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Books to beat the exam blues

As much as I love my course, the struggles of exam season can become disheartening, which makes it just too easy to spiral into a six-month revision break. So, here are some light reading suggestions to take the weight off and allow you a momentary breath away from the toils of exam season pressure.  

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

This beautiful graphically illustrated blog-turned-material-webcomic provides a heartbreaking yet joyous insight into the struggles of a woman suffering from clinical depression. I remember reading this during the apex of my own neurosis when I was 18, and Brosh’s light-hearted tackling of heavy-hitting issues is honestly what got me through my A-Levels and into uni. Through her crudely simplistic paintwork (yes Microsoft Paint) she offers one of the most chillingly accurate and relatable representations of depression I’ve ever seen.

Through an artistic medium that will take you back to your long forgotten youth, she illustrates the realities of depression in a way that is both adorable and pitiful but most importantly, without romanticising its horrors. Also, her love for her dogs is the purest thing in existence. Then again dogs themselves are the purest things in existence, so in the absence of your own pets let this be the cure for this season’s exam blues.

Selp-Helf by Miranda Sings

This isn’t going to help you declutter your life or Marie-Kondo your brain, but it will give you a temporary respite from the struggles of this oppressive world that we are forced to inhabit. Ballinger (who writes pseudonymously under the name Miranda Sings) cleverly assumes the persona of a childishly oblivious egomaniac for who you can feel nothing but a strange mix of love and pity. With its visually dense narrative that is devoid of any rational sense or logic, this will allow you a moment to let go of the constant intellectual demands of the exam period.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This Southern Gothic coming-of-age tale takes me back to when I first fell in love with literature when I was just finding my place in the emo subculture. While the distant memory of GCSE English literature may strike fear into your hearts, this book holds a particular nostalgic sentiment to me. It captures everything there is about childhood innocence and what happens when we lose that. For some, like Scout, this is taken at a frightfully and tragically young age, but for others, they retain it many years longer.

Read this and you will remember what it is like to be a naive child, before you became the all-knowing student that Warwick has made you. Or, equally you could just cry in horror as you recall every embarrassingly unlaudable ‘essay’ you wrote on that and maybe the essays that you are currently attempting will seem better in the light of these.  

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Top tip for this book: reading it on a train adds a whole new level of meta to the story. Like the amnesiac alcoholic who is the central protagonist in this novel’s triad of morally questionable heroines, I can recall this book only in fragments. It’s a pretty easy read because, like the protagonist who has no idea what is happening (a relatable experience in exam season), this book doesn’t demand anything of you except that you root for the strong female hero.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

While Flynn may not be great at constructing compelling titles, she certainly knows how to write a convoluted crime story narrated from the perspectives of a vengeful sociopath and a confused adulterer. This is the first example of the domestic noir genre I was exposed to and what makes this book such a rewarding read is the unparalleled satisfaction you feel from watching the adulterous husband suffering at the hands of a deceptively cunning and powerfully sociopathic wife. The power of the femme fatale to defeat the undeserving man will always light a joy unlike any other.

The exam season is inevitably going to be a tough time but it is important to take a few moments away from the revision and focus on something else. Lose yourself in one of these books when you feel like you need to escape from the flash cards and colour coding and give your mind a much-needed distraction.

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