Literature allows you to expand your horizons, build critical thinking skills, and address human nature and the human condition. It is because of this that literature plays such a big role in our development. Here are ten books to read while you are still in university, as recommended by members of UP’s English department, that will expand your horizons, challenge the way you think and allow you to explore the intricacies of humanity.

The Defining Decade – Meg Jay
The Defining Decade, a self-help book, touches on life as a “twenty-something” and how to overcome the many difficulties that are placed before us during this time. The book follows psychologist Meg Jay as she deals with a variety of experiences and explains how to navigate them in a time of life that is often filled with uncertainties.

Lord of the Flies – William Golding
This book is a classic that follows the lives of a group of schoolboys stranded on an uncharted island as they attempt to form their own society. They grapple with the issues that come along with the lack of adult supervision and the introduction of evil. According to The Guardian, this book is known for showing the loss of innocence and the darkening of a person’s heart. It is part of Dr Moonsamy’s list of books to read before or while in university.

Rape: A South African Nightmare – Pumla Gqola
According to the Maverick Life, this book unpacks the South African rape crisis by delving into rape culture, its connection to the disbelief syndrome as well as South Africa’s various relationships to rape. Gqola further goes into how this influences the public’s response to rape. This is a reflective book on the crisis that South Africans face on a regular basis and is recommended by Ms Liden.

The Gate to Women’s Country – Sheri S. Tepper
This science-fiction novel, which is recommended by Ms Best, is set in a feminist dystopia where women have segregated men into closed military quarters and taken on every other societal function themselves. According to Goodreads, the book follows the life of a ten year old, Stavia, as she grows up and becomes a valuable part of their society.

The Unfamous Five – Nedine Moonsamy
As recommended by Mr van Wyk, this novel follows the lives of five South African Indian teenagers as they navigate their way through their next decade. African Books Collective states that the book covers topics of tradition, ancestry, sexuality, love, and money as the five teenagers continue to stumble their way through life together.

Disgrace – J.M.Coetzee
Mr Ncube recommended this South African novel that focuses on the life of a lecturer, who has lost his passion in post-apartheid South Africa. According to Penguin Random House, the book examines the comfortable life of a communications and romantic poetry lecturer and his relationships which soon results in a drastic shift in his life and the ultimate feeling of disgrace.

The Quarter-Life Breakthrough– Adam Smiley Poswolsky
This book deals with what to do when you do not know what to do. This self-help book provides career advice for anyone trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. It follows the lives of people in their 20’s and 30’s finding out how to work with purpose instead of working in a mere well-earning job.

Nervous Conditions -Tsitsi Dangarembga
The politics of decolonisation as well as women’s rights play a central role in this psychological novel, as you follow the life of a young girl in pursuit of education from her small Rhodesian homestead. As seen in Goodreads, the book covers topics of race, class, gender, and cultural changes as the young girl navigates her way through life . It is recommended by Dr Masola as one of the ten books you should read while in university.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt
From the author of The Goldfinch comes this interesting novel, which is recommended by Mr van Wyk, that follows the lives of a professor and some eccentric university students as they explore a new way of thinking and existing. According to The Cut, the book follows the group as they gradually slip away from the boundaries of standard human morality and into the darkness of evil.

Period Pain– Kopano Matlwa
According to Exclusive Books, Period Pain touches on how broken people continue to survive and captures the confusion of South Africans that feel defeated by the continuous injustices making the news headlines. Recommended by Mr Ncube, the story allows you to reflect on and examine the intricacies of humanity while also rediscovering it.


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Hi I’m Lauren, I’m passionate about writing and run a personal blog called Life on my Wall (@lifeonmywall). I enjoy writing about student issues and minority group experiences.

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