Cosy Reads: Self-Care During the Vacation

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When the bustle of the social and academic engagements of term-time comes to a rapid standstill and you are left looking slightly frazzled, ill, and at a loss as to exactly to do with yourself as ignore your vacation work, that is the moment I step in and bring you a list of cosy reads. Enjoy some downtime with a book for a lovely session of introspective and maybe nostalgic self-care. Hot beverages, blankets, candles and inclement weather are optional, but will definitely increase the aesthetic value of the experience.

Starting university as a fresher can be a very unsettling experience. As you leave your home for (possibly) the first time and find you are suddenly responsible for yourself, revisiting childhood favourites during the vacation can be a very grounding and relaxing experience. In my case this led to a re-read of Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. The book allowed me to assess where I was now in relation to where I had been when ten-year-old me read it for the first time. Additionally, I realise anew why this book was such a firm favourite and how it had shaped me in my personality and ambitions.

In a similar vein, escapist literature such as Young Adult fantasy novels is a great way to relax and completely take your mind off university. They are not too challenging to read, which makes it easy to lose yourself in the plot and characters. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is one such book, which I absolutely adore. Exciting and dark at times, it tells the story of six young criminals who have nothing to lose and everything to gain.   

If novels are not your thing or you simply do not think you can afford the time to read one, I suggest picking up an art catalogue or poetry anthology. Taking a couple of moments out of the day to flip through the pages and read a poem that resonates with you or look at art you feel inspired by is a great way to get in touch with the interests you may have neglected during term-time. My book of choice is In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion by Anna Reynolds. Whilst admittedly niche, it is informative and full of gorgeous reprints of portraits.

Finally, there are books for every season and winter is perfect for slightly dark and fantastical reads such as fairy and folk tales. Collected Folk Tales by Alan Garner is a book I can highly recommend if you want to be able to read a story at a time or pick up the book at different points during the vacation. If, however, you’re looking for a novel which is comprised of folk tale elements, how about Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente? This retelling of the classic Russian fairy tale of Koschei the Deathless, as set during the siege of Leningrad, may sound like a lot, but it works wonderfully, ending on a bittersweet note.

It can be easy to run around in circles, stressing out about the stress you have been in or the stress you think you should be in, but allow yourself to unwind. Take care of yourself physically (try not to protract your freshers’ flu into Lent term) and mentally. So sit back or build an impromptu window-seat in a deep window ledge with cushions and blankets and banish your guilty conscience. Relax, reload your batteries, practise some book-filled self-care. 

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