PhD Book Club

The best reads about PhD life. Meets twice each semester.

Photograph of book shelves in a library filled with lots of different coloured books

PhD Book Club meets 4-5pm on Fridays every six weeks, with Revd Dr Harriet Harris and Dr Kitty Wheater (both PhD veterans!). Open to all PhD students, we’ll read books that cast light on the trials, tribulations, and mundanities of PhD life, offering perspective and inspiration for the time ahead. Past books have included Educated, by Tara Westover, Night Waking, by Sarah Moss, and On Beauty, by Zadie Smith.


Read more about PhD Book Club in this blog post by Harriet and Kitty for Teaching Matters.


For our last book of the academic year, we turn to a memoir/fiction hybrid: Mrs Gaskell & Me: Two Women, Two Love Stories, Two Centuries apart by Nell Stevens. 


We'll explore through the pen of this English Literature PhD student, now Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Warwick: what can we learn from those we study, how much do we have in common, and how might they comfort us at the times we most need? 


We'll meet on Friday 24th June, 4-5pm in the Chaplaincy, to discuss.


Email to register for PhD Book Club. Copies of our books (current and previous) are available for members to borrow from the PhD Book Club Library. 

Photograph of an open book sitting on top of a wooden tray. On top of the book is a pair of brown reading glasses. Beside the book is a white cup with pink and green flowers on it, the cup is filled with coffee.



MRS GASKELL & ME by Nell Stevens

Published in the UK as MRS GASKELL & ME and in North America as THE VICTORIAN & THE ROMANTIC, this is a book is about unrequited love, the romance of friendship, and forming a way of life outside the conventions of your time. Hugely compelling, moving and wildly funny, it asks important questions about what it means to be a woman in the world we live in.

In 1857, Elizabeth Gaskell left the anxieties of her home life and literary career in England and set sail for Rome. There, she found excitement, inspiration, and love: a group of artists and writers who would become lifelong friends, and a man – Charles Norton – who would become the love of Mrs Gaskell’s life, though they would never be together. 

In 2013, Nell Stevens is embarking on her Ph.D. – about the community of artists and writers living in Rome in the mid-nineteenth century – and falling drastically in love with a man who lives in another country. As Nell chases her heart around the world, and as Mrs Gaskell forms the greatest connection of her life, these two women, though centuries apart, are drawn together. Ultimately it also offers Nell an opportunity: even as her own relationship falls apart, perhaps, in her writing, she can give Mrs Gaskell the ending she deserved.


Email to register for PhD Book Club.

Photograph of the book cover of "Mrs Gaskell & Me: Two Women, Two Love Stories, Two Centuries apart", by Nell Stevens.