Join the Palatinate reading challenge!

By Carreno and

Is your New Year’s resolution once again to “read more books”? 

This is the first year that I’m starting with a promise to myself to read more books, and a supplementary promise to read more genres and more diverse authors. From what I can see of my fellow bookworms, I’m not alone. Plus, who doesn’t love a good game? And so, the Palatinate reading challenge was born.

The idea at the heart of the challenge, should you choose to join, is simple: to read at least one book related to each section of Palatinate. We’ve enlisted the help of the Palatinate Editorial Board, who, graciously as ever, have provided recommendations for their sections to get you started. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, we’ve added four bonus categories.

Find below each category and some recommendations from us and the rest of the Editorial Board. Happy reading!

Palatinate sections


Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn: this novel-turned-hit-miniseries centres on Camille Preaker, a reporter who is assigned to cover an unsolved murder and the disappearance of a girl in her small, Southern hometown. Though not for the faint of heart, this is a thrilling tale.  

The Truth Matters by Bruce Bartlett: in the time of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, being able to tell the truth is more important than ever. Journalist Bruce Bartlett provides a guide to critically reading and fact-checking the news that we’re bombarded with every day.


She Said by Jodie Cantor and Megan Twohey: the two journalists who broke the news of Harvey Weinstein’s abuse of various women for the New York Times tell the story of their investigation and how it shaped the #MeToo movement.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote: considered by some to be the gold standard of crime writing, Truman Capote studies the murders of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Brilliantly written, In Cold Blood will keep you on the edge of your seat as Capote takes you through the investigation of this crime.


Comment Editor recommends: The Free Speech Wars, edited by Charlotte Riley. I haven’t read it yet but it provides a good summary of the concept and debates surrounding free speech. It also has a particular focus on university campuses which is really interesting!


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: the story of the woman behind some of the most important cells in 20th-century medical research, and of the Lacks family, who never saw the profits of the wide-ranging research from the cells taken without Henrietta’s consent.

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose: the book that inspired the award-winning miniseries, Band of Brothers tells the story of the American Easy Company, who fought in the Second World War. The book focuses on the lives and the experiences of E Company’s soldiers, drawing from their own words and taking you through their journey.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo: the 2019 Booker Prize winner, this fantastic novel draws a picture of the stories and rich inner lives of the 12 characters it depicts (mostly Black British women). A real masterpiece.

Science and Technology

Science and Technology Editor recommends:

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, which depicts the ways in which human beings have changed planet Earth and how the sixth extinction – which might be one of the most devastating extinction events our planet has seen – maybe our biggest legacy. 

I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong, which is a fascinating account of the microbes that live in our bodies and the bodies of other creatures, and all the things they do.

Science and Technology Editor recommends: The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu, which has been hailed as a science fiction masterpiece, is one of my favourite books ever.

Science and Technology Editor recommends: The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace Wells. This book was the only reason I passed my climate module last year – a science book written for commoners!


Politics Editor recommends: Bouteflika: une imposture algérienne for international politics if you can read French! 

Politics Editor recommends: The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros is a fascinating book about how everyday violence keeps people in poverty.

Donut Economics by Kate Raworth: is the way we think about and model economics mistaken? Kate Raworth puts forth a fascinating proposal for redesigning the way we analyse economics, taking into account our planet’s and society’s needs and boundaries.


Ben Fleming, Deputy Sport Editor, recommends: The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle, which tells the story of Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal and the lengths to which athletes and organisations go to cover up doping incidents.

Luke Power, Sport Editor, recommends: Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson, a stunning piece of research into the history and development of football. This is a must-read if you want to understand football better. 

James Reid, Deputy Sport Editor, recommends: The Far Corner by Harry Pearson, a tour of football in the North East. It’s social commentary as well as a book about football, reminding the reader of football’s origins and the culture of the North East.

Matt Styles, Sport Editor, recommends: This Sporting Life by David Storey, a striking and moving piece of sport fiction centred on rugby player Arthur Machin which captures a post-war crisis of masculinity.


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle: this collection of short stories about Britain’s most famous detective (sorry, Hercule Poirot!) is sure to keep you guessing and trying to solve the mysteries before Holmes does. Will you succeed? One way to find out.

Indigo sections


Because Features is Indigo’s jack of all trades, this is a free space in the challenge! Maybe one of the section’s articles will inspire you to pick up a book related to the subjects it touches upon – which may range from self-care to Zoom calls to life in lockdown.


The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern: this beautifully written, evocative novel is set in every bookworm’s dream: an incredible network of passages and rooms filled to the brim with stories. Zachary, the protagonist, had a chance to enter it as a child, but walked away – now, he suddenly finds a second chance. 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: a gorgeous work of historical fiction, set in Germany during the Second World War. Liesel’s life is changed by books, and her love of books is something any bookworm can relate to.


Indigo Editor recommends: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, which won the 2015 Booker Prize. A brilliant, fascinating novel, which delves into the attempted murder of Bob Marley in the 1970s. 


The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde: a performance of this in Durham in 2019 (ah, those pre-coronavirus days) had the whole audience in stitches. Clever and fast-paced, this satire of 19th-century English society is just the thing to escape to more precedented times.

The Time Traveller’s Guide to British Theatre by Aleks Sierz and Lia Ghilardi: brush up on your British theatre history, from the Globe to the West End!

Finishing the Hat by Stephen Sondheim: the first volume of Sondheim’s memoir compiles lyrics from his songs, anecdotes from his shows, and critique of both his own work and the work of other famous theatre songwriters and lyricists. A fascinating look at the process of writing musicals.

Film and Television

Film and TV Editor recommends: Hugo by Brian Selznick is a fantastic introduction to the history of cinema as well as its emotional importance to people.

Creative Writing

On Writing by Stephen King: this was recommended at a postgraduate open day and has been described as a book that will “cure you of adverbs.” It’s both a memoir and a course in writing, and above all, a great read.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: this heartwarming classic follows the story of the four March sisters, particularly aspiring writer Jo. Jo’s ambition and dedication to her writing career are sure to inspire you!

Visual Arts

Indigo Editor recommends: Painter to the King by Amy Sackville, a unique historical novel which portrays Diego Velazquez and his relationship to the King of Spain, as well as the Spanish court.


Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson: Durham’s own Billy B wrote this hilarious love letter to the UK and its idiosyncrasies before moving back to the United States with his family. A lighthearted, quick read for dreary lockdown days!

My Family and Other Animals by Gerard Durrell: this semi-autobiographical account of the Durrell family’s move to Corfu in the 1930s will have you laughing out loud at the Durrell siblings’ various antics on the island. With Durrell being a nature writer, the book immerses you in the landscapes and wildlife found in Corfu – perhaps you’ll find a new destination for when we can travel again!


The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger: you might have watched the iconic film, but have you read the novel? A quick, delightfully fun read telling the story of a freshly-graduated worker bee at the fictional high-fashion Runway magazine. 

Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline: one of the most famous critiques of fast fashion from a “reformed fast-fashion junkie”, detailing the hidden cost of our fashion consumption these days.

Food and Drink

How to Eat by Nigella Lawson: if you’ve never read one of Lawson’s cookbooks, you’re in for a real treat. Lawson has mastered blending personal experience and meditations on cooking and eating with her recipes, so that her books often contain not just a wealth of delicious recipes but beautifully written essays.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron: this semi-autobiographical novel by the writer behind hits such as Sleepless in Seattle and Julie and Julia is narrated by a cookbook writer whose husband leaves her for another woman, cleverly interspersing her recovery from this with her favourite recipes.

Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh: bake-off runner-up Ruby Tandoh offers a lovely and thought-provoking meditation on the role that food plays in our lives, from cultural connection to nourishment, as well as challenging stigmas around food.


Becoming by Michelle Obama: the much-praised memoir of this former First Lady doesn’t just tell an amazing story, it is a delight to read. Thought-provoking and inspiring, it captures the best energy that we remember from the Obama years and provides a glimpse into one of America’s favourite first families.

Photography and Illustrations


Photography Editor recommends: Understanding photojournalism by Jennifer good. It’s essential reading for photojournalism degrees but quite readable. It discusses the development of photojournalism as well as contemporary issues in the field!


Illustrations Editor recommends: milk and honey by Rupi Kaur – the illustrations that go with the poems are very thought-provoking in themselves and complement the themes of the collection really well!

Illustrations Editor recommends: I’m reading this art history book for my diss right now – Monica Bohm-Duchen’s Insiders Outsiders, it’s about refugees fleeing Nazi Germany to the UK and the art they produced.

Social Media

Social media officer recommends: Twitter and Tear Gas by Zeynep Tufekci is a great read about how protests and movements have been changed by social media platforms.

Bonus categories

A book from or set in county Durham

Former Editor-in-Chief recommends: The Paper Chase by Harold Evans was a very good read, and it has quite a big chunk on Durham and Palatinate in particular!

A book about university

The Secret History by Donna Tartt: the literary embodiment of the dark academia aesthetic, this novel tells the story of a group of students taking a course in classics at a prestigious New England university. 

Former Editor-in-Chief recommends: Stoner by John Williams is an excellent book about university in America. It’s regularly described as “the greatest novel you’ve never read!”

A translated book

The Plague by Albert Camus: for a while in 2020, The Plague enjoyed a sort of renaissance. A brilliant story of people coming together – or not – to survive a sudden epidemic, this novel offers both hope in its depiction of compassion and a fascinating account of existentialism.

The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende: this masterfully written novel takes you through the lives of three generations of the Trueba family, through all their ups and downs. Enthralling and interwoven with magical realism (you can sense the influence of Garcia Marquez), the book addresses a multitude of issues such as extremism, feminism, and classism.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto: a wonderful account of grief and sorrow, and how we can help each other gain closure. The book actually comprises a novella and a short story, both of which are gorgeously written.

A book involving the colour purple

Indigo Editor recommends: The Colour Purple by Alice Walker, a beautiful novel which takes you through forty years of the life of African-American women in the Southern United States in the twentieth century.


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