SUMMER READS 2016

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I like the kind of books that your grandma would probably hate. The sort of gritty, British ones that don’t blur the edges of real life but, instead, hone in on them to try and make me cry. If you also enjoy a slice of non-fiction from time to time, read on for a run-down of my most recent reads.

Ctrl Alt Del 

Emma Gannon. Probably a name you’re seeing online A LOT these days but many of you won’t be sure why. Well, she’s a sort of jack of all trades of the online world, regularly tweeting, blogging, podcasting (is that a thing?!) as well as being an amazing writer, social media mogul and general whizz-kid. This year, she published her first book and I couldn’t be more proud – bit weird considering I’ve never even met her but the Internet world is a bit like that, isn’t it? Perhaps it’s because it’s a major dream of mine, to write a book? Perhaps it’s because I interviewed her last year and feel like I know her. Anyway, this Millennial memoir of life growing up alongside the Internet is hilarious (to say the least). If you, like me, grew up with MySpace, MSN messenger and a Nokia 3310, then this is one for you. Gannon touches on pretty much all of my teenage trials and tribulations in a way that no one has before and I promise you that Ctrl Alt Del will fill you with nostalgia for the days of dial-up Internet and an urge to dig out old photographs and SIM cards before remembering that that might be the worst idea you have ever had. People think times are bad now? The early years of the Internet, for a teenager, were very dark days indeed and Emma tells us why. Hilarious, cringe-worthy and a completely necessary read for 27-year-old females across the UK.

Becoming: Sex, Second Chances and Figuring Out Who the Hell I Am 

As a fan of Laura’s blog, I am not sure why I was so surprised by the honesty of this one. All I kept saying as I flicked through the pages of this painfully open account of one woman’s becoming was how brave she was for putting herself out there because – aside from tales of one-night stands and summer flings – the crux of this story is that Laura has found good in the fact that her boyfriend left her and went on to marry her best friend. Like, what? How do you even get over that, let alone turn it into a positive? The fact is, Laura survived and lived to tell the tale, which is something that fills me with so much courage on this sometimes trying journey of life and love. Let’s be honest, we’ve all had our hearts smashed to smithereens by someone or another, so it’s nice to hear that you’re not alone in that every once in a while. What major event led to your becoming? I would love to know.

Mindset 

This book changed my life. You might think I am being dramatic. However, as someone with 3 As at A Level from a top Catholic school in London, a 2.1 from Exeter uni, a successful blog and the most supportive network on the planet? Man oh man, I know how much that means diddly squat when you don’t believe in your own greatness – but this book snapped me out of that. I used to spend each day telling myself that I couldn’t do something if I hadn’t done it before rather than just allowing myself the space to learn. I had sort of forgotten that I didn’t achieve those grades and grow this blog because I was born knowing what pathetic fallacy was or how to use WordPress. I have learnt everything I know and will continue to learn everything I will know because someone has taught me how or I have spent hours teaching myself. This will be the case until the day I die. This book taught me to realise that it’s fine if I don’t know how to do something. It reminded me that I can do pretty much anything as long as I am open to learning and if I ask questions. Post-childhood we put so much pressure on ourselves to “just know” things for fear of looking stupid in the workplace or amongst friends and this book banishes this mindset. I urge anyone who doubts themselves (even a little bit) to read it.

The Last Act of Love

I brought this book along with me on holiday to Spain and read about two chapters, writing it off as too depressing – even for me! – for a group holiday in the sun. A week later, sat on a sun lounger in Portugal a week later with only a bottle of beer for company and I flew through the pages. A really not-very-light-hearted but effing honest account of a freak accident that changed the lives of one boy and his family forever, this book reminded me that there will rarely be conclusions, round edges, closed chapters or clean cuts in life – and that’s okay. It also reminded me that family is everything and it’s important to let your loved ones know that.

Waiting on my bedside table to be read?

#MYWORKOUTFORSINGLELIFE

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No, I have not broken up with my boyfriend.

I did, however, break up with my legs, arms and bum cheeks for the three days following an intense workout, courtesy of Virgin Active.

After pulling on our t-shirts and enjoying an espresso or two in the lounge to get our hearts racing, we set to our circuit workout under the guidance and supervision of Tyrone, a personal trainer at the gym. He talked us through each exercise and we worked through each of them in groups. It was a challenging workout, which was expected, but I was a bit surprised to find that we didn’t warm up or cool down either side of it (something that I think might be to blame for my painful limbs in the days following…). Aside from that, however, it was a fun workout, good to try something new and a great chance to meet other bloggers.

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Although I forgot to bring swimwear so that I could enjoy the pool/spa, it was nice to have a post-session shower and hang out with everyone afterwards.

Circuit training in a beautiful location? Sort of made for the perfect Saturday, actually.

Fancy giving it a go? Be my guest.

MIGHT NEVER HAPPEN

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A while ago, I realised that (since I have a vagina and grew up in London), it might be about time I wrote about my experiences of street harassment.

I talked about people touching my body when I hadn’t asked them to. I spoke about being cat-called and how often this happens. I reminisced about lengthy stares and bum grazes and, unfortunately, it seemed to resonate with a fair few of you. As a result, I thought I would bring your attention to ‘Might Never Happen’: a play co-written by one of my best friends, addressing aspects of the abuse and harassment that women face on a daily basis in the UK.

Doll’s Eye Theatre, the company behind this piece, address some important issues. They have taken the time to demonstrate the various guises that harassment takes on, the way people do or don’t deal with it and the way that it can make you feel the size of a thimble when it happens to you in a crowded place or somewhere you should feel safe, which, in actual fact, should be anywhere- including a dark alley in the dead of night; wearing heels, trainers, or an all in one for that matter.

I had the pleasure of watching ‘Might Never Happen’ back in May at the King’s Head in Islington. An intimate setting, which lent itself perfectly to the aptly uncomfortable scenes we endured. The material is thought-provoking and – refreshingly – demonstrates the male perspective on issues that are predominantly reserved for women’s magazine articles or feminine discussions. To me, this was the most important aspect of the performance because, all too often, I meet men who assume that women are overly sensitive to slurs on the street or that ‘we love it really’ when a man in a van comments on our *insert body part here*.

‘Might Never Happen’ asks some really interesting questions and opens up a space for conversations about what men can do to prevent this abuse from happening altogether through a combination of dark comedy and satire. It also highlights how little women can do to stop it, despite constantly being told to ‘cover up’ or ‘wear less make up’ to avoid ‘provoking men’, finally taking the blame and responsibility away from women and placing it on those who commit these acts instead.

The more we talk about how invasive these ‘lighthearted’ bum pinches, whispered ‘alright darlings’ and the standing-just-that-little-bit-too-close-to-us-incidents make us truly feel, the less accepted it will become.

Doll’s Eye Theatre will be performing ‘Might Never Happen’ again in October. You can get tickets here.

Let me know what you think.

REASONS TO STAY ALIVE

71pV9PPv-ML‘To other people, it sometimes seems like nothing at all. You are walking around with your head on fire and no one can see the flames.’

Imagine that. Imagine feeling as though your whole world is crumbling around you, without anyone noticing. Awful, right?

Well, it’s a reality for the thousands of people suffering with depression and/or anxiety around the world right now and I know you’ve probably heard it before but at least you get some morsel of sympathy when landed with a broken leg or a brain tumour. With mental health issues, unless you say something about how you’re feeling, nobody knows about it, nobody notices and therefore nobody can (or at least try to) help.

This is where this book comes in.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that the title will probably put you off purchasing it at the airport ahead of your summer holiday (unless you are struggling to think of reasons to stay alive, of course) but please, take it from me, it is a great read. With a keen interest in mental health and as someone looking to understand the depths of depression a little better, I was intrigued to see what Haig had to say on the subject of staying alive.

So many books that have been designed to help those suffering with depression, anxiety and lots of other mental illnesses seem to patronise the reader and repeat, time and time again, what we already know, which becomes frustrating to the sufferer. Haig avoids this through maintaining a sense of humour and much needed perspective throughout. From listing celebrities who have suffered, to describing the physicality of depression and anxiety and having conversations with himself across time, I think he helps those in need to feel as though someone finally ‘gets it’ when it seems like nobody in the world does- a common symptom of depression.

Interestingly, I found ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ a really enjoyable and uplifting read. I had finally found something that made depression make sense and I had finished it by the time I pulled into Paddington from Bristol. Since then, I have placed it into the hands of someone who I know has benefitted greatly from it and believe me, said person has never wanted to pick up a self help book in their life and has always had very little interest in advice or solutions to their illness.

As Haig so perfectly puts it: ‘Where talk exists, so does hope” and I am hopeful that if we begin to take as much interest in depression and anxiety as we do cancer research or help for the elderly, we will be able to – at the very least – ease the pain for those in need.

It’s a sobering fact that suicide is the biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK. Forget cancers or HIV, depression is, quite literally, the deadliest and most dangerous of them all and it’s time we acknowledged this reality. Depression is a ghostly disease with very real consequences and I think we’d all be able to see this a little more clearly if we took the time to read this book.

And don’t forget, once you’ve read it, be sure to pass it on.

 

A BOOK THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER READ

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You might think this a strange title, considering that I loved this book.

But I only tell you not to read it because I worry.

I worry that you will cry as much as I did. I worry that you will laugh as much as I did. I worry that you will lose two days of your life as I did, hiding in bed in bed for hours until you reach the very end. And I worry that you will love it as much as I did and pass on its precious secrets to someone who will turn it into an oh-so-predictably-not-as-good-as-the-book film.

I became friends with Fisher as soon as Andy introduced me to him. I thought that London provided the perfect backdrop to this story. I loved that I didn’t particularly fall for Ivy. I understood the need for Switzerland. I liked that the plot line was nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it’s so ordinary that you may have shared many of the same experiences as the couple. But that’s what makes this read such a success: you are drawn into the honesty of the characters and simplistic charm of Jones’ writing.

But who is Andy Jones you ask?

Well, he’s soon to be one of your favourite authors. The writer of one of your favourite stories. A man you fell in love with. A human who broke your heart. But you’ll have to read his words to find out why because I refuse to divulge anything here. The Two of Us, much like life, will take you by surprise. And that’s exactly the way it should be.

David Nichols and Graeme Simson are my two favourite authors. Andy Jones has now been added to this list.

I look forward to his second creation later this year. Will keep you posted.