Book Recommendations (From a Librarian)

I’m just after sitting down with a cup of tea, half watching the The Big Bang Theory on the TV. A few moments ago, while making this cup of tea, the thought of a new blog post popped into my head. It’s been over a week since my last post and I’m missing a little blogging, so….. the TV is now going on mute and you (and this lovely cup of tea) now have my full attention!

I’ve been thinking about doing another book focused post since, well, pretty much my last one. However, I’ve never actually done a list of book recommendations and as a qualified librarian, I think that’s appalling. Included below are four books that I’ve particularly enjoyed over the past few years. Hopefully, you might find a new read from some of my favourites and please, don’t be afraid to recommend to me some of your own favourites. I love a new read!! 😉

 

Being Dead by Jim Crace

I read this book in university a number of years ago and it’s a book I’ve returned to and reread many times since. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this book as it centers around themes of death and murder, themes that are significantly different from my usual read. However, the difference between this book and the typical murder mystery story is, this book does not actually focus on the murder at all…..it’s all in the title of this book, Being Dead is very much about being dead. Primarily, this book focuses on the victims’ day that leads up until their murder, bodily decomposition and how it impacts their loved ones. Overall, it gives its audience an introspective thinking of death. Being Dead was one of the few books I call a ‘special find’ that I discovered during my English degree. The style in which it is written, its contrast between life and death and its very vivid imagery which was almost revolting but entirely truthful, has always made this book stand out to me as a wonderful read.

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

As I was working in my local library during the summer of last year, I often mentally took note of various books I wanted to read, The Tattooist of Auschwitz was one of these books and I finally (after a long wait), got my hands on it in September. As a child, I loved historical fiction stories. I was obsessed with books set during the Irish famine, World War I and II, the Titanic, everything really…. but sadly, I found myself moving significantly away from this genre as I grew older. The Tattooist of Auschwitz was the first piece of historical fiction that I’ve opted* to read since I was fifteen and has been the reason I’ve read two more books of this genre since. The book is based on the real life story of a Holocaust survivor, as he is made work as the tattooist in the Auschwitz concentration camp and also, falls in love in the most unfortunate of situations. Honestly, I cried a lot during this book but I also smiled because, while this story is about the horrendous actions of Nazi Germany and a fight for survival….it’s also about love and hope. It definitely was one of my favourite reads on 2018.

* I say opted because I did study a degree in English for three years and had books of various genres included on my reading list.

 

Shtum by Jem Lester

Back in 2017, I discovered Shtum in my local Easons while rooting for books to take on holidays to Portugal. I’d never heard of this book but upon reading the blurb, I decided it reminded me somewhat of The Curious Incident of Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (another great book) and it was a instant buy. This brilliant book was wrote from Lester’s own experience of raising an autistic child, which is often evident throughout the read as you get the sense that sections of this book are wrote from a place of anger or frustration that people don’t understand the struggles of raising an autistic child. The book is clearly, a very honest window into the life of an unconventional family with autism at its forefront as Lester tells his and his son’s story through the voice of Ben and Jonah. I quickly realised that Shtum was actually nothing like The Curious Incident of Dog in the Night-Time and the only similarity between these books was the fact that both young boys in these stories had autism, but autism is on a spectrum and both these children differed on this spectrum (notably, Shtum’s Jonah is unable to speak) and as Lester writes “I was truly fed up with being asked what my son’s ‘special talent’ was” differing significantly from The Curious Incident of Dog in the Night-Time’s Christopher who states himself to be “a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties”. I started this book on the flight to Portugal and I had it finished by the end of that day, I was hooked.

 

Normal People by Sally Rooney

So, I’ve discussed this book in the past but I could not leave it from this list! Honestly, this book is probably one of my favourite reads of all time. I’ve fallen in love with the characters, the style, the deep introspection, everything…. and I’m not just saying it because the author is from my hometown (although, I’m very proud of this fact). I often state J.D. Salinger to be my favourite author, having read all five of his published books, so I was not surprised to Rooney described as the “Salinger for the Snapchat generation” following the release of her debut novel Conversations with Friends. The books is primarily set between Ireland’s Sligo and Dublin and follows the main two characters, Marianne and Connell, from their final year in secondary school and through their time in university as they discover themselves and fall in and out and in touch with each other. This is a love story but it’s definitely not a romance novel in any way, it’s significantly sensual (which is necessary) but most importantly, it’s a story of growing up and finding yourself. In many ways, I relate to this book as a twenty-three year old who’s grown up in a rural Irish town and moved away to Dublin for university. I’ve also recently read Rooney’s debut novel and can honestly say I notice a lot of similarities between both reads and their characters; however, I do feel believe the books are significantly based on Rooney’s own journey into her early twenties. This book made me think, A LOT!!! And I’ve raved and raved about my love for it to almost anyone who’d listen but honestly, it’s brilliant and I highly recommend.

 

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My Exploration into Religious Beliefs

Recently, I’ve developed an interest in religion. I identify as an Atheist; however, technically I’m Catholic, my upbringing and still, a large majority of my family life is, and probably will always be, Catholic. You could say I’m an Atheist-Catholic, I don’t believe in religion BUT I still take part in some of the holidays and will attend mass for funerals, Christmas, weddings, christenings, etc… My mom is a religious woman. She will go to mass every weekend and will often go pray when things aren’t going right in life and her faith has definitely helped her through many tough times. However, It often frustrates me when her faith merges together with her opinions, predominantly her view that children being brought up without religion have “no guidance” and therefore, religion in school is necessary. In Ireland, the Catholic Church has played a major role in society and Irish laws. Up until recently, all primary schools had Catholicism at the forefront of its education with prayers being said in the morning, before and after lunch breaks, and in the evenings. I attended an extremely small primary school, with only twenty-two students in the entire school divided into two classrooms, one for seniors and one for juniors. Every single child was Catholic and I honestly don’t think I knew any other religion existed until I moved onto second level education. Thankfully, my secondary school was not strictly Catholic and although, we still had to attend one religion class every week, it was a broader teaching including various other religions.

In secondary school, I was introduced to various other forms of Christianity that were all, somewhat, the same but they were definitely not the same either. I also became aware of various other groups of religions and I somewhat came to the realisation that if there are multiple religions then which one is the right one? I decided after much consideration at the age of eighteen, that religion didn’t completely make sense to me and I knew I didn’t really believe in it. Primarily, I don’t particularly like the pyramid aspect of religion; how every generation recruits their own children and teaches them to believe one thing without allowing them to consider the many, many other options. Additionally, I absolutely hate when people discriminate against other religions. Basically, from what I can gather, there are good and bad people in every single faith (and people without faith), religion doesn’t create good/bad people, there are an abundance of circumstances that would do that so blaming a whole religion for the actions of a number of people is ridiculous. In Ireland, some priests within the Catholic Church used to sexually assault young children in the past, they used to send young mothers to Mother & Baby homes if they got pregnant outside marriage to have their children sent away to be adopted days after being born; however, you can’t blame the whole Catholic religion for these actions.

Over the last few months, I’ve been exploring various types of religions, as I feel I’ve only been exposed to Christian beliefs. While I do see the benefits of having faith and there is so much good that can be taken from religious teachings, I also believe that you can take the good traits from multiple religions without having faith in one religion. I’ve been enjoying the process of researching the history and beliefs of these religions and considering the aspects I like. I never realised that Christianity derived from Judaism, being a member of Abrahamic religions, and found it interesting that this was never taught to us in school. I don’t believe I’ve ever met someone of Jewish faith, so I’m finding this sector particularly interesting at the moment as it’s entirely new to me. I also, personally, like some of the ideas of old pagan beliefs and the significance of spirituality and nature. While I don’t believe in religion, I think there’s so much you can learn from them. My main aim, is that when I do have children that I’ll be able to teach them valuable aspects from all religions and to be considerate of those religions but ultimately, bring them up without a set religion. If they feel specifically drawn to one religion then it will be their own decision to join that religion as they grow older.

My opinions and knowledge on this topic is growing daily, I’m currently waiting on a book from the library which will probably make my mind explode even more!!! Please do feel free to share your religious beliefs (or lack of) with me and educate me, I love learning about multiple faiths and their role in people’s lives 🙂

 

 

Featured Image retrieved from: https://weheartit.com/entry/325810511

Consciousness

Do you know why I love to read?

You can understand the characters in a book far easier than people in real life, you can read their deepest inner thoughts… see how events and things shape their being and relate to their characteristics. You not only see the way they act towards others but you’re allowed to read and comprehend their consciousness, I think that’s fascinating.

We don’t understand the people around us. We can’t read minds and people don’t share  with others the things in their head out of fear of being judged or appearing ‘different’.

I can tell you now, I don’t know my closest friends, my family, anyone really. I don’t know how they feel or think, and they don’t know how I feel or think. We stare at faces every single day, faces we might have known our whole lives, years, months, weeks or even days, but we can never completely understand them. We are all mysteries. I could tell a person “I feel sad” and might give a reason for feeling sad but you can’t possibly understand the entire range of emotions and thoughts that boil within me and I could never understand these things that boil within them.

It’s funny really, that we’re so unaware. My brain is like a constantly running spinning wheel, it never stops but I often forget that the people around me also have this wheel turning in their own heads, to me they’re just faces. The characters in books are so easy to understand because we can get this greater insight into them as individuals that we could never possibly gain access to with the people that surround us. Probably my favourite book I’ve read this year (so far), is Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’. There was a complete depth to the main characters in this book that I felt I could understand them far better than anyone I have ever known. It was constantly mentioned in the book how these characters understood each other better than anyone else around them, which was true in many ways but it was also evident, at the same time, there was often misunderstandings between them, or reasons they acted a certain way that the other was oblivious to. It also became clear the extinct of how people can interpret events so differently, how their mind can just comprehend something in a certain way and therefore, one event involving two individuals could play out so different in each of their brains. As a reader, you can comprehend the way these characters acted or the reasons why they felt how they felt about various things because the writer allowed us to get a vivid insight into these character’s head that no one could ever get access to. It’s also interesting that every other character never had that same level of depth to them, and the main characters never seemed to have an interest in the mindsets of anyone else around them.

sally

I’d love if I could read people’s minds like I read books. I don’t think you can actually know a person unless you had access to the things that run through their brain. I am just face and body to those around me, they are just a face and body to me. Regardless of how well I know a person, they are still always going to be a face and body (although, I might have more feelings and thoughts about some individuals over others). I think your real self lies in your consciousness.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this. To be honest, it’s a hard topic to write about because it’s an endless spiral of thoughts but I find the subject of consciousness interesting. Also, if you haven’t read Sally Rooney’s book ‘Normal People’ I highly recommend it. The author is also from my hometown so I’m extra proud and in love with this book (it’s amazing!). If you’ve already read it, also please share your thoughts…I’d love any excuse to continuously discuss it. 🙂

“Book Nerd”

While working in a public library over the past five months, I’ve been reading more than ever. I’ve always been a very proud “book nerd” but after studying English in university as my undergraduate degree, I found it difficult to enjoy reading again for fun like I used to do prior to starting my third level education. It became a chore nearly. Personally, I throw full blame on having to read Moby Dick in my final year of my undergraduate; apologies to anyone who enjoyed that book but it just felt like complete torture to me. I found it difficult to go from book to book, I no longer enjoyed the relaxation/fun of reading. Fast forward a year and I’ve got my mojo jojo back (And yes, that’s a Powerpuff Girl’s reference).

Whilst living in Dublin, studying for my Master’s in Library and Information Science, I slowly started getting into the swing of enjoying books. I didn’t over do it, chiefly because university is hard work but I loved reading a couple of pages every night or whenever I had the opportunity. Since starting my current job in my local library in May, I’ve fallen in love with books and reading all over again. Actually, I think it was the children that visit the library and seeing their adoration for books, some that I would’ve read only 15 years ago, and realising how much I missed that obsession of finding a great book and treasuring it. I’ve come across so many of my childhood favourite books in the library that I’ve become a little biased to recommend these stories to parents that visit the library with their children. The ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ books were the first stories I remember reading when I was a child that I think I make the effort of having them placed on the display shelf everyday. Anyway, I’ve found that love for literature again and I’m now reading more than ever.

Below are my favourite books I’ve read this year (so far), please throw any of your recommendations in the comments:

  1. The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris
  2. Solar Bones – Mike McCormack
  3. Normal People – Sally Rooney
  4. Call Me By Your Name – André Aciman
  5. A Spool of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler
  6. Skin Deep – Liz Nugent

My 30 before 30

I don’t usually do these kind of lists but I seen this around and really wanted to do one. I’m coming up on 23 in the next few months (May to be exact) and really like the idea of setting some goals, little aspirations for myself over the next few years. While 30 feels like a long, long time away (I wish it was further away but oh well) I think it’s a good target to hit. Seven years ago I was 15 and let me tell you, 15 year old Rachel was even more emotional and insecure than 22 year old Rachel. She had a constant need to be loved by everyone and the idea of people potentially disliking her drove her into fits of tears and there really was a lot of tears. Now, while the current Rachel still has a ridiculous need to feel loved by everyone she meets and always wants to please, she’s a bit more understanding that it’s not possible and she no longer gets upset every time she thinks someone dislikes her. I know at 30 I’ll have evolved that bit more and I’m constantly proud of my growth, I have so many things planned and I know that now is really only the beginning of it all; so here is my list of 30 things I want to do and/or achieve by 30 🙂

 

Get a 2.1 in my MA – While I’m almost there in completing my masters degree and have a current 2.1 average, I really, really want to graduate with a 2.1 which if you asked me a year ago I probably wouldn’t have imagined possible. This one is definitely not a long term goal as I want to achieve it this year!!

 

See Bon Iver in concert – I really need this to happen! I will listen in absolute awe throughout the whole concert and likely cry happy tears!

 

Get my driver’s license – I’m terrified of driving, like petrified! I’ve attempted learning to drive several times, having done something near to 26 lessons but I have a fear of just messing up and the endless possibilities that could happen! I had a crash when initially learning to drive 3 years ago and my Dad hit the windshield of the car, it was terrifying and I never want that to happen again, I also wrote off my lovely little Toyota Yaris. It really has created a fear of cars, in general, for me and I’ve become such an anxious passenger afterwards too but I know, eventually, I’ll have to get on with things and learn to drive. Definitely by the time I’m 30 I want to be able to drive around without having a constant fear of killing someone.

 

Buy a car – When I get my driver’s license and hopefully, this time I won’t smash it into a wall!

 

Have my own place – I don’t mind if I’m still renting but I really want to just have my own house. Right now I’m house sharing, I’m still a student though so it works out perfectly for my limited income but I’m hoping in the next few years I’ll be on enough money to afford a place of my own or potentially with a partner (let’s hope I’m not forever single still).

 

Continue learning sign language – Two years ago I did a basic Irish sign language course and I really loved it! Definitely want to do a follow up course in the near future.

 

Have a permanent job position – I know once I achieve my MA I’ll likely only cover contract work for a few years but I’m hoping by 30 I’ll get a nice, full-time, permanent position. Preferably outside of Dublin and in a public library (unless my target area changes).

 

Move outside Dublin, AGAIN – I’m from the west of Ireland. I’m used of the country and not having to constantly rely on public transport to get from A to B. While, I do really love Dublin and I’ve become very settled here in the last few months, I do see myself leaving it in the next few years. Rent is very expensive here, it’s difficult for me to travel back home to visit my family and I don’t like the reliance on public transport (I’ve developed a  passionate hatred for public transport since moving here). While, I don’t necessarily plan on moving back to my home county, I want to move closer to home; Galway or Limerick would be my first choice if I could pick any county to move to.

 

Volunteer  – I’ve always wanted to do some volunteer work but I haven’t had the time in recent years because I’ve been a full time student and working too so it’s been difficult! I’d love to do something for the homeless or elderly or maybe both if I can, they’re both communities I feel deserve some love and I’d feel really passionate about helping them.

 

Fall in love – CRINGE! I’m a hopeless romantic, don’t judge me! If things could work out as perfectly as I have pictured in my head I’d be happily married by 30 but these things don’t always happen so I’ll just keep my fingers crossed.

 

TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL – I’m a home bird in so many ways, I couldn’t picture myself living anywhere in the world other than Ireland, Éire abú ❤ But, I want to travel and just do so much of it! I love nature, I really take note of the beauty around me and I think there’s so much beauty in the world to see. There’s so many places in Europe I want to travel to first but I would love to travel to a different continent too, I’ve never gone beyond western Europe!

 

Decorate my room to fit my character – My bedroom has always been super bland and I don’t think it highlights the type of person I am at all.

 

Be unemployed for at least 2 months – This might not sound like a good thing for some people but I’ve really wanted this for so many years! I’ve been working since the week I turned sixteen, I’ve never not been working since then and basically all through college I’ve had to work to afford pretty much anything I wanted which isn’t a bad thing and I’m so glad I did it but while in college I had so many friends who were lucky enough to not have jobs but still afford the college life style. Some of them were able to afford holidays abroad and usually had their summer and Christmas breaks while I always had to work full time during those precious breaks from study, I’m not going to lie but I was jealous of that freedom and while I had freedom in many other ways, I never felt I was able to enjoy it! Because I worked all through my education I never had those chances to attend music festivals and I’ve never gone on a holiday with a group of friends because I always had to work and my money I earned had to go towards my education. So I want to take a two month break once I’m financially secure and just have zero responsibilities!

 

Go on a holiday with friends – Like I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve never done this and I think I’d love to!

 

Lose weight – I’ve gained a good bit of weight in the past two years. While, I’m still not very heavy, I’m definitely at one of my heaviest and I don’t carry this extra weight well. I’d just like to drop down to my old dress size! I had a very unhealthy obsession with losing weight when I was 19 though, so I plan on doing this gradually and try not to obsess too much about it!!

 

Pick up an exercise –  This ties in with the last one but I’m terrible at sport and if I’m honest, I really hate most physical activity. My past-times really consist of not moving around too much so I think in order to try lose this extra weight I need to pick up some sort of exercise. I’m thinking of something dance related as I always loved Irish dancing when I was young.

 

Go to a Glastonbury – I’ve never been to a music festival and Glastonbury would just be my heaven!

 

Try learn piano AGAIN – So, I did piano lessons up until I was 16 and then after getting to grade 6 I decided to quit (because I was a really stupid 16 year old). I’ve regretted it ever since because as the years went by I’ve forgotten most of it and I’d really struggle to play things now. I can still read sheet music but just that ability to play is gone, so I’d love to just get some lessons again and see if I can pick up this instrument I love once again!!

 

Get my own cat – This is 100% the first thing I’m doing when I eventually get my own house. I want a male cat and his name will be Oliver or Leo and that’s it!!

 

Be able to afford nice things – Okay, this isn’t a necessity at all and it’s basically just something I hope might happen but it doesn’t need to. I’d say I have a bit of an expensive taste, I like nice clothes, make-up and I enjoy going out for nice dinners with friends but I can never afford it and I know I’m only 22 and a student but I just hope at some point I might be able to treat myself to a few nice things without running out of money by the end of the month.

 

Bring my Mom on a holiday – This is kind of relating to the idea of having money to do nice things but I’d love a girls holiday with my Mom and maybe my two sisters! We’ve gone on family holidays before but my Mom really wants to go away for a few nights with just the girls and I’d love to be able to do this!

 

Start reading more regularly –  I’ve always been a really avid reader but in recent years I find I never have the time or energy to commit to a book! I want to try read at least one book a month if I can!!

 

Learn to cook – I’m not saying I can’t cook at all but I’m not very good or ambitious with my cooking, I usually stick to the basics! My sisters love cooking and baking, while I’m so impatient when it comes to food that I hate the whole cooking progress. I want to try learn a few new dishes and maybe, actually learn to enjoy cooking!

 

Get a tattoo – Every year since I was about 17 I said I was going to get a tattoo and it still hasn’t happened yet. I’m afraid of needles so that puts me off but I do want to get at least one small tattoo in the next few years!

 

Win a poetry writing competition – This is pretty ambitious to say right now as I’ve only been writing poems frequently since last summer but I’ve grown a love for it, it’s probably the most therapeutic past-time of mine and I hope someday I might be good enough to win something that shows my efforts. I entered two competitions last month and while nothing will likely come of them, I wanted to just throw my name into the hat and see!!

 

Speak Irish more often – I have a hardcore grá for my country’s mother tongue! I used to be great at speaking it when I was in school because I was using it more frequently but it doesn’t come easily to me anymore. While, I can still understand it very well when it’s spoken to me, I have to really think about my reply before responding as the words don’t flow out of me naturally anymore, it’s really only down to my lack of use though! I’d love to become more of a frequent speaker and hopefully, I’ll gradually pick up that natural ability again!

 

Organise my dream house party – Okay, this one is just something I’ve always wanted to do! I love music, like really adore it! While I love mostly indie-folk and indie-rock stuff, I have a love for 70s and 80s music or music inspired by those eras, basically a lot of synth-pop music… it makes me happy and I always feel like dancing! I don’t think a lot of my friends would be into this to be honest but I plan to just have a very 70s inspired party with lots of fairy lights and just get drunk and dance basically! Potentially for my 25th birthday!

 

Go to Disneyland Paris – Or Disney World in Florida, if I do ever happen to venture that far! I adore everything Disney and I was very disappointed during my one visit to Paris that I never got to go to Disneyland!!!

 

Go vegetarian (Maybe) – Okay, this one I keep swaying back and forth with. I’d really love to try it and especially as I’m not a big fan of most meat I don’t think I’d find it too difficult, except I really love fish so I could struggle there!! However, I tend to get very low in nutrients quite quickly, I’m always low in something and I fear that I give up something completely it might run me down even more but again, this could be a long-term goal and I’ll see how I am in a few years!!

 

Go to a women’s march – Because feminism is empowering!

 

 

There’s actually so many other things I’d love to do but I think these are the main 30 things I’d love to do by the time I’m 30! I actually might do a few more of these list type posts too because they’re fun and a nice break from the poems too. The featured image was retrieved from Pinterest (like all my images) and can be accessed here, thanks for reading ❤

Stuck

Tired.

Droopy eyed,

Slurred words,

Barely able to lift a limb,

Tired.

 

I’ve forgotten how to sleep

Thoughts thrall through my brain

Every, living second

It never ends.

My eyes are closed,

And the world is dead

But I’m stuck,

Listening to the tap, tap, tapping

in my head.

 

Tired.

Very, very tired.

Of all this nonsense.

 

 

Image retrieved from Pinterest, HERE