Books on a Theme: Reads for Bad Mental Health Days

I’ve found that over the last few years, a few titles keep cropping up when I go to pick up a book to help me along on bad days. Although only some of these are directly about depression, I’ve found each to be uplifting and hopeful in its own way.

 

  1. The Humans by Matt Haigh

I’ve poured over this book so many times, and although, yes, it is about an alien disguised as an Oxford Professor, it contains beautifully constructed musings on finding the good and happy in humanity as it is. The story, complete with a physical list of ‘life lessons’ at the end, is a wonderful quick pick me up and completely restores my faith in life.

 

2. It’s Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

This book is part novel, part memoir, about a boy’s experience with being admitted to a mental health facility after he calls a suicide helpline. What I find best about this book is that it effectively begins with identifying the problem and the depression sufferer seeking out help – something that is surprisingly quite refreshing in books of this kind. This book explores coping mechanisms, dealing with stereotypes of mental illness sufferers, and a few ‘coming of age’ elements, and I always come out the other side of this read feeling that much more hopeful.

 

3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower

As I tend to feel quite isolated during a down patch, this is the best book to make me feel appreciative of friends and always finds a way to give me a new perspective through which to view the everyday. Besides having a neuro-atypical protagonist, this novel indirectly deals with larger issues of abuse, lonliness, family, friendship, and love, which in the end resolve in not necessarily a positive way, but in a wistful and hopeful one, with a look towards the future.

 

4. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Although this book of poetry is a difficult read due to the content of the first half – rape, extreme negative body image, and vivid descriptions of depressive episodes – the contrast with Kaur’s end point of positivity and love is a fantastic illustration of recovery and how life can always improve and emotional hardship overcome.

 

5. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Yes, Matt Haig is on here again, but this time with this non-fiction/memoir book about his own experiences with depression and anxiety. Anecdotes and essays interspersed with facts and figures about mental health, this book is a must read for practically everyone. Haig shares his own ways of coping, his own journey through relapses into severe depressive episodes, from where he draws strength and inspiration, and many, many words of comfort.

 

Have any of you read these books? What would you recommend or would you read during a bad mental health day?

Advertisements

Book Cake Tag

This tag was originally posted by suddenlylorna on YouTube – it’s a great video so you should check it out!

How to keep reading (1).png

Self-Raising Flour: A book that was slow to start but picked up later

Although I completely adore these books, I’m going to go with the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. I found the first few chapters of Shadow and Bone to be a lot more serious and dry than the majority of the series. Saying that, when I hit the 50 page mark I flew threw it and couldn’t put it, or the rest of the series, down at all.

 

Margerine – A book with a really rich plot

The first thing that came to mind here was His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. I’ve read and reread this trilogy over and over again, and it still amazes me how beautiful and dangerous and fantastic his universe and story are – even when a large chunk of it takes place in modern day Oxford. It’s something wholly original and avoids so many fantasy tropes that this is a stand out for me in terms of the richness of plot.

 

Eggs – A book you thought was going to be bad but turned out to be good

Purely because I don’t usually enjoy YA romances – especially ones with protagonists as seemingly twee as Lara Jean – I honestly thought I would hate To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, but I picked it up because so many people were raving about it on Tumblr. I was sucked in immediately and was really charmed by Lara Jean and her family, and it was such a lovely and easy book to read.

 

Sugar – A very sweet book

Hands down this had to go to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. It’s such a gorgeous romance, and although the plot was in some ways predictable, the prose and characters were wonderfully original and it had completely melted my heart by the end. It was also lovely to read an LGBTQ+ romance with a wholesome happy ending!

 

Icing – A book that had everything you enjoy in a good novel

Despite wanting to say the enitre Harry Potter series, I’d have to go for  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. This has always been my favourite book of the series, probably because all of the characters begin to be rounded out a bit more as they grow up, it’s the introduction of the Marauders and it has an intrigue that isn’t necessarily there in the other books in the series. Plus Hippogriffs.

 

Sprinkles – A book or series you turn to for a pick-me-up

I always love flying through The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein. I have so  many different editions of this book, and although I love The Lord of the Rings it’s not exactly a series I can quickly get through to make myself feel better. The Hobbit is just a fun, light book (aside from the ending – but I can just pretend that it doesn’t happen) and is a great escape into Middle Earth on a bad day.

 

Cherry on top – Favourite book so far this year

I’ve got to say this book simply because I rave about it to anyone who’ll listen – Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. This book of poetry was like being hit in the chest with a ton of bricks, and in the half hour it took me to read it I was in tears on almost every page. Although a difficult and heartbreaking read, it’s a fantastically eye-opening book, and is something that I’d go far as to say everyone, regardless of gender, needs to read.

 

Because I’m posting this on both WordPress and Tumblr I have people I’d want to tag on both platforms, so instead I’m tagging everyone who wants to do it!

 

Books on a Theme: Easy to Read Classics

How to keep reading

So, I basically love reading everything. Literally everything. YA, contemporary, mystery, thriller, non fiction, literary fiction – but my honest to God first love with books is classics.

Although when I’ve got a huge TBR to tackle I tend to stay with quick, easy books, most of them new releases, I have a few classics that I keep going back to and that are easy to understand and always keep me engaged.

 

Jane Eyre

This is hands down one of my favourite books of all time. I was about 11 when I first read it, and I was struck by how normal  Jane  was, and how raw her emotions were. Because the narrative starts off when Jane is still a child, the language is much simpler, and only becomes slightly more complex when she reaches adulthood. The characters are well defined, the story is dramatic and iconic, and the feminist MC makes this a book I can just fly through in a couple of sittings.

 

Sense and Sensibility

Although I do love Pride and Prejudice, this Austen work is one that I completely fell in love with when I read it a few years ago. As it’s slightly lesser known than P&P, the plot is more of a surprise than expected and has wonderfully sassy female leads. Austen generally is very easy to understand and read given the time period in which she was writing, but the stories and characters are still wonderfully complex and engaging.

 

The Picture of Dorian Grey

Basically the gayest book ever written, with a wonderfully conceited MC. The writing is beautiful and poetic, but Wilde never obscures his meaning with over flowery language, only adds to it. Although the text is more dense than some of the others on this list, the book is much shorter with (sometimes) better pacing.

 

1984

Although this is such an iconic book with a constantly referenced premise (Big Brother, anyone?), the plot is still thrilling and surprising, with succinct but well crafted prose. As it’s set in what designed to be a dystopian future, it’s so easy to get lost in the sinister society Orwell creates in this surprisingly short book.

 

Little Women

Despite being a fairly hefty book, because this novel is aimed at a younger audience the language and plot are a breeze to get through. I adored this book when I was still in primary and I adore it even more now; I immediately connected with all the sisters, and their first Christmas in the book is so pure and lovely that this is such an escapist book to me. What I love is that it’s not all twee, either – tragedy does strike, and the drama is so real and personal.

On Not Getting What You Want

As I’m getting towards the final year of my undergraduate degree, I’ve thought a lot about how I ended up here. The place, the university, the degree – none of this was what I had planned. It was also possibly the best decision I ever made.

Since I was 13, I knew that I wanted to study English Literature at university. I read constantly, it was easily my best subject, and getting to read as part of my studies (rather than getting told to put the book down and ‘be sociable’ by teachers) seemed like a dream. I started going to university open days at 14, and I completely fell in love with this romantic ideal of swanning around campus, probably wearing a cardigan, book under my arm and hours spent in wood panelled library that I, for some reason, assumed would exist wherever I studied. I got top marks in every assessment, from GCSE through to college, and I consistently defended myself against the slew of sarcastic comments about how useless literature would be in the ‘real world’. I didn’t care. It was all I wanted to do.

I even ended up being invited for a stay at Cambridge in the English department, and had sample lectures with world experts and spent a week dissecting Viking poetry with a group of privately educated Oxbridge hopefuls. If anything this week cemented the idea that this was what I was supposed to do, and hugely increased my confidence in my abilities.

Later on that year, everything started to fall apart. After a bout of illness during exams, I finished my first year with a B in Literature, only one mark away from an A. I was bitterly disappointed, but was reassured by my teachers that I could easily make it up the following year in coursework.

The next year came around, and I began to drop and change my subjects. I stopped being able to cope with work and lost all motivation for everything I was doing at college. I was diagnosed with depression in the November, and took weeks off to recover and deal with medical side effects. After a struggle to catch up, I felt like I was on track once again. I was accepted to four Russell Group universities, and I was obsessively rereading my Literature texts. Although I still wasn’t healthy during my exams, I poured my heart into that paper and came out feeling confident. My first choice university only wanted ABB, and with targets of AAA, I was certain I could get in with no issues.

Fast forward to results day, and I got an e-mail at 7am. It was from my first choice university. I didn’t get in.

I decided to hold out for my results – I convinced myself that it was just Literature I got a B in, the subject they required an A for – hoping I could still swing a Literature course somewhere else. It was worse than I thought; BBB. Although not bad grades overall, it marked the end of my dream to study English Literature at a Russell Group.

After many emails, phone calls, and a £300 housing deposit later, I wound up with a place on History of Art at the University of York. Although I was happy I didn’t have to defer, I spent most of the summer (and most of my first year) bitterly angry with myself, desperately trying to change course, hating a whole year of what was ultimately and invaluable introduction to a fantastic subject. All because I didn’t get exactly what I wanted.

Now, as I’ve begun researching my third year dissertation, I’ve been able to take a step back and appreciate the position I’m in. I’m living in the centre of one of my favourite cities, with an atmosphere I adore and the most beautiful buildings; I’ve met some of the most incredible, like-minded people; I’m now living with my boyfriend who I never would have met if I’d been even one city away; and I’ve ended up studying a subject I love at one of the best institutions in the country whilst keeping my love of literature alive through blogging and consistent reading.

Things are far from perfect, and there have still been problems over the last few years, but this is the happiest and most settled I can ever remember feeling. The place that I didn’t even want to go to is home.

 

How to Keep Reading on a Busy Schedule

Since coming to university, I was worried that I would lose the time to keep up with reading new releases and tackling my TBR on top of everything I needed to read for my classes, working a part time job, and just generally having more social commitments. What I’ve actually managed to do, however, is hugely increase the number of books I’m reading per year, despite having things booked in almost every day of the week. I thought it might be good to make a quick list of the things I’ve been doing to fit my main hobby into a busier lifestyle, and to maybe help some people who aren’t managing to get as much done as they’d like.

 

Read on Public Transport

Seriously, this where I get most of my reading done. Although since first year I don’t actually take the bus to university anymore (but when I did, even five minutes a day got me through a lot), I do still take the train to visit family and friends. Since I generally can’t get any internet on trains, and I’m surrounded by strangers rather than friends, it’s such a great, uninterrupted stretch of time where you can read in peace.

 

Listen to Audiobooks

Although I don’t do this as much, I know my boyfriend reads (listens?) to most of his books this way. Audiobooks are great instead of music on your walk to college/work/a friend’s house for pizza, and you can get through one in no time if you have it on whenever you’d normally listen to music. They’re also great for when you’re tidying or doing chores, because it means you’re actually doing something semi-fun when doing the dishes.

 

Take a Book Everywhere

Although I know most die-hard bookworms do this, carrying a book or an e-reader in your bag wherever you go really does come in handy. You never know when you’ll have ten minutes to kill while waiting for someone, or you may just get to a lecture early and want something to do other than endlessly scrolling through Tumblr on your phone. Cramming in a few pages in a break that only lasts a minute or two can still get you further through your current read.

 

Prioritise it

Even just making sure you take half an hour a day – maybe with breakfast, or before you go to bed – can be a great way to get a huge chunk of a book read, and it a great way to switch off and relax for a little bit. This generally will mean sacrificing a little time that you might otherwise spend watching Netflix or Facebook, but it almost always feels more productive. If you do read before bed, it’s actually better for your sleep pattern if you’re staring at a page rather than a screen; that is, as long as you don’t hit on a plot twist at midnight and have to keep reading.

 

Stay Active in the Community

I’ve found that since running a book blog, not only the number of books I’ve read has risen, but so has my motivation to read. Just by browsing a few blogs, joining Goodreads, or just having BookTubers on in the background really motivates me to shut off the computer and read afterwards. It’s also meant that I’ve met a lot of amazing bookish people that I can chat/fangirl/cry to about new books, or even find readalongs or readathons, giving you a set timeframe in which to read, with the bigger reward of being able to share it with other people who will get just as excited as you.

 

Hope you guys have found this helpful!

What ways do you keep on top of your TBR when you’re busy?

London Indie Book Haul

I had the amazing opportunity to travel down to London for five days this month, and spent the majority of it haunting some highly recommended indie bookshops. After spending a genuinely ridiculous amount of money on books (although not as much as it could have been – student discount and second hand shops go a long way for saving the wallet) I ended up bringing home 9 books squashed between my Converse in my suitcase.

Note: these are not all of the bookshops I visited during my trip, just the ones where I purchased something. If anyone is interested in hearing about the other places I visited in London, let me know!

2016-06-21 09.25.01.jpg

Foyles, ft. an inexplicable Red Bandit. 

Foyles

On my first day travelling into London, I knew Foyles was the first place I wanted to hit; I’ve been every time I’ve visited the city, and love getting lost in the four floors of books and stationary. The YA section is particularly vast – I’ve honestly never seen so much space dedicated to children’s and teenage literature. After viewing several of their recommended books, however, I did ultimately decide on a new release I’ve been desperate to read for months: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, a modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series. The cover is completely stunning, and I’m so excited to eventually pick up the other novels in this series, too.

2016-06-25 07.33.09

 

Any Amount of Books

This was the second bookshop I browsed, only about a minutes walk from Foyles. Specialising in rare and first edition books, this incredible used bookshop had a literal bargain basement. Although even the rare volumes they stock are competitively priced, the basement had books at scandalously low prices. Here, I found Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence, deciding to buy it after accidentally opening it on a passage about the value of an education in art. I also picked up a non-fiction book, The Fall of the Roman Empire by Michael Grant. These books were only £3 each, which made me feel a lot less guilty about buying two books in one place.

Just as I was about to pay, I saw the corner of a book sticking out of a huge stack by the staircase, getting ready to be moved downstairs. After (very carefully) extracting it from the pile, I realised it was the same book I’d coveted at the V&A book sale years before – only this time, it was also £3. Not only did I manage to grab a complete steal of a deal, but this book covers most of the history that is essential to my undergrad dissertation research! So, with an extremely heavy bag and aching shoulder, I ended up leaving with three books.

2016-06-25 07.32.42.jpg

 

Persephone Books

This was a bookshop I’d intended to visit many times, but had never quite managed to make it out towards Bloomsbury: a bookshop that publishes their own books, the titles all from out of print or underappreciated female authors. All of their main titles all have the same beautiful grey covers, with the end papers chosen from patterns (from knitting, to fabric, to wallpaper) from a time period relevant to the novel itself. What’s more is each title also comes with a free matching bookmark, making this a haven for obsessive book collectors like myself who are determined for everything to match.

2016-06-25 07.34.31.jpg

Due to the nature of the shop it meant that I found so many titles that sounded incredible that I otherwise would never have heard of, and managed to pick up a catalogue and order form so that I could buy more at a later date without ever leaving the North East. Persephone was by far my favourite shop that I visited during this trip, and it was made all the more special by the lovely conversation about female authors I had with the girl who worked there. I ended up weakening and purchasing two books; one I found myself, The Far Cry by Emma Smith, and one under the strong recommendation of the two women from behind their desks as I browsed, Mariana by Monica Dickens.

2016-06-25 07.33.31.jpg

 

Gay’s the Word

About a ten minute walk (if you don’t get lost, like I did) away from Persephone Books is the LGBT bookshop Gay’s the Word. Although small in size this bookshop packs in a huge number of books, organised by age range, and then by the sexuality it follows the most closely. I especially loved the children’s and YA sections near the front of the store, as it was so lovely to see the number of novels aimed at young people that demonstrated support and acceptance. They even have a small secondhand section, meaning that there’s something for all ages and budgets within the store. I ended up buying The Baby by Lisa Drakeford, which I then proceeded to read in one sitting in the nearby Brunswick Square Gardens. I also bought a postcard with the store’s logo on, which I’m planning to save in some scrapbook pages dedicated to this trip.

2016-06-25 07.35.09.jpg

 

Daunt Books

After reading about this bookshop in Jen Campbell’s The Bookshop Book, I ended up dragging a friend of mine through the pouring rain and a half mile walk to find it. Daunt has three branches across London – I visited the one near Notting Hill Gate – and although stocks a huge range of books, it specialises mainly in travel writing. What I really loved was that the travel writing was organised by country rather than writer, meaning I could really take the time to not only choose which countries I wanted to read about, but the specific angle or time period too. Picked from the India and Japan sections respectively, I bought Slowly Down the Ganges by Eric Newby, and The Japanese Chronicles by Nicolas Bouvier. I also decided to splurge and buy one of their iconic green canvas bags, which I cannot wait to start using when I go back to university this autumn – most probably for transporting library books.

 

2016-06-25 07.36.29.jpg

 

What are some of your favourite independent bookshops? Let me know down in the comments!

 

Bender -Gene Gant

30169790

At nineteen, college freshman Mace Danner works as an escort, hiring himself out to customers who want a submissive they can dominate. Having no carnal urges himself, the sexual side of his job leaves him cold, but he sees the pain inflicted on him by his clients as punishment for causing his brother’s death when he was in high school. Pain is not enough, however, to wash away his guilt, and Mace starts binge drinking in an effort to escape his remorse.
The dorm’s resident advisor, Dex Hammel, sees Mace spiraling out of control and strives to help him. Despite the mutual attraction between them, Mace is disturbed that he still feels no sexual desire for anyone. Even with Dex’s support, Mace’s self-destructive behavior escalates, leading to a situation that endangers his life.

 

Why I picked this book up:

When I was searching through the LGBT section on NetGalley, the synopsis really stood out to me – this was a fresh, if dark, take on most romances in YA, although I was skeptical as to whether this book would manage to do these themes of self destruction, asexuality, and healing justice.

 

The bad:

I think the only ‘bad’ thing I possibly have to say about this book is the violent sexual scenes, but that isn’t a fault of the book or the writing, just an uncomfortable thing to have to experience, especially as the narrative is so well written you empathise so completely with Mace. I definitely felt his isolation and his confusion, as well as his want to be around loving people but at the same time pushing them away. I can’t really find a negative thing to say about this novel, aside from how downtrodden and emotional it has the potential to make you feel.

 

The good:

I was thrilled to read about an asexual, bi-romantic character in YA, especially where the main character discovering his sexuality is only one strand of this plot. His journey and confusion regarding how he feels alongside his personal trauma and his shady life as a submissive escort made this a book that I flew through, rooting for Mace in every chapter, hoping he would find a way to help himself and let others help him. I think this is such an important book, as it not only highlights the difference between BDSM as something that turns you on and BDSM as something you can be forced into (without any judgement cast on the first), highlighting the struggles of asexuals and the problems with a lack of information about queer sexualities for young people, and shows a healthy, helpful healing process and ways to manage mental illness.

 

Favourite quote:

“I believe in friendship. I believe in love.”

 

Overall rating: 5/5

 

I was given a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

This is Where it Ends – Marieke Nijkamp

 

ThisIsWhereItEnds1.jpg

10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.

Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

 

Why I picked this book up:

When I saw this book on NetGalley, the idea a) of a book taking place entirely within one hour and b) of it being about a highly topical subject, i.e. that of school shootings, made me want to request it as it was a concept I’ve not come across before in YA. It took me a really long time to get round to reading this book and writing a review, so in the time after its publication date I also heard rave reviews and the fact that at least two of the main characters were LGBTQ+, and to be completely honest, as soon as there’s lesbians in YA I am there.

 

The bad:

The first thing that struck me about the narrative was that when each chapter jumped between main characters, the first person is used for each one. Although this does add to the emotion and the suspense in this book, for the first hundred pages or so it did get quite confusing as they flipped. This isn’t helped by the fact that most characters don’t really have their own narrative voice – everything is written in the same style, and a lot of the character traits (such as Tomas’s cocky streak) seemed jammed in as if to remind the reader that the characters do have traits that translate from their normal lives into a traumatic situation. I also felt as though the climax was slightly off (don’t worry, no spoilers) some death seemed needless and the way in which some characters reacted in the school shooter situation seemed unrealistic and forced.

 

The good:

That being said, I can’t deny that this book was gripping and emotional – I read it almost in one sitting and struggled to put it down. Regardless of my own problems with some of the characters I did find myself quite attached to others, and I was firmly rooting for them for the whole of the book. I also enjoyed learning the shooter’s motivations and history, as gradually as the tension builds so does the readers understanding of the antagonist. Although not one of the best books I’ve ever read, it was certainly…well, enjoyable might not be the right word, but it was emotional and tear jerking at times, and it’s always good to see more queer characters emerging in YA.

 

Favourite quote:

“You can’t always keep your loved ones with you. You can’t always settle your life in one place. The world was made to change. But as long as you cherish the memories and make new ones along the way, no matter where you are, you’ll always be at home.”

 

Overall rating: 3.5/5

 

I was given a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

The Diviners – Libba Bray

51TZBj2DMTL

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

 

Why I picked this book up:

I had seen this everywhere on Tumblr, and as soon as I read the synopsis I knew I had to read it. Flappers? Check. Murder mystery? Check. Occult? Check. Sassy female characters with badass superpowers? Triple check.

 

The bad:

This book does take a while to get going, but considering its length at almost 600 pages, it’s understandable as to why. I’ve had this book for almost a year and never got further than fifty pages, but that’s mainly because I always ended up reaching for it whilst I was in a huge reading slump. Although I found it interesting, the plot hadn’t really started picking up in the small section that I’d read. It was only recently I decided to give it another go and carry on from where I’d left off.

 

The good:

But boy, when this book got going, it really got going. I was so heavily invested in every single one of the characters, despite the narrative flicking quickly between them all, as well as a few side characters as well. The setting of 1920’s New York with an occult murder mystery and a huge cast of contrasting teenage characters really made the book come alive for me. Every one of them had their own motivations, their own family or friends to take care of and their own attitude towards the powers they hold, which alongside a gripping detective narrative meant that I could hardly put it down once I made it past 200 pages. The setting, the tensions, and the huge climax made this such an easy and almost indulgent read.

 

Favourite quote:

“She was tired of being told how it was by this generation, who’d botched things so badly. They’d sold their children a pack of lies: God and country. Love your parents. All is fair. And then they’d sent those boys, her brother, off to fight a great monster of a war that maimed and killed and destroyed whatever was inside them. Still they lied, expecting her to mouth the words and play along. Well, she wouldn’t. She knew now that the world was a long way from fair. She knew the monsters were real.”

 

Overall rating: 5/5