye In The DoorThe Eye in the Door

Pat Barker

The Eye in the Door is a novel by Pat Barker, forming the second part of the Regeneration trilogy. The novel is set in London, beginning in mid-April, 1918, and continues the interwoven stories of Dr William Rivers, Billy Prior, and Siegfried Sassoon, begun in Regeneration. While a fight is waged for 'freedom', injustice and prejudice continue to flourish throughout England.

Whereas Regeneration is an anomalous, but not unique, mixture of fact and fiction, The Eye in the Door acknowledges real events. One such event is the campaign against homosexuals male and female waged that year by right-wing MP Noel Pemberton Billing. Overall, however, the novel remains within the realm of fiction.

Published by Plume    ISBN: 0452272726, 9780452272729

The Ghost RoadThe Ghost Road
Pat Barker

1918, the closing months of the First World War. Army psychiatrist William Rivers is increasingly concerned for the men who have been in his care – particularly Billy Prior, who is about to return to combat in France with young poet Wilfred Owen. As Rivers tries to make sense of what, if anything, he has done to help these insured men, Prior and Owen await the final war that has decimated a generation…

Published by Plume   ISBN: 0452276721, 9780452276727


Carol Ann Duffy

The effortless virtuosity, drama, and humanity of Carol Ann Duffy's verse have made her much-admired among contemporary poets. Her seventh collection, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, is a book-length love-poem, and a moving act of personal testimony—but what sets these poems apart from other treatments of the subject is Duffy's refusal to simplify the contradictions of love, and read its transformations—infatuation, longing, passion, commitment, rancor, separation, and grief—as either redemptive or destructive. This is a map of real love, in all its churning complexity, simultaneously direct and subtle, showing us that a song can be made of even the most painful episodes in our lives. With poems that will find deep resonance in the experience of most readers, it is a collection that can and does speak for us all.

Published by Picador   ISBN: 0330433911, 9780330433914

The Color PurpleThe Color Purple

Alice Walker

Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to "Mister," a brutal man who terrorises her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister's letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.

Published by Pocket Books   ISBN: 0671727796, 9780671727796

Orlando A BiographyOrlando: A Biography
Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf constructs the figure of Orlando as the fictional embodiment of Woolf's close friend and lover, Vita Sackville-West. Spanning three centuries, the novel opens as Orlando, a young nobleman in Elizabeth's England, awaits a visit from the Queen and traces his experience with first love as England under James I lies locked in the embrace of the Great Frost. At the midpoint of the novel, Orlando, now an ambassador in Costantinople, awakes to find that he is a woman, and the novel indulges in farce and irony to consider the roles of women in the 18th and 19th centuries. As the novel ends in 1928, a year consonant with full suffrage for women. Orlando, now a wife and mother, stands poised at the brink of a future that holds new hope and promise for women.

Published by Wordsworth Editions   ISBN: 1853262390, 9781853262395

The History BoysThe History Boys
Alan Bennett

An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form (or senior) boys in a British boys’ school are, as such boys will be, in pursuit of sex, sport, and a place at a good university - generally in that order. In all their efforts, they are helped and hindered, enlightened and bemused, by a maverick English teacher who seeks to broaden their horizons in sometimes undefined ways, and a young history teacher who questions the methods - as well as the aim - of their schooling. In The History Boys, Alan Bennett evokes the special period and place that the sixth form represents in an English boy’s life. In doing so, he raises not only universal questions about the nature of history and how it is taught but also questions about the purpose of education today.

Published by Faber and Faber   ISBN: 0571224644, 9780571224647


E.M. Forster

Set in the elegant Edwardian world of Cambridge undergraduate life, this story introduces us to Maurice Hall when he is fourteen. We follow him through public school and Cambridge, and on into his father's firm, Hill and Hall, Stock Brokers. In a highly structured society, Maurice is a conventional young man in almost every way, "stepping into the niche that England had prepared for him": except that his is homosexual. Written during 1913 and 1914, immediately after Howards End, and not published until 1971, Maurice was ahead of its time in its theme and in its affirmation that love between men can be happy.

Published by Penguin   ISBN: 0141185201, 9780141185200


Jackie Kay

At the novel's center is Joss Moody, a celebrated jazz trumpeter who created music that convinced everyone who heard it that they knew the man who made it. But Joss's death has proved them all wrong: Joss Moody lived his life inside a stunning secret. His wife, Millie, had known about it. But their adopted son, Colman, now in his thirties, has just learned of it. With everything he understood about himself and his family thrown into question, Colman forms an uncomfortable alliance with a journalist intent on telling Joss's story her own way. Millie, grieving and besieged by the press, secludes herself in their home in a small Scottish village, sinking into the aching solace of memory. Their two voices - one revisiting the past for comfort, the other for answers - are interwoven with the voices of Joss's drummer, of the doctor who discovered Joss's secret, of the funeral director who hid it for the last time, of the registrar of death certificates, and of the journalist. Together they reveal the story of Joss and Millie: how a complex, dazzling lie became the foundation for a family, a life, and a rare, unshakable love.

Published by Pantheon Books   ISBN: 0375405097, 9780375405099

I'm the King of the CastleI’m the king of the castle
Susan Hill

Boys will be boys. But in England, with the reminder of Lord of the Flies, they seem to be a class apart, a law unto themselves, and the perpetrator-victims of monstrous malevolence. Here is Miss Hill's account of the enforced relationship of motherless Edmund Hooper and fatherless Charles Kingshaw after Mrs. Kingshaw becomes Mr. Hooper's housekeeper. Edmund greets the newcomer with hostility, terrifies him with dead moths and a stuffed crow, locks him up in the rooms of the large, isolated house, and baits and bullies him on every occasion. Charles decides to run away and Edmund follows him through the spectral Hang Wood where Edmund, also susceptible to terror, has an accident. Later he attempts to follow Charles up on the parapet of a castle and again, frozen in fear, falls - fortunately not to his death. Finally with Mrs. Kingshaw's marriage to Mr. Hooper, Charles can see only one alternative to his entrapment...

Published by Heineman   ISBN: 0435272225, 9780435272227

Cat on a hot tin roofCat on a hot tin roof
Tennesse Williams

Set in "the bed-sitting room of a plantation home in the Mississippi Delta" of Big Daddy Pollitt, a wealthy cotton tycoon, the play examines the relationships among his son Brick, Brick's wife Maggie the Cat, and his friendship with the late Skipper, as well as Brick and his father and other family." Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" features several recurring motifs, such as social mores, superficiality, decay, sexuality's consequences, and death.

Published by Signet   ISBN: 0451171128, 9780451171122

 For more information, visit the lesbian and gay bookshop Gay's the word.

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