English reading list

For applicants

A student reading by a window

Reading in King's Library

We advise you to read the English page thoroughly. For reading and preparation advice, you will find the following sections particularly useful:

Do also keep an eye on the subject resources, which provide more general guidance and examples for developing your academic interests.

For King's offer holders

Please use this list to prepare yourself over the summer. You should read as many of the books on the list of primary texts as possible, and we would like you to have read all asterisked titles by the time you start your course. The list of secondary texts is designed to aid your understanding of the interpretation of literature; while the texts provided are not mandatory reading, engaging with those that catch your interest will almost certainly sharpen your critical skills.

Primary texts

  • Beckett, Samuel, Collected Shorter Plays (London: Faber & Faber, 1984)
  • The Bible (authorized version): Genesis, Exodus, Job, Psalms, Song of Solomon, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and Revelation *
  • Coetzee, J. M., Life and Times of Michael K
  • Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
  • Dickens, Charles, Bleak House; or Eliot, George, Middlemarch; or, Bronte, Charlotte, Jane Eyre *
  • Eliot, T. S., Selected Poems (London: Faber & Faber, 1954; repr. 1961, 2002 printing available in paperback)
  • Homer, Odyssey, e.g. in the Penguin Classics or Oxford World’s Classics editions *
  • Homer, Iliad, e.g. in the Penguin Classics or Oxford World’s Classics editions *
  • Joyce, James, Ulysses
  • Milton, Paradise Lost, e.g. ed. Alastair Fowler (London: Longman, 1971)
  • Morrison, Toni, Beloved
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses, many translations, including Mary M Innes (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955)*
  • Shakespeare, as many of the plays as possible as well as the Sonnets*
  • Virgil, Aeneid, e.g. in the Penguin Classics or Oxford World’s Classics editions *
  • Vonnegut, Kurt, Slaughter House-Five
  • Woolf, Virginia, To the Lighthouse
  • Wordsworth, William, The Prelude, 1799, 1805, 1850, ed. Jonathan Wordsworth, M. H. Abrams and Stephen Gill (New York: Norton, 1979)

Secondary texts

  • Robert Alter, and Frank Kermode, eds, The Literary Guide to the Bible (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1987)
  • Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953)
  • Mieke Bal, Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative, 2nd edn (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997)
  • Peter Barry, Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory, 3rd edn (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009)
  • Richard Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd edn (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991)
  • John Lennard, The Poetry Handbook: A Guide to Reading Poetry for Pleasure and Practical Criticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995)
  • Frank Lentricchia, and Thomas McLaughlin, eds, Critical Terms for Literary Study, 2nd edn (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995)

For more information, please consult the Faculty of English website. You may find the resources page particularly useful.

Reading lists | For offer holders | Undergraduate study