The Books That Got Me Through My Degree

June 20, 2024
Listen Now

Caitie Dundas is a passionate youth advocate with a strong background of promoting the interests of young people. Her work has spanned across grassroots youth forums, to national youth parliaments, and she is excited to work on a global stage with Born This Way Foundation. She is specifically interested in gender equality and women’s empowerment, where she most recently has begun working with Restless Development as a steering group member. A history and politics graduate from the University of Glasgow, she is embarking on an MSc in Human Rights and International Politics to continue pursuing her interests.

This story took place in Scotland

Pledge to Take Action

Everybody tells you that your university years are going to be the most transformative, incredible time of your life. Making a decision on your future direction, moving away from home to a new city and meeting new people, all the while navigating early adulthood is an exciting prospect. It’s easy to think of and anticipate only the good elements of this life stage. 

I’m not sure my experience quite matched my expectations. I have had some incredible experiences and made memories over the past four years that are truly precious to me. There have also been some pretty rubbish times, though, and alongside all the good experiences I’ll carry forward with me, there are some tough ones as well. My favourite way to cope with the overwhelmingly stressful times was reading. Being able to lose myself in a story or subject and distract myself from an assignment. Over the past four years, there were some books that I was able to lean on for support and learn a lot from. I hope you can gain as much from them as I did. 

  1.       Dear Dolly by Dolly Alderton

Dear Dolly: On Love, Life and Friendship is a collection of advice from Dolly Alderton’s Agony Aunt column in The Sunday Times. I’d read Dolly’s other book, Everything I know about love, (another excellent pick, as is the TV adaptation) and was excited when this book was released mid-way through my second year of university. It’s an easy read, being made up of many short columns which make it a book you can easily dip in and out of. The chapters are organised by theme, with topics relevant to the kinds of personal challenges and experiences you often come up against during your university years. Covering themes like love, friendship and feeling lost in your twenties, I found it comforting to read about the common challenges so many others experience, and Dolly’s advice was genuinely helpful. It’s a calming book and reads like having an overdue coffee and catch-up with your friend who gives rock solid advice when you need it the most.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Dolly Alderton (@dollyalderton)

  1.       The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

I experienced a sudden and profound bereavement in my third year of university and turned towards what a friend termed as the ‘grief bible’ for advice. The Year of Magical Thinking was written by Joan Didion following the loss of her husband. It’s a truly sad book, however, this is communicated beautifully. She is able to describe the feeling of loss in better terms than I would have ever been able to verbalise, and this really helped me verbalise how I was feeling. I think this book is best read when grieving, but could also help process any loss you might be experiencing.


  1.       Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis

This is a book which was academically helpful for my degree. I focused on gender studies within my degree, making the topics covered by Angela Davis central to my academic work. The way she deals with concepts within inequality I was able to apply her concepts to many assignments, but also to my understanding of the wider world and society. As we get older, we come to become more aware of the structural inequalities and systemic prejudices present around us. This book really helped me feel more informed of this and better understand the ways we might be able to fix it. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by meg (@_mpreads)

  1.       Girl Friends by Holly Bourne

Holly Bourne’s young adult books were important reads of my teen years, so I was excited for her to publish Girl Friends, a book written for a slightly older audience about the importance of female friendship. I’ve come to appreciate my relationships with other women in my life really deeply over the past four years, making this a great read for me. It tackles the complexities of turbulent friendship, whilst also exploring the issue of sexism and misogyny within society. The novel’s main characters reconnect as adults, many years after their teenage friendship, and reflect upon adolescence and the ways they have grown and matured as people, as well as the ways they perhaps haven’t. This book really challenged me to look inwards and re-evaluate my own personal growth, and I’d like to think the lessons I learned have made me a more considerate, compassionate friend. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Holly Bourne (@hollybourneya)

Pledge to Take Action