As someone who has always been partway through a book since I properly learnt how to read, I’d say I’m familiar with the feeling of a good book, and over the years I’ve filed away a list of particular favourites that I will keep returning to until my eyes and ears fail me entirely. This is a very short list, but that’s because they are special in specific way. These books, to me, have their own feelings, their own little worlds that are such a wonder to experience that the sensation almost carves itself into you. These are the books that I am constantly reminded of and that I often crave to re-read. They could be considered staples of their genres or outstanding examples of literature; some more than others, but the most important thing is that they’re an experience that I will never get sick of.
The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
Harry was the first reading love for a whole generation, and will continue to be for many in the future. Nothing can beat the feeling of the first time you completely immersed yourself in another world, pretending to fly brooms around the backyard and teaching your stuffed toys Transfiguration. The story grew with us. It taught us love, friendship, sacrifice and loyalty, and although now the stories are beyond familiar, the awe of that little six year-old is no less relevant.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Hitchhiker’s Guide has a cult following for being one of the wackiest examples of science fiction that has ever graced shelves. Although the tale began as a radio show, the little volume still manages to express the weird and wonderful in a way that encourages us to leave behind everything we’ve ever learned and accept a universe where Babel Fish and reside and Vogon poetry is one of the worst things you could ever be subjected to. It has inspired so many authors in their work, but nothing can ever truly beat down the classic.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games may not be the first or best example of young adult dystopian fiction, but it was the first one that I was exposed to. With the genres climbing popularity, we see stories of teens struggling through post-apocalyptic societies and disasters every day. But the feeling of following a character through a world that is different to anything I will ever know rests with the strength of Katniss Everdeen.
Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis
Penned by ‘The Decemberists’ frontman Colin Meloy and illustrated by his wife, this children’s novel had indie rock fans everywhere practically drooling, and with good reason. The story isn’t far off what you’d expect, with a fair share of talking woodland animals and an evil queen to boot, but it’s dense enough and peppered with so many beautiful illustrations that it makes for a mystical read for people far past the age of twelve as it’s brought to life through a wonderful partnership between the verbal and the visual. Talking foxes will never quite be looked at the same way again.
The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
It’s fitting, to frame this post with books from Rowling, an author who shaped so many people’s childhoods and is now still amazing them in adulthood. The Casual Vacancy is the first book Rowling published outside Harry Potter, and so naturally it was also the first that I read. I finished it with no doubt in my mind concerning this amazing woman’s talent, with the array of characters and diverse experiences entertaining me far more than I expected it to. The detailed intricacy of the plot will be the standard to which I hold anything similar that I read in the future.
I hope that in my attempts to describe my love for these novels I have inspired some of you to pick one of them up, on the off chance that you haven’t already read them. I can almost guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.
Like a large portion of people, I pride myself on the fact that I consistently do well. I’ve never failed a class and I put my best efforts into everything, and I mean everything. My parents frequently remind me of clarinet lessons in my primary school years, where I’d choose to start over in the event of a mistake instead of just carrying on, determined to produce a perfect performance, even if it was just for myself in my bedroom. The times when, as a small child, I’d perform for family and friends only to have them sit through the same embarrassing dance moves multiple times while I tried to get it right from start to finish. This determination to succeed has stayed with me through my school years and into adulthood, and with my rewards for my consistent, self-driven efforts came a reputation of an intelligent hard worker who seemed incapable of slipping up. But under the rosy picture of “success” grew a festering fear of failure.
For a long time, it’s been evident to the people that know me best that I am incredibly hard on myself and that I don’t deal well with letting anyone down. But it’s only now, in my 20th year of life and my first year of university, that I’ve realised what that really means.
I’ve always been aware that I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, a completest, a control freak. There are many terms I could give it. The signs are glaringly obvious: the painstakingly organised to-do lists, the times I have pushed myself just that bit too hard, and so many occasions where I’ve ended up disappointed because I didn’t meet my own expectations, whether it be concerning grades or even the things I do for leisure. I began to run a race with my reputation, and it started winning.
I’ve set the bar so high for myself in the past few years that even missing it by a centimetre feels like failing. After all, for me, it may as well be. I’m so used to being the girl that everyone expects to study the hardest and get the right marks and do anything that anyone feels they want to face me with. It’s like someone tapped a tiny hole in my mind and let everyone else’s expectations of me flow through to become my own. I somehow have to do things close to perfectly for them to be worth anything. But it all comes at a cost, and sometimes I feel like I pay too much for too little of a return.
All my wallowing in the irrational sadness of high credits in place of distinctions has made me realise that it’s not only the negative opinions of others, and even yourself, that can effect you, but that you shouldn’t care what they think either way. It’s okay to get a pass, it’s okay to not finish the project you’re working on at the deadline you set yourself, it’s okay to not always be extraordinary. So lower the bar for yourself sometimes, and know that in a lot of circumstances, it’s totally okay if you fail.
While it might be coming into autumn in the rest of the world, it’s now very nearly springtime in the Land Down Under. Spring is one of my favourite times for music, and it’s filled with a lot of pleasant memories, like going on weekend walks or listening to Florence + The Machine after getting home from school and looking out at the cloudless sky. So here I have compiled a list of some of my favourite upbeat tracks for the blooming season from over the past few years, with quite a few new favourites thrown in for good measure. And remember, if it isn’t spring where you are, it will be sooner than you know it, and who’s stopping you from pretending, anyway?
You may have noticed that I’ve been neglecting my blog recently as I attempt to wade my way through my masses of uni work with the hope of triumphantly crossing the proverbial finish line that is finals in a few months time. Yet with all my readings and essays that must be composed, I can’t up but long to hone my ability to write, to put together prose that doesn’t jerk you around like a bus driver that can’t keep his foot off the brake, but that’s hard to do when you’re perpetually up to your elbows in vocabulary lists and literary research.
In any case, I’m not a defeatist. I hope to still be here in my little corner of the Internet for years to come, no matter who visits or what happens. So I will try to carve a path through the paper mountains I’m trying to climb, and find the time to put pen to paper and fingers to keys. I hope to play with some new, better ideas, and maybe see a fair few of them through. I might I’ll even fill a notebook for the first time in my adult life.
I’m doing to English literature units this semester, which means a lot of reading. I enjoy reading and I read reasonably widely, so I’ve not yet neglected any of the readings I’ve been assigned. I’m actually quite excited to get into some of these books, so I thought I’d share them with you.
Literature and the Political
1 - The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle 2 - Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell 3 - I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou 4 - Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas 5 - Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare 6 - The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde not pictured - Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
1 - Beware of The Storybook Wolves by Lauren Child 2 - The Wolf’s Story by Toby Forward & Izhar Cohen 3 - Stardust by Neil Gaiman 4 - Pookie Aleera Is Not My Boyfriend by Steven Herrick 5 - The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett 6 - The Fire-Eaters by David Almond 7 - The Red Shoe by Ursula Dubosarsky 8 - Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve