The Books That Brought Me That Bit Of Happiness

Hello! With this blog post I'm hoping that I can recommend some brilliant books for escaping tough times, based on my own experiences over the past three years. Some of these titles may have slipped over your radar and I highly recommend you check them out.

My university experience has been a difficult one. Obviously, I'm insanely lucky to have the opportunity to attend university and I absolutely love learning, so this is not a complaint about that. But since moving away from home, I've been in some terrible living situations and I've needed some good books to transport me off into other perspectives and fictitious lives.

1. First Year

This was by far the hardest year of university for me. I got put in accommodation half an hour away from most of the other students in a house with loads of sport scientists/rugby 'lads'. Aside from stealing from me, they stuck up posters around the house claiming that I'm a Nazi, often shouted "suck my cock" and other disgusting things through my window at night and many times sent random drunk guys to my door in the hope I'd be sexually assaulted. Oh, and there was also the time one of them thought it'd be hilarious to pull down his trousers, underwear and all, as a 'joke'. Loneliness and intimidation were the biggest issues I was dealing with.

The books that got me through:

99 Reasons Why – Caroline Smailes

This novella has 11 possible endings, 9 of which you can read and 2 more which are for your imagination. It showed me that the future is undermined and possibilities are endless.

The Good Girl – Mary Kubica

Suspenseful and surprising, I was so engrossed in Mia's story of how she meets a stranger who spins her life out of control. She is abducted and endangered and must find a way out.

Wild - Cheryl Strayed

Most people will have heard of Wild or seen the movie but it's essentially about the author's trek around the Pacific Crest Trail. It's a story of overcoming the bad times and embarking on new adventures. Fitting and moving.

2. Second Year

Things massively improved when I moved in with new housemates for my second year. We were way closer to campus and it meant I actually had people to talk to. Unfortunately, there are some people in life you can be fab friends with but then you move in together and it all falls apart. This time was just stressful.

Most students at Exeter are better off financially than I am and can just get call up their mums and dads to pay for things. In a living situation, this drove me crazy. So many times, when my property would be broken through carelessness, or stolen, or when they'd turn the heating on constant in frickin' March, I'd just be curled up in my room wondering how the hell I was going to afford anything. It was hard to talk about it as one of my housemates threatened to slap me and would scream at me if I did so much as turn the heating down by a degree.

Then in the second year of term, I was travelling back and forth a lot as my grandad passed away. We were very close and so trying to deal with that while also feeling the mountain of stress on my shoulders led to bad grades and any hope of a first going out the window.

The books that got me through: 

I Let You Go - Clare Mackintosh

Clare is one of the most impressive thriller writers I've come across and I'm so glad I treated myself to her debut. It's about a woman called Jenna Gray who attempts to escape her troubles by moving far, far away. 

A Spool Of Blue Thread - Anne Tyler

The Whitshank's stories of love and life are carved with gorgeous writing and poetic, literary descriptions that took me away from Exeter and into 1950s America.

Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

This classic noir novel was not only one I would be studying in second year, but it was also one of my favourites from my earlier teen years. The unnamed narrator marries the mysterious Maxim de Winter and 'replaces' his deceased wife Rebecca at Manderley. But Rebecca's spirit is everywhere.

3. Third Year

It's hard at this stage to talk about the things that bring me down. I don't want to be negative and I've started to become really paranoid - why don't people like me? Why am I so easily the punch line? When my parents ask how I'm doing I just say life is brilliant. It's not as bad as first or second year, so in some ways that's true.

Nowadays I live with three others and one of them hates me - I'm not sure why, but it's just plain awkward when you have to block them on Facebook because they're being so rude to you. I've tried a million times to reach out and be kind, and then to leave them alone when they don't respond, but there is something active in their disliking for me. There have been sexist comments and derogatory remarks and I definitely think that part of the way I'm treated at my university house is because of my gender, which is really sad. 

The books that are getting me through:

The Telling - Alexandra Sirowy

This creepy tale of a mysterious murder is told through teenage eyes and combines young adult elements with crime and fantasy. It's a real mix, but one that pulls off dramatically.

Tender - Belinda McKeon

Set in Ireland, this story of friendship and university life is so different from my own but littered with drama and problems. It's both a comfort and an escape.

Small Great Things - Jodi Picoult

Unlike any of Picoult's other books, Small Great Things tackles the issues of racism. It's a powerful tale of oppression and morality which reminds you that most people are suffering in one way or another.

I've come to realise how important books are in the world for expression, creativity, escapism and just bringing that little bit of happiness when it feels like the world is against you.

Let me know what books help you through the tough times.

Love, Jess

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