Best books of 2016.

2016 was an up and down year. On a macro level it was a pretty awful year, on a micro level (Amy level) it was a year of fun experiences, independence, great people and most importantly…great books. Here are a few of my favourites of the 34 I finished in 2016 listed in the order I read them. Enjoy!

A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler

This is a stunning little novel about a man who lives his entire life in the Austrian Alps. He leaves the area but once, to fight in the second world war. It is gorgeously written, heartbreaking, still and beautifully descriptive. A must read, and a short one, coming in at 160 pages.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

This is one of my favourite books of all time and I am so lucky to have found and read this. I found it relatable, honest, moving and just so oddly comforting. This book is so important and something that I urge anyone who suffers with mental illness or who struggles to understand those who do to pick this up. Funny at points, beautiful in all the right ways. I love it. See my review here.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

I had never visited Middle Earth until I read this book, and I am so glad I finally got to it. This book was fantastical, with such a thoroughly descriptive world, brilliant characters, and was an adventure start to finish. See my review here.

The Cicero Trilogy by Robert Harris

This trilogy follows the Roman senator Cicero and his endeavours to gain power in the Roman republic. These books are so interesting, so fast paced, so full of drama and are great if you are a history buff. The voice of these books, Cicero’s slave Tiro is a character you will grow to feel affection for and the best perspective to read about Cicero’s life from. See my review of the first book, Imperium, here.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

This may be one of the most beautiful book I have ever read (which I am yet to review, however will be reviewing it as soon as possible). This book is huge, but so worth reading. John Steinbeck’s writing is unbeleivable and moves me every time. The story, the characters, the levels of personality, the fight between good and evil and the reference to a biblical story we all know made this book a stunning, literary masterpiece.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This is a heartbreaking but uplifting memoir of a neurosurgeon who finds out he is dying of cancer as he is about to complete his residency. This book sounds depressing, but it exerts life and brilliance, it is inspiring and wholesome and is absolutely unbelievable. It conveys the difference between being the doctor and being desensitised, to being the patient  from a person who has seen both sides. It discusses death, spirituality, coming to terms with mortality and much more. So beautiful and inspiring. Please read it! See my review here.

happy-new-year-blog

This will probably be my last blog post of 2016, and so I’d like to take this chance to thank anyone who has read, liked, or followed my blog since I created it in April. I have been blogging for 8 months now and I’ve enjoyed every second. I love talking about books and sharing my love of books with you guys and I can’t wait for another year of blogging.

 

Fuck you, 2016.

It’s approaching the end of the year, and while personally this year has been a pretty good one in terms of personal growth and friendships and experiences, it has been a shit show in every other aspect.

2016 has been an awful year for countless reasons, whether on a macro or micro scale. Trump, Brexit, terrorism, Aleppo, Nice, shootings, plane crashes, and the loss of countless icons integral to popular culture; Alan Rickman, Prince, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali and others. It is hard to stay positive when every day the news reports another terrorist attack, another death, another political faux pas. It is hard to find the desire to stay aware and engaged in the world and to have faith in our ability to bounce back when knocked down. This is something I understand all too well.

I spent a night of anxiety awake during the counting of the Brexit referendum votes in June of this year, as the world watched the United Kingdom divide into two contrasting camps. I remember watching the results be confirmed with horror and I felt devastated. I admittedly went into a bit of a slump, terrified for the future and terrified of the toxic, xenophobic, regressive and often archaic attitudes I could see circulating and infiltrating the media I was consuming. I found it hard to separate myself from a feeling of constant dread and a “what’s the point” attitude.

Each sad, frustrating or angering event of this year which has reached my ears has knocked me back and made me scared for the future and feel insecure in the here and now, and I know that I’m not the only person who feels like this. People are hurting and grieving, and this year has left people feeling flat, demotivated, disengaged and more. I particularly see this on social media, with countless younger people like myself expressing their feelings to a platform they expect to be understood on.

Instead however, I have seen something rather troubling. I have seen numerous tweets telling people they ought not to complain about the events of the year. I have seen several which say that as long as you are still alive you shouldn’t complain. I have seen others which say that there have been worse years and at least x, y and z haven’t happened. I have even seen ones which are telling people to stop complaining and that we should be grateful it isn’t 2001 and we haven’t had to suffer an attack like 9/11, or that at least it isn’t 1942 and we aren’t engaged in a world war. I’ve seen tweets telling people to man up, and that if we are not happy with the events of the year we should try and change them in 2017. This is potentially the most toxic and belittling and patronising message that any person could circulate. To me anyway.

My issues with these notions are vast. Telling somebody that they shouldn’t feel sad is not going to make them be happy. Telling somebody that the thing they are distressed about isn’t as bad as something else does nothing other than suggest their feelings are not valid. Yes, I agree that instead of moping and constantly complaining we should try and unite and be strong and progress, however people are allowed to feel and to grieve for what is lost or to feel fear for the future, and they should be able to do so without being attacked or told to man up.

Furthermore, the acknowledgement of this year as having been a bad one is not only true, but it does not mean that the past has been forgotten. If anything, it makes the state of the world even harder to bear, as the human race’s self destructive nature has carried through the years and the world has not changed, but merely continues to get even more messed up by the minute, showing we have not learned from past mistakes. But by saying that 2016 was a bit shit, I doubt anyone is actively trying to say it was worse than any other period of history. When I complain about the events of the year I am by no means saying I think my struggles, or the world’s struggles are the only things that matter. I am not forgetting that there have been dark times throughout history. I am not forgetting that people have hurt before, politicians have fucked up before, terrorist attacks have happened before, celebrities have died before. No. I am simply trying to let my frustration out so I can move on.

Being angry and upset by the events of 2016 is completely acceptable. I do not think any person should be made to feel whiney or ungrateful for their life for simply stating how they feel about a certain circumstance. In my eyes expressing emotion and being informed and invested in the events of the world is so important and so valuable, as it shows you care. People who act indifferent or think it is not their duty to be knowledgeable or seem to have a lack of empathy are the ones in the wrong.

I remember logging onto my Facebook account after the Brexit referendum, and seeing screeds of writing from different Facebook friends, different celebrities, different figures expressing their views and their upset and their ideas. While this was a hard thing to face, it also made me incredibly hopeful. So many people felt so passionately and so deeply about the result, and so many were voicing these views and restoring my faith in humanity, and in my generation and what we can do in the future.

While hope is sometimes hard to access and hard to push yourself to feel, it is extremely important. But while I believe that to be true, I also believe everyone has the right to express their emotions if it helps them to move on. Instead of belittling each other’s struggles, we should be trying to elevate each other and comfort each other when we need it most. And above all, we should stay educated and informed and passionate.

And lastly, we should be telling 2016 to fuck off.

Essay writing.

Hi!

So, I’ll be honest with you…I am writing this as a form of procrastination from writing my essay that is due next week. However, I figured that as it is potentially helping other people get through the intensive and shitty task that is writing essays it may be worth doing.

I am a third year undergraduate student, and throughout my time at university I have achieved pretty consistently good grades. This is not so much to do with exam performance, because after being in education for nearly 16 years of my life I still can’t seem to find a suitable method for revision. I can attribute these grades to my coursework, which usually achieve A’s or B’s.

I have quite a distinctive method that I use for essay writing, which I’ve adapted during my time at university to suit me best, and it makes the process a lot less stressful for me. I have a few tips that I thought I’d share. Even if nobody finds these useful or even reads them, I figure that future Amy might enjoy reading this in the future when her back is breaking under the weight of deadlines and stress.

1/ Make a plan

This seems quite an obvious tip, but I find it really helpful to have a brainstorming session before I do anything else. Oftentimes when I get a piece of coursework, I get the option of more than one essay question. Once I have these questions to choose from I usually pick the one I would most like to do and then I write down as many ideas for paragraphs as I can. I write down bullet point ideas of paragraph subjects, arguments and counter arguments. This helps me decide if I am confident or not in pursuing the essay question I’ve chosen and being able to reach the word limit comfortably. If yes I then move on to…

2/ Research before writing

I know a lot of people who when writing essays simply research as they go. I used to do this at school however at university where you are expected to cite everything you mention and read widely across articles this does not work for me. I instead do all of my research prior to writing anything.

I use a website called goconqr.com, where you can create mind maps and flashcards etc. for revision purposes. I love the aesthetic of this website as well as how concise I can make my work. I usually create a mind map with the essay question in the centre and my bullet points from my brainstorm coming away from the question. I then find all the resources I want to read or reference, and I write the Harvard references out in full (it saves a lot of time when it comes to doing a bibliography later) and I then bullet point any relevant information from the texts I’ve read and put it on the mind map. I often spend more time doing this than I do on the actual essay, as once the information I need has been collected I feel far more prepared when it comes to writing. It also means that once I print it off I only need to reference one piece of paper, opposed to rifling through countless journal articles and textbooks. This is doubly handy when you are studying with limited space. I often enjoy essay writing outwith the house, for example on my university campus or in a coffee shop. This way all I need is my laptop and the mind map. Additionally, you are condensing all of the information you deem relevant into a small and accessible mind map, meaning you don’t have to read and reread the same journal article countless times to remember what you wanted to reference.

Here’s an example of a goconqr mind map I made in my second year of university, in case what I have tried to explain does not make sense.

women-in-psychology-1

3/ Jumbling paragraphs

Sometimes starting an essay is the hardest hurdle to overcome when writing it. I often find myself struggling to get started, and so I oftentimes don’t start at the beginning. I used to do my introduction first and continue in that order until I reached the conclusion. However now I pick one aspect of my mind map that I have made and start writing the paragraph. Sometimes just picking somewhere (normally one of the paragraphs I’m most confident about) and just getting going with it eradicates that feeling of writer’s block for me. I sometimes start on the third paragraph, dot back and forth between the conclusion and the introduction in a way where all the paragraphs end up existing independently of each other.

4/ Assembling

Once I have written each paragraph and am happy with them, I then establish an order. I often tweak this a couple of times, as my original order doesn’t necessarily fit or look right. I then tweak the opening and closing sentences of paragraphs (where necessary) to link them together in the order I’ve chosen. This just helps the essay flow a bit better and make more sense.

5/ Give it a few days

I normally finish my essays with a few days to spare before the deadline. Once I’ve finished it I tend to give myself a day or two without looking at it. Once I’ve done this I revisit the essay and read it through thoroughly, looking for any mistakes that I may have made, any sentences that could be altered or any bits that are not relevant that need removed. I find giving myself a break from the essay means I can come back to it with a fresh motivation and a more critical mind. I have found so many mistakes in the past when I’ve done my rereads, so it can be really important!

6/ Personal deadline

This is a tip that I try my best to do with every essay. Slip ups can happen and it is always useful to have an extra few days wiggle room in case you run into issues with your essay. For me, as I said above I use this time to iron out any issues I’ve found with my work. Plus, handing it in early means you can rest easy in the lead up to the due date and put it out of your mind.

Those are my golden tips, which I should really be putting into practice right now. I hope this helps even one person. And to those of you writing essays at the moment, I hope you get through them and make it to the other side!

Pip pip!

Stress upon stress.

Hi guys!

I haven’t posted in over a month now, which I absolutely hate. This is due to a combination of factors. I have had a lot of university deadlines, I’ve been quite busy with non academic, university related things, I’ve been working entire weekends for the past couple of months (which used to be blogging time) and I haven’t been reading much.

I have felt really stressed and demotivated towards the end of this year; which I think is in part due to tiredness, my generally anxious nature and some issues with my personal life. As well as that, I really do think 2016 should get in the bin. While personally I have had a pretty good year for a lot of reasons, the general state of the world is enough to depress anyone. It is hard to watch the news and read the papers and continue to stay a motivated human, don’t you think?

I am unbelievably sorry that I haven’t been able to blog recently, and while I don’t particularly feel any better than I have been recently, I have missed it so much that I would love to get going again.

I have got a couple of books to review, and a few bookish posts I fancy writing, but they may have to wait until after my coursework deadlines next week. I also have a lot of non book related posts I want to write and I’m hoping you guys will enjoy them.

Pip pip!