Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain


Books you HAVE to read

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while but never seem to give justice to the brilliance of these books. As a result I delete the entire thing and write about something else. Reading, I understand is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is my form of escapism. I am always shocked to find that people do not like to read or would rather watch television than pick up a book. However, this post is not a rant on my disbelief at people’s lack of love for books. I’ll leave that for another day and fellow book lovers will probably know what I would say, while people not interested in books will have heard it all before.

If I had endless supplies of money, I would buy the house next door to wherever I was living and it would look like this.

If I had endless supplies of money, I would buy the house next door to wherever I was living and it would look like this. It would, however, be a lot neater. I can’t handle wonky piles or shelves.

I have two favourite books. Both are incredible and I couldn’t decide on which is better if my life depended on it. I also have another few which I think are pretty special and definitely worth reading even by those who don’t enjoy it. The thing with being a bookworm is that once you find the right book it does not seem all that difficult to fall in love with reading.

So for book lovers, this is my small but special list of must-reads. For those who do not enjoy reading, I promise you that if you read any one of the books on this list, you’ll at least become a reading fan if not a die-hard book lover. If I’m wrong I’ll send you chocolate (NOTE: by chocolate I mean happy thoughts to make you feel warm and fuzzy).

Without further ado here is my list of five books you have to read (which technically speaking includes eight books but whatever, this is a literary post not a numbers one).

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Technically speaking I shouldn’t be putting these books on my list because I haven’t finished reading them all. BUT they are so addictive and consuming my brain that I had to. Aimed for teenagers but some of the best books are, I think it has something to do with the fact that writers feel they are able to be more creative and that improbability can be used more. Oh and the pressure of being an adult novel is removed.

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

This is one of my favourite books, in league with another that is also featured on this list. It is one of the most amazingly, wonderful books I have ever read and words are not enough to express my absolute joy and love for this book. It is a book that leaves you breathless and the world a little changed after you’ve finished reading it. That’s pretty epic reading if you ask me. If you haven’t yet, read the book before you watch the film. The book is so incredible that it deserves a blank mind (in terms of having little to no idea of what to expect).

The Shadow of the Wind book coverThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Just writing the title of this book made me happy. It is my other very favourite book along with Life of Pi. Carlos Ruiz Zafon likes to lead you one place and make you think one thing and then spin everything around. It is full of mystery, love, death, danger and intrigue. It also all surrounds a book. In a word: perfection. If you choose to do nothing else this year, read this book.

The Great Gatsby and May Day by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Okay, I’m cheating because these are two different books by one author. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories though are short and so I feel justified in putting them together. These two books are a smorgasbord of descriptions, details, colour and vibrancy. Everything is rich, even when Fitzgerald is describing something ordinary. Reading these two short books is a little like being wrapped in colourful dreams and fantasies.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I read this a few years ago whilst on a family holiday to Malta. It was a brilliant book and because of its size I thought it would last me a little while even though I’m a fast reader. It didn’t. It was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down and it’s written in a way that makes it easy to read without being overly simple. It’s entertaining, and emotional. A book that is nothing like you’d expect and would be loved by young and old alike.


A film adaptation too far

I enjoy watching films and I love reading books. It is normal that films would take a lot of their ideas from books and create adaptations. There is a theory that there are only seven stories in terms of plot. Everything usually follows these storylines and embellishes them to create something different.

I usually have nothing against film adaptions. I quite like watching them, and I tend to enjoy them because I wholeheartedly accept that it will never be as good as the book. Sometimes a film will surprise me, usually it doesn’t. But it’s okay, you’re imagination has no limitations. Film still does even with all the special effects.

There are some film adaptions I wish I could remove from my brain together. The Golden Compass was probably the WORST book to film ever. Not just because the books are magnificent but because it seemed clear that the book had not been read properly by anyone in charge of said film.

It makes me angry just thinking about it.

You may or may not have heard that Life of Pi has been made into a film and is being released in the UK on Thursday 20 November. This is worrying me a great amount.

Life of Pi is the best book I have ever read. It resonated deeply with me and it is unafraid of tackling heavy subjects whilst crazy events take place. It is a phenomenal read and a book I am consistently recommending to people.

Yann Martel was able to truly capture the reader’s imagination and I think the story is made to be read, envisioned and felt rather than seen. The film will never, ever live up to the book. I do not doubt that the film will be good and enjoyable at the very least. A strong story will usually always make an enjoyable film. But I can’t help but feel this is a film adaption too far.

Nothing is off limits in Hollywood. Creativity knows no bounds (nor does the greed of financial want) but some things are better left in their original forms. The way they were intended to be. I am no traditionalist but I can’t help but feel that Life of Pi is just one of those books, one of those narratives, that works better and is more effective when everything is not handed over on a silver platter.

It’s hard to describe a book that makes you think, leaves you guessing and makes you feel like something in the world has changed once you’ve finished reading it. I know a film can do the same but it isn’t the same.

Reading a book is personal. You will read it in a different way to how others will. You will see the characters, hear their voices, experience their trials and tribulations in a different way. Reading is a far more personal journey which is why people are so attached to their books. I doubt there is anyone that treats their DVDs in the same way that you would treat your books, not because of how much they cost but because of what they mean to you.

A film cannot do this in the same way as a book. It’s just the way it is.

Life of Pi is very much one of those books that is personal. Maybe because of the way it is written or the way Pi speaks to the reader in the novel. A film adaptation will lose this, it will lose the storytelling aspect, the effect of having to imagine such an incredible journey. It’ll all be there for you to see, you don’t even need to think about it. Just watch and go home. Nothing changes.

I hope I’m wrong. The trailer does look brilliant and I’m sure the film will be a box office hit but I can’t help feel that it’s just one film adaptation too far.


The bookshelf

I have been an avid reader since my mother bought my the Ladybird books in Woolworth’s when I was too young to remember details. When my sister and I were little and shared a room, my mum would read to us every night before we went to bed. As we both got older, we began reading alone and choosing our own books. It was exciting, and it still is.

My favourite shops are book shops. The huge Waterstones just off Piccadilly Circus in London makes me weep for joy. I could spend the whole day in a bookshop, time stops when you’re there. I was lucky enough to go to The Strand Bookstore in New York when I was there this summer. It was indescribable: 18 miles of books: old and new. It was heaven. A book lover’s dream. I added at least 100 new titles that I want to read to my ever growing reading list.

As a book lover, I am in love with my bookshelf. To me, my books are like children – silent, beautiful, well behaved, continually entertaining children. I have tried to give many up during various clean ups of my ever growing pile of ‘stuff’ and my books are always saved. Each one has a memory, each one reminds me of a moment in time when I was reading that book. Most of my books I’ve read at least twice apart from a couple of handfuls that I read only once and deserve a medal for the feat. I have bookshelves inside my wardrobe and one in my room and a load of books in boxes stored around the house.

I am very proud of my bookshelf. Mainly because I love the books on it. I read on The Guardian website about your bookshelf saying a lot about you. You can read the comment piece here. I agree insofar that your bookshelf says a lot about you, mainly due to the titles on that shelf. After all, it will show your interests and your likes. However I don’t think that my bookshelf is my chance to show off: I would never think to organise my bookshelf, and my books, in a way that would be appealing to somebody else in order to instigate a conversation or brag about having read certain books considered more ‘high brow’ (some of them not as special as many lecturers would have you believe).

My bookshelf and the books that I read are solely for my enjoyment. Much like the clothes I wear and the food I eat. I do it for myself. It seems illogical that I would need to organise it in an aesthetically pleasing way to someone that does not have the emotional connection to my books as I have.

It seems that in society now, we are developing a sentimentality of having to always impress, of needing to brand and improve our outer selves to show people just how great we are. I may sadly conform to some of this (for example I don’t pop my blackheads in public or swear like a sailor around strangers) but things such as reading, fashion and food are things that are scared to the individual. They provide escapism, inspiration and a little individuality in a world where we are unsure as to how unique we should be while still being part of a majority.

The bookshelf is a humble piece of furniture that holds some of the most precious possessions I own. Books that have been brought for me by the boy and have been some of the best reads of my life; books I purchased when I was feeling lonely; books I was given for inspiration; books that encouraged me to keep going; books that took me away from my cold, student housing; books that made me grateful and opened my mind.

When I’m grown up enough to be able to afford my own mortgage; I plan on having a room dedicated to all my books. Ceiling to floor bookshelves filled with books and picture frames. Two big, comfortable chairs, one bright light to read when it’s dark and a super comfortable rug for those days when I like to lie and read. That is perfection, and I could not care less about what my bookshelf says to the outside world about me.

Reading for me is an internal, personal things. It has been ever since my mum began reading to my sister and I before bed. As a result, my bookshelf is a little like my body I guess. I’m very proud of it but I’m not going to show the whole world what it looks like just in the hope they’ll think a little better of me.

Oh, look heaven. Let me live here. Please. Maybe with a few windows for some natural light. But still. Please.

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It’s all fun and games when you’re a student(!)

I have been a university student for just over two years, I’m in my third and final year and I’ll be honest: I’m sick of being a student. When you’re a student it’s like you have a sign on your forehead, a flashing neon sign, saying ‘Student: Second class citizen’.

You’re conned when it comes to living arrangements: conditions are okay usually but you pay through the nose through it. The stigma of the ‘lazy student’ is not only insulting and condescending but completely wrong. Yet you’re lumped with it no matter what type of student you are or how many jobs or extra-curricular activities you do alongside your degree. Peer pressure is the most rife it’s ever been, the animal instinct to group and to group quickly as never been more true. You thought it was bad when you were 16? Try pretending to be grown up while being told you’re boring because you can’t down a bottle of wine in the time it takes people to sing a crappy chant.

As a student you’re made to buy a load of books, do lots of reading, lots of essays and assignments, hours of revision and have many tiring and usually confusing classes. I’m not saying it’s so much harder than working full time or anything like that but university is just as difficult. You never stop thinking about the work you have to do, things you want to apply for, what happens after university and all that scary stuff. There’s the fun things too; like deciding on your costumes for a dressing up night, what night to go out on and what opportunities and societies you want to join.

Obviously being a student isn’t all bad. It’s fun, hectic, stressful, vibrant and full of opportunity, if you just take some time to look. It’s not the greatest years of your life like many claim. That, to me, is a little disheartening. If university are the best three years of your life then the future would suck. It may be the best three years of your life SO FAR but it’s only the beginning. Technically university is just a glorified boarding school for slightly older people.

The thing is though, with being a student you’re in that weird grouping of not being a ‘proper’ adult nor being a child at school. You find yourself in the vicious cycle of trying to prove you’re a grown up and taking the first steps to the rest of your life whilst falling into all the pitfalls that show that you’re just not there yet.

The truth is university is hard. In the pamphlets and prospectuses they give to potential students they forget to mention that you’re actually at university to get a degree. And getting a a high classmark for your degree is not easy. It’s hard, it requires commitment an dedication. It may be advertised as constant boozy fun and that’s a part of it too but essentially it’s bloody damn hard. The best thing you learn is self motivation (ironic considering my last post, I know), not how to escape a hangover (because, quite frankly, that’s impossible anyway).

I have loved, correction: am loving, university. It’s been an experience. It hasn’t always been easy; I’ve had huge highs and lousy lows but I would do it all over again and I’d recommend university to anyone (even with the rising fees). You don’t just get a degree out of it, you learn a lot about yourself too. So no, it’s not all fun and games when you’re a student; that would defeat the purpose of university quite frankly if there wasn’t some mundane and difficult stuff in there. But it’s worth it.

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Reading has never cost so much

Before my return to university I received reading lists, books I needed to research and compulsory books that I MUST buy. I have gained access to three of the reading lists out of the six that I will receive by the time term starts.

I begun book hunting as every student knows is crucial to enable me to get the best deals on the books I’m looking for. It’s a crucial way of saving money: shopping around, yes it requires a little more effort but it’s definitely worth it. Amazon tends to be the best place to go; there’s a choice, a variety of sellers and nine times out of ten it’ll have what you need. Although I was very disappointed to realise that a fair few of my books were ‘unavailable at the current time’, I took it as a sign from the other world that there not THAT important and I can always just continually keep them on loan from the library, or steal them. I still have options.

My shopping spree of books is usually fun, I love to read and would probably dub myself a book worm: yes I know the stereotypes that come with being a book worm and you’ll be glad to know I conform to most of them! But in keeping with my new saving mad persona I avoided the books I wanted, ignored the personalised tabs telling me what I should buy and quickly searched the books I need for the forthcoming academic year.

I’m not going to lie, a lot of them aren’t really my piece of cake and thrilling would not be the word used to describe some of them (dull would be more realistic and truthful). However, I’ve been lucky some of the books I MUST buy for my third year actually seem pretty damn good and what will hopefully be a compelling read. I got excited at the prospect! I added them all happily to my basket all the while boasting to my mother with a Cheshire cat grin about how some of the books looked fantastic, wonderful, and oh so very marvellous!

Then, came the sad moment of having to click on my electronic basket and there appeared the total. I’m proud of the fact I didn’t scream. I rubbed my eyes (and you thought they only did that in films!) and the amount was still there. I checked the books I’d put in: seven books, all the ones I needed. I went back and made sure they were the cheaper option all the while having hefty postage and packaging charges in my mind. I couldn’t believe this was my cheapest option. But I’d done the shopping around, I was saving a bucket load but the total still made me queasy.

The total came to an astounding £126.86 including postage and packaging for seven books, not even text books, just books. £126.86 for seven books. I don’t think I really need to explain my outrage there.

I'd love to have a collection of books like this...better start saving then...