The books that got me through 2021
Reading is very important to me. I’ve always been more of a quiet, introverted person and books offer me an escape into another world whenever I want one. This is especially important at uni when I have more time to myself and don’t tend to go out much; my perfect evening is a bit of TV, a cup of tea and a book. Audiobooks are also a great way to keep entertained as I’m cooking, washing up and doing laundry.
Last year, I made a new year’s resolution to read more as I felt I had slowed down a little. For the first time, I kept a record through the year of all the books I read and listened to. In this blog, I thought I’d share some highlights that helped get me through the last year of uni, Covid and lockdown. Hopefully you might be inspired to give some of them a try to relax while at university, and maybe I can bust the myth that students can’t read for pleasure!
At the start of 2021, Covid restrictions were increased and university went online. Although my course, Integrated Science, had live lectures every day, I still had a lot of spare time to keep myself occupied in. Combined with my new year’s energy, I decided to crack through some of the books that had been sat on my shelf waiting to be read for a while. This was mostly non-fiction (I’m more of a fiction person) and classics.
I enjoyed Wuthering Heights, a classic I’d been meaning to read for a while as a fan of gothic literature. Emily Brontë’s eerie tale of love and hatred in the Yorkshire moors was not one of my favourites of the year, but it was perfect for a cold winter’s evening with the wind howling outside. Great for a January stuck inside.
One book I read in one day (when I was supposed to be doing coursework, no less) was This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay. If you haven’t already read this, you must: it’s the hilarious and harrowing diaries the author kept while working as a junior doctor. It certainly made me secure in my decision not to study medicine.
I also enjoyed The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I’m a big Stephen King fan, but I hadn’t heard much about this relatively short book. It’s about a young girl who gets lost while walking in the woods and begins to be stalked by/hallucinate some dark force. It’s very tense and involving and I can genuinely say I wasn’t sure how it would end.
Over the summer break, I slogged my way through Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre which, though a big classic to tick off, I didn’t really enjoy. I’m not really one for romance. I did, however, very much enjoy listening the the audiobook of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Though I did think the ending was a little weak, I loved the descriptions which managed to make a South Carolina Swamp sound beautiful. It’s a story of a girl living alone in the swamp with a future murder mystery weaved in. This kept me company while gardening in the sun when I wasn’t revising for my summer exams.
I read a couple of very good books in Autumn. The first was Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is an absolutely gorgeous book about the childhoods and early adulthoods of three friends as they come to understand the dark secret the future holds for them. It’s got a beautifully melancholic tone which I think made it perfect autumnal reading. I’ve just started Ishiguro’s most recent book, Klara and the Sun, which I’m already loving too.
The second was What It Feels Like for a Girl by journalist and presenter Paris Lees. It’s an autobiographical novel telling the story of her years as a working class teenager in Nottingham, getting involved in crime and eventually embracing her transgender identity. It’s also written in midlands dialect, which for me made it a little hard to get into but then helped it flow really easily. I already loved Paris Lees before reading this and now can’t wait to see if she writes another book!
As well as finally actually reading A Christmas Carol (instead of watching yet another adaptation) I kept my Christmas Victorian by reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I’d already read the previous Holmes novels and as I needed something to read on the train during my trip to London days before Christmas, I thought this would be fitting. I love the Sherlock Holmes stories because for me, they manage to be classic enough to make you feel cultured while being very easy to read and engaging. This collection includes some famous stories such as A Scandal in Bohemia and The Red-Headed League. I’d always recommend the Sherlock Holmes books to fans of the show Sherlock, as you can have fun spotting the little links and references between the two.
In October, the Integrated Science course had a treat: a visit from Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, who won the Nobel prize for chemistry in 2009 for his work on the structure of the ribosome. Our course provided us each with a copy of his book, Gene Machine, which I finally read in December. As I’ve mentioned, I’m more of a fiction fan, but nonetheless the story of the race to model the ribosome was a very interesting read. As well as offering a fascinating insight into how science actually happens, it was a pretty gripping character drama as egos clashed and friendships were forged. I’d definitely recommend this one for those interested in the story of science.