Summer Reading List

4 May 2020
Books on a shelf

If you are joining our BA (Hons) Liberal Arts programme this year, or still thinking about doing so, then you might want to look over our summer reading list by way of preparation. There are no books that everyone has to have read when we begin. But here are some suggestions for things that will move your mind in appropriate directions with challenging ideas and vivid imaginations. The list gives a taster of different modules on our Programme.

Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities

Which is most important? A society that struggles for freedom and meaning, or a society that lets profit rule everything else? In this short book Martha Nussbaum vigorously defends the idea and the values of liberal arts education. See where your own ideas and values stand in relation to hers.

Hive Books

Tales from the Thousand and One Nights

Imagine you had to tell stories to stave off your execution. And imagine keeping your executioner enthralled by those stories over 1001 nights. These Arabian Nights make for perfect summer reading, enriching our imagination and nourishing a love of what is the same and different in ancient India and Persia, and also Iraq, Syria and Egypt.

Hive Books

The Aeneid

One of the great adventures composed by Virgil in Latin between 29-19 BCE. It tells of Aeneas, the Trojan, as he and his fleet seek a new home, it already having been prophesised that he will be the founder of a new and glorious race of people. On the journey we will meet Queen Dido, we will learn of tears at the heart of everything, we will be taken into the underworld, and we will witness the ancestry of Rome and its Empire.

Hive Books

Human Universe

‘Human life is a staggeringly strange thing. On the surface of a ball of rock falling around a nuclear fireball in the blackness of a vacuum, the laws of nature conspired to create a naked ape that can look up at the stars and wonder where it came from. What is a human being? Objectively, nothing of consequence. Particles of dust in an infinite arena, present for an instant in eternity. Clumps of atoms in a universe with more galaxies than people. Yet a human being is necessary for the question itself to exist, and the presence of a question in the universe - any question - is the most wonderful thing. Questions require minds, and minds bring meaning. What is meaning? I don't know, except that the universe and every pointless speck inside it means something to me. I am astonished by the existence of a single atom and find my civilisation to be an outrageous imprint on reality. I don't understand it. Nobody does, but it makes me smile.’

Hive Books

His Dark Materials

Northern Lights introduces Lyra, an orphan, who lives in a parallel universe in which science, theology and magic are entwined. Lyra's search for a kidnapped friend turns into a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. In The Subtle Knife she is joined on her journey by Will, a boy who possesses a knife that can cut windows between worlds. The Amber Spyglass sees them both questioning Truth in a war with celestial powers that leads to a thrilling conclusion. The epic story Pullman tells is not only a spellbinding adventure featuring armoured polar bears, magical devices, witches and daemons, it is also an audacious and profound re-imagining of Milton's Paradise Lost.

Hive Books

Being Human: Bodies, Minds, Persons

What is consciousness? Is the mind a machine? What makes us persons? What does it mean to aspire to human maturity? These are among the fundamental questions that Rowan Williams helps us to think about in this deeply engaging exploration of what it means to be human. The book ends with a brief but profound meditation which invites us to consider how 'our humanity in all its variety, in all its vulnerability, has been taken into the heart of the divine life'.

Hive Books

Everything Is Connected: The Power Of Music

A memoir by the master pianist, conductor and internationalist Daniel Barenboim. The power of music lies in is its ability to speak to all aspects of the human being – the animal, the emotional, the intellectual, and the spiritual. Music teaches us, in short, that everything is connected.

Hive Books

Shorter Reads

What is a University

‘In his lecture "What Is A University?" given at Wuhan University in 2006, Rowan Williams traced the roots of the university system in the desire to nourish spiritual and moral maturity, as well as intellectual skill. This, he said, provided a model for universities to continue their contribution to the ongoing debates on the moral dimensions of public life both in China and in the West. He said that universities needed to avoid becoming prisoners of tradition, and should resist undue external pressure to produce rapid or commercial results from academic research. They also need to move beyond cultural or political expectations if they are to fulfil their potential. The best product of a university should not simply be technically qualified experts, but citizens of maturity and benevolence.’

Rowan Williams was External Examiner for BA Liberal Arts at Winchester 2013-17.

Choose Your Own Birth

Every human is both an animal with a deep evolutionary history and an individual who must bring their existence into being.

Beyond True and False

Buddhist philosophy is full of contradictions. Now modern logic is learning why that might be a good thing.

Why modern Liberal Arts?

Liberal Arts (latin liberalis, free, and ars, art or principled practice) is not an ordinary university subject. It can make the claim to be the oldest curriculum of higher education in Western history. So with such a rich and diverse history why is it important to rethink that history in modern ways?

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