Name: Ata Rahman
Occupation: Student and co-editor of the Manchester Historian
What are you reading?
Well, I managed two books over the summer, Civilisation: The West and The Rest, which serves as an accompaniment to Niall Ferguson’s Channel 4 documentary on the predicted end of Western civilisation and a book about the lives of five Afghan women under the Taliban regime called The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez.
Where have you been reading it (train, bus, beach, bath, internet, juice carton…)?
Mostly been reading it on modes of transport – bus, train, plane. Its always easier to read when you’re in a tunnel (or up in the air) as for those moments you can’t turn to your phone to distract you.
Is it a slow-burner or quick fire?
Civilisation is definitely a slow burner, you have to fully engage with his theories and critiques before you can get the most from the chapters about Chinese dominance, decline and distention. The Little Coffee Shop is much more of a quick fire with a kidnapping opening the setting, but it’s only until the middle when the five women’s interplay becomes more humanised and the action takes off.
Is it work or rest to read?
Honestly, depends on my frame of mind and the situation. Give me a book on holiday when I’m far removed from the trials and tribulations of uni/work/life and its one of the most pleasurable experiences. However, the thought of dragging yourself to a coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon after you’ve enjoyed somewhat more than a tipple the night before to try and get yourself into a reading mood is pretty difficult, even though once you’re into the book, you know why you bothered in the first place.
Paperback or e-book?
As a student, I spend far too much of my time in front of a screen (albeit over 50% of it for catching up on Big Bang Theory and Gossip Girl rather than for Uni work), so if I am going to read a book, its paperback all the way. My eyes couldn’t hack it otherwise.
Do you ever have time during the semester to read (for pleasure), or is free, unaccounted for time the unicorn of student life?
In all honestly, I probably could squeeze in about 3 or 4 books per semester, but given most of the work you do as an Arts student is reading anyway, you don’t want to spend your free time doing the same thing. I definitely regret not making the most of my free time in 1st year; I certainly could have educated myself on many topics outside of History if I’d sacrificed all the thoroughly important lazing time.
Any books that you’ve been meaning to read for ages, never quite mustering the strength to crack?
Essentially most classics, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read an Austen (despite watching the BBC Pride and Prejudice Drama series far too many times), or a Tolstoy either.
Common Grounds, a book on the history of coffee. I am rather addicted to the stuff, and after a lecture in 1st year on its history, I became quite fascinated with how it spread across the world. If I manage to read it alongside all the work this semester, I may even treat myself to a fancy espresso machine.
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