TOP 10 HUMAN GEOGRAPHY FIRST YEAR READS

Here I present you my Top 10 first year reads, plus a bonus recommendation by another second year!

I would like to stress and emphasise to any first years reading this that not all of these books are on the reading list and even if they are, it does not mean you have to read them! These are simply books and articles I read over first year which I especially enjoyed or thought were the most interesting. 

Books which I think are of real use to the course have a star next to them, but again this does not mean a first year has to read them!

  1. The Colonial Present by Derek Gregory (2004)  *

This book is a true eye-opener which will make you think again about a lot of things and it’s a nice read to combine cultural and historical geography units. Most importantly, I didn’t feel like it was some abstract academic read, I felt like the ideas and themes were really relevant to me individually; asking the reader to draw upon the ways in which they create a colonial present.


  1. H1N1, globalization and the epidemiology of inequality by Sparke and Anguelov (2012) *

I actually read this piece whilst on a train, so I hope that proves how much of an easy read it is. Have you ever thought about vaccine privilege? Or how some lives are worth more than others? This short article is a really intriguing piece which focuses on Swine Flu, the epidemiology of inequality and the geographies of blame.

  1. Geographical Thought: An Introduction to Ideas in Human Geography by Nayak and Jeffrey (2011) ***

This article could be likened to the religious book of 1st year historical geography. Everyone I know who read it found it a huge help in terms of the course, but it’s also an enjoyable read too. Would personally recommend this to all 1st years!

  1. Geopolitics and Empire: The Legacy of Halford Mackinder by Gerry Kearns (2011)

I don’t remember this being overly helpful for the course, but I did read it twice as I found its contents quite shocking. Before reading this, I was completely unaware of the not so nice personality of Geography’s Halford Mackinder. 

  1. The Islamic City: Historic myth, Islamic essence and contemporary relevance by Janet Abu-Lughod (1987)

This piece focuses on the Islamic city, specifically Cairo. I read it over lunch at the UL and to be honest, probably found it so interesting because my family live in Cairo. Nonetheless, if the Islamic city is of interest to you, it’s a brilliant read.


  1. An Anti-geopolitical Eye: Maggie O’Kane in Bosnia, 1992-93 by Gearoid Ó Tuathail (1996) 

With a real interest in journalism, a piece looking at geopolitics through the lens of reporting was really interesting. A few other people I spoke to also said they enjoyed this piece in first year!

  1. “The Whole World Is Watching”: Intimate Geopolitics of Forced Eviction and Women’s Activism in Cambodia by Katherine Brickell (2014) *

Looking at the ways in which the geopolitical agendas of the Cambodian state are played out on the family, home and body, this is a unique piece on embodiment which I found very useful for essays and the final exam.

  1. Cultural geography: cultural geographies of home by Alison Blunt (2005)

Whilst not on the reading list, this piece gives a really nice overview of studies looking into the home as a site of geopolitics and culture. I liked it as an extra piece of reading, expanding on topics not covered by the reading list.

  1. Critical geographies and the uses of sexuality: deconstructing queer space by Natalie Oswin (2008) *

This article gave a really good overview of queer theory as a whole, referencing lots of key works on the geographies of sexuality and gender. It was a really nice way to read a lot about different texts whilst only actually reading 1 article. Queer and gender studies is a fascinating area of geography and featured in the final exam, which I liked!

  1. Racial Exclusion and the Political Economy of the Subprime Crisis by Gary Dymski (2009)

Whilst exploring the minefield of work around the 2007-8 financial crisis, I stumbled across this piece. I thought it not only explained the causes of the crash in more understandable terms but highlighted key criticism on the role of race-based discrimination in causing, and exacerbating, the impacts of the crash on predominantly black communities.

Bonus Recommendation: 

Everyday Morality: Where Radical Geography Meets Normative Theory by Susan Smith (2009)

This is the bonus reading that I’ve not actually read myself, but a friend thought it was a really good read and helpful for first year. Looking at normativity, it’s an article that will probably be applicable to multiple human geography units.

Hope you like the list and have maybe read some of these too!

By Joanna Neve

DISCLAIMER: THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR ONLY AND DO NOT REPRESENT THE VIEWS OR OPINIONS OF COMPASS MAGAZINE AS A WHOLE OR THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE DEPARTMENT OF GEOGRAPHY.

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