Our Summer Reads, Vol. 12 – Jessica Armstrong

Summer is finally here, and with it, the best time of year to curl up with a book, free – at least in our heads – of all obligations to read anything out of obligation. Long-anticipated leisure reads, lakeside picnics, and much-needed sunshine. This June, the Attic on Eighth writers share what it is that they’re looking forward to reading this summer season.


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I read a tweet recently which likened the unavoidable intellectual snobbery encouraged by university reading lists to a “post-English degree hangover.”

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However, since wrapping up my degree at the end of May, I’ve seen the last month as an opportunity to delve into the books my course reading lists left out. I suppose taking a module in twentieth-century crime fiction made the transition from “academic” reading to reading for fun a little bit less bumpy than it might have been otherwise. 

While previous summers between academic years have offered pockets of time for me to read for pleasure, this one is shaping up to be a little bit more fast-paced. 

I graduate, and then, a mere six days later, I start working full-time. While at university the majority of my 9-5 hours (and many more beyond that!) were filled with reading, the structure of my days means that I’ll be reading in the spare moments outwith that. Whether it’s in the mornings, before the day has truly begun, or in the evenings, hopefully with a glass of rosé in hand, I’m excited for the sheer choice which comes with reading freely. 

I’m looking forward to exploring my favourite areas further, such as Victorian women writers, and biographies. However, I’m also looking forward to reading working class narratives, as well as some Irish writers. As I’m working at a university, I have library access (win win!), so I can’t wait to check out a recently published study on women writers and the periodical press. You can take the girl out of the English department... 

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Here’s what I’m reading this summer:

Being Various — edited by Lucy Caldwell

Heartburn — Nora Ephron

Thou Art the Man — Mary Elizabeth Braddon 

Saltwater — Jessica Andrew

A Life of My Own — Claire Tomalin

Anything is Possible — Elizabeth Strout

Constellations — Sinéad Gleeson

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men — Caroline Criado Perez 

Lowborn — Kerry Hudson

The House of Mirth — Edith Wharton 

Women, Periodicals, and Print Culture in Britain, 1830s  - 1900 - edited by Alexis Easley, Clare Gill, and Beth Rogers

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Born and bred in very rural Northern Ireland, Jess left home for four years to pursue a degree in English Literature at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. Having decided that she hasn't had enough of universities just yet, she will start working in the Research and Enterprise directorate at Queen's University Belfast in July. As well as being an avid reader, Jess enjoys nothing more than making things happen. This year, she was student President of the School of English, and has previously worked in communications roles at various arts and poetry festivals across Scotland.

When she isn't trying to reduce her caffeine intake or levels of sarcasm, she can probably be found trying to get through as many Victorian tomes as possible.