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"The Fresh List" from the University of Exeter

Katerina, Weronika, Issie, Paige, Loïs, Meg, Eloise, Mia, Grace and Krishina from The University of Exeter created a mood boosting booklist for new students. Here, they explain how they did it.

For us, the value of reading is beyond the mere enjoyment that it brings; reading can be joyful, a transforming and eye-opening experience, and most importantly, reading can relieve us from the struggles of daily life. Grand Challenges at University of Exeter is an annual event that encourages students to band together to solve global issues, our focus was Mental Health. After talk given to us by Debbie Hicks from The Reading Agency who discussed the importance of reading, how it can encourage and change lives, we were inspired to create ‘The Fresh List’.

After some reflection, individually and as a group, we decided to draw on our own experiences to create a reading list for students, compiled by students. We decided to focus on new students because we know that the start of university can be a particularly difficult and defining moment, with great impact on students’ mental health. Our aim therefore was to create a list of twelve books, aided by information provided through a student survey, to provide mood boosting texts for freshers. We wished to include fiction, non-fiction and poetry, to offer a range of texts which are both enjoyable to read and a helpful escape of the daily struggles of student life. Therefore, we included not only feel-good books, but also books that touch on and explore mental health difficulties to raise awareness and to act as a prevention for mental health problems, specifically those associated with transitioning to university. As both former and current first year students, we are aware of these difficulties and we believe that the list which we have created combines books that freshers would find mood-boosting and informative. We were lucky enough to have the Reading Agency endorse our idea and thank them greatly for their advice throughout this process.

We really wanted to create something new and exciting, so when assessing our survey responses, we looked in particular for books that were not overly mainstream, so that we were offering something ‘fresh’ to our freshers. This is how we eventually came up with our name, ‘The Fresh List’. After scouring through our data, we each proposed a few titles to create a longlist. We then held a long discussion, and finally agreed on the final twelve. We are confident that every book we have chosen deserves its place within the list, based on our own research and the original proposal by each respondent, who claimed that it was a good read and that they found it helpful in one way or another.

Overall, this project has been a great opportunity for us, and thoroughly enjoyable also. We are very proud of our outcomes and excited to see our list being advertised to students to encourage and empower them. We learned so much over the course of the week and seeing how our own experiences with books brought us together to create something new and exciting, was perhaps the very best example of the power of reading.

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