What a bizarre feeling. Life as I know it — trapped in my room, suffocated by notes, a stifled social life — has disappeared overnight. I woke up on Wednesday morning and there it was: The Rest Of My Existence stretching before me. I honestly had a vision of my twenties disappearing in a swirl of office chairs and rented flats; my middle age punctuated by screaming wains and surfacing wrinkles; and then I was retired, stomping along with a stick. I’d seen it coming, this existential crisis. But — at the same time — it feels liberating. For the first time in years, I have no dissertation to prepare, no exams for the foreseeable future, and no Freshers week to stumble through (okay, I might miss that).
So now it’s all over and my life is mine again, it’s time to plan. Plan the summer, plan the future. After five years of university (and last summer researching) I’m going to take some ‘me’ time… A bit of compulsory travelling (a family wedding in Donegal, Ireland) and a bit of ‘why not?’ travelling (a week in France‘s Champagne region with one of my best friends). A splash of job hunting (I’m looking into comms and PR) and a slice of freelancing on the side. A good shot of friends to reclaim my social life. And I can never, ever, plan anything without the company of a good book.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Aphorisms on Love and Hate
Part of the astoundingly good value Penguin Little Black Classics series (80p each!), this tiny tome from Nietzsche is perfect if you’re after a little dip in and out of psychology and the bizarre framework of human relationships. There’s some great one liners, and also some more extended analysis of why we humans work the way we do. Not surprisingly though, as a nineteenth-century writer Nietzsche relies firmly on the traditional man/wife, male/female dichotomies. If you can put this lack of progression aside, he’s really rather humorous: ‘Unity of place, and drama. If spouses did not live together, good marriages would be more frequent’.
Owen Jones, The Establishment (And How They Get Away With It)
Thank the good Lord for Owen Jones. During the tumultuous general election, Jones was the voice of reason. A columnist for the Guardian, he uses his writing to highlight the need for social equality, progression and a more representative politics. Okay, this is by no means the lightest read on my bookshelf, but it’s potentially one of the most eye-opening. Because how can we change our country for the better if we don’t understand the way it works? ‘Benefit fraud — costing an annual £1.2 billion, or 0.7 percent of social security spending — is treated as a despicable crime, while tax avoidance — worth an estimated £25 billion a year — is even facilitated by the state’. If you think Britain is a country of dreams… well, maybe don’t read this book!
Cheryl Strayed, Wild (A Journey from Lost to Found)
I bought this book back in March, but I knew then that it would be a perfect post-university read. Wild is the adapted travel journals of Strayed, who — suffering from a pre-mid-life crisis — decides to walk the west coast Pacific Crest Trail alone. Both the novel and the film (which stars Reese Witherspoon, you might have heard of it…) have received favourable reviews, with the back cover blurb saying, ‘it’s not very manly, the topic of weeping while reading…’ Wild sounds like the perfect read to readjust your horizons, to focus on what’s really important in life… regardless of the ups and downs.
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
I devoured this novel in just a few days, three summers ago. Told in Ishiguro’s haunting prose, The Remains of the Day relates the story of Stevens, butler to the Lord of a sprawling English manor house. Ishiguro’s protagonist gives weight to the phrase ‘unreliable narrator’ — I guarantee you’ll be hooked trying to decipher Stevens psychological complexities. This novel won the Man Booker Prize in 1989.
Ali Smith, How to Be Both
Scottish author Ali Smith has published a handful of acclaimed novels, and How To Be Both is her latest. Shortlisted for last year’s Man Booker, it pairs together the tales of George (a 16-year-old girl) and Francesco (an Italian artist). Although Smith’s writing is demanding, it’s this poetic and structural inventiveness which makes her novels so interesting. After devouring The Accidental and There But For The, I’m looking forward to getting my literary teeth into this one!
Boris Vian, L’écume des jours | Haruki Murakami, After Dark | Jacques Prévert, Paroles | Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendants | and tweet me your recommendations!