It seems apt that University Mental Health Day and World Book Day both fall on Thursday, 4 March 2021. Reading for pleasure has been a proven strategy for improving wellbeing. The Reading Agency’s Read Well scheme even highlights books recommended by healthcare professionals. More than 1.2 million people have been involved in the scheme and 90% of people surveyed found their book helpful. These national days have given us the perfect opportunity to ask our students what books have calmed and inspired them during the pandemic.
Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter by 50 Cent – Chosen by Teagan Williams (LLB)
Over lockdown, reading has become my main pastime. I try to read a range of genres, from true accounts of slavery and manifestation books to Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I write down one thing I’ve taken away from every book, whether it be a phrase, an idea or a point to research. That’s why it came as a surprise that 50 Cent’s Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter has been the book I have learnt from the most. It is shocking to realise how many similarities there were between myself and this world-renowned rapper, salesman and former street thug.
I chose to study law for many reasons; I am passionate about justice and ensuring it is available for all. I believe law is a vital part of society, and without it, the world would be in turmoil. Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter is based on the skills you need to survive in the business world. Whether you’re a lawyer, banker, footballer or business owner, there is something to be taken away from this book. 50 Cent delves into the qualities and strategies you must practice and understand to be successful, including knowing your value, power of perception and the entitlement trap - to name a few. Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter is a book that gives heartfelt advice no matter your walk of life.
My favourite quote from this book:
“Even if your circumstances are disadvantaged or you lack experience, so long as you project the confidence and energy of someone successful, it’s only a matter of time till true success comes and finds you.”
Under the Wig by William Clegg QC – Chosen by Keylee Ashman (LLB)
A book that inspired me to choose a law degree was Under the Wig by William Clegg QC. In October 2020, I was fortunate enough to spend an evening with William Clegg QC, albeit online. He has tried more murder cases than any other English law barrister. I was excited to speak with him after learning we shared a fondness for his favourite book, Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. His specialist expertise in criminal law further sparked my curiosity. Following that evening, I enjoyed reading Under the Wig, written by William Clegg QC. Although Three Men in a Boat remains my favourite book, it was Under the Wig that confirmed pursuing a law degree was the right choice for me.
In an interview about Under the Wig, William Clegg QC was asked, “Reading your book, one thing that was most notable was how accessible it was – was that something you did intentionally?” Accessibility to the criminal bar as a first-generation, state-school educated, university student was a very daunting concept for me. In response to the question, William Clegg QC said, “The whole idea of the book was to try to de-mystify the law, and to try to explain to people who don’t really know anything about the law and very little about the profession, exactly how the profession works.”
Discovering that William Clegg QC obtained pupillage after spending an evening with Ronnie Trott in his Brentwood, Essex house also came as a welcome comfort. For the past eight years, I have lived in Brentwood, so it was encouraging to know that very successful advocates reside in the same area as myself.
William Clegg QC also told me to go where my passion lies, not where the money is, because you’ll be rich if you do a good job in anything.
The Pax Britannica trilogy by Jan Morris – Chosen by Neil Sturman (BPC)
The book that inspired me is Jan Morris’ Pax Britannica trilogy. It is a beautifully written and engaging account of the British Empire’s rise and fall, packed full of fascinating anecdotes and details. It bursts to life on every page. The books do not hide the evils done in the name of Empire, but also don’t fail to recognise what good came of it. This balance only increases the accessibility of the book and allows the reader to make their own judgment on the evidence provided. The author herself is an inspiration. Jan Morris served in the Second World War and was a member of the expedition that was first to ascend Everest in 1953, and later reported on the trial of Eichmann. The volumes of Pax Britannica are an essential read for anyone wishing to understand the United Kingdom today and our relationships around the world.
Unfinished by Priyanka Chopra - Chosen by Rashagini Rajakumar
A book that inspired is Unfinished, written by Priyanka Chopra. I was excited to read it before it was even published. Priyanka Chopra is a truly inspirational independent woman and actress; there are many ways I can relate to her. Many Asian women, including young adults like myself, could relate to parts of her memoir, such as her childhood, family, relationships and more.
Book recommendations from ULaw Wellbeing Service Manager Aidan Moloney
Teachers, friends and loved ones have broadened my reading horizons. As a teenager, the music I listened to often referenced literature for me to discover too.
The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud and The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin are classics of enquiring minds. Even when the science and views in parts are contested, they stand tall among works of literature.
Graham Swift’s Waterland was a gift, and it remains a favourite novel of mine. It weaves the history of place and people into a masterpiece of storytelling. I only have to hear the words River Ouse to be transported to the Norfolk fenlands by this story where eels play a leading role.
Some of my favourite books show human nature pitted against adversity. Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes and Brian Kenan’s An Evil Cradling, written centuries apart, show the unbeatable nature of the human imagination and spirit. De Profundis by Oscar Wilde depicts a spiritual journey through despair to insight. If This Is a Man by Primo Levi and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl portray the triumph of hope against unspeakable barbarity.
Translating emotion into print - Letter to Daniel by Fergal Keane is addressed to his newborn son and was first broadcast by BBC Radio.
It reflects on the world the child has entered and is an inspirational piece of writing from a distinguished journalist. It is available online and in Keane’s collection Letter to Daniel: Despatches from the Heart.
For laughter, I turn to Flann O’Brien. A good starting point is The Third Policeman, where the surreal meets metaphysical ideas, and the result is a triumph.
Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain by Peter Fryer is an example of historical writing at its finest. The book redresses 2,000 years of historical neglect.
Finally, when getting outside is a thing to treasure, Nature Cure by Richard Mabey shows how nature and the British countryside helped the author recover from deep depression.
If you’re still looking for a calming book to unwind with, you can check out our wellbeing reading list