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In honour of the recent Leaving Cert, we're all feeling pretty reflective on our time in secondary school. 

One thing that stayed with us all are the novels we read in English class.

From Shakespearean classics to The Field, we all have a well thumbed paperback on our bedroom shelves with highlighted quotes and notes scribbled in our teenage penmanship in the margins.

Here are some novels from the Leaving Cert syllabus that are well worth reading post secondary school.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

This 2003 novel made it onto the curriculum for students due to its insightful storytelling and description of harrowing issues.

The Kite Runner depicts the friendship between Amir, an upper class Pashtun boy, and Hassan, a Hazara boy who is the son of Amir's father's servant, who grow up together in Taliban-sieged Afghanistan.

A horrific event happens, separating the two boys first mentally and then physically, and the novel follows their lives as they grow up in completely different ways. 

Atonement by Ian McEwan

A story of a lie which shifts and shapes the lives of three entertwining characters. 

Ian Mc Ewan was doing the whole Love Actually thing of overlapping, separate stories long before any movies had caught on. 

The story tells of two lovers torn apart by a war and a lie told by her own little sister. The drama is real. 

 

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

While her poetry was on the syllabus for all, her one novel The Bell Jar was on the reading lists of those who enjoyed a little sombre tale.

The Bell Jar explores the issues of depression and suicide in the melancholy, distinctive way only Plath can. If you held a candle for her poetry, then this insightful novel is for you. 

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien 

Another classic, this novel may have merited groans of disappointment from the Leaving Cert class thanks to the length of the chunky book. 

Now, the fantasy fiction can be appreciated for what it is without the lens of teenage cynicism. 

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitsgerald

This iconic novel has a resurgence in popularity in recent years thanks to the epic movie adaption of the book which hit cinemas in 2013.

The book follows the story of Nick Carraway in the early 1930s, as he navigates the insane intimacies of the New York social scene. 

Littered with affairs and ending in murder, this novel is a must read. 

The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre

A harrowing epic that we all slogged through with many complaints during the Leaving Cert. 

A British diplomat travels to Africa where his wife was murdered. Cue an uncovering of serious corruption and a fight to reveal the truth about her death. 

If you are not feeling up to the book, the movie version is pretty amazing, and features Ralph Fiennes (swit swoo).

Feature image: Instagram / Faber Books

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If there’s one thing that is guaranteed to invigorate us here at SHEmazing HQ, it’s the discovery of new music.

And that discovery is made all the more electrifying when the artist in question hails from Ireland.

A recent release from Lydia Forde, who is currently making waves on the New York music scene, is rapidly becoming our most played track of the month.

Read, which deftly navigates the scenarios thrown up by the reopening of old relationship wounds, sounds like a mix between Kate Nash, Foxes and Dolores O' Riordan, and frankly we’re obsessed.

Filmed in Brooklyn, the video follows her trying to escape the memory of an ex in a dreamy one-shot sequence, and we'll admit we have had this tune on repeat for days.

Read is a single from Lydia's upcoming EP set for release in August.

 

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Navigating your 20’s is no easy feat. We’re expected to launch a career, snag the man of our dreams and set off on a globe-trotting adventure on a shoestring budget – but how, when, why?!

Fear not – there are tons of wise words to guide you through – so turn off the telly and get reading!

1. Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill
Gaitskill’s now-legendary début collection, full of longing, weird sex, dislocation and disillusionment, reminds us that no matter how damaged we may find ourselves, we are not alone.

2. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Woolf  is a universally beloved female author and this is her beautiful masterpiece. The book is layered with cool symbolism so you’ll get more out of it, every time you pick it up.

3.  Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook COO and female billionaire Sheryl Sandberg studies what holds women back from reaching the top and puts forward some compelling solutions for women to succeed at work.

4.  Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time by Bill McGowan
Media guru and Emmy Award-winning writer Bill McGowan gives you the knowledge you need to get your message across and avoid falling into communication traps. It’s no wonder why this guru coaches people from Eli Manning to Kelly Clarkson!

5. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Smith’s witty, epic début takes on race, gender, class, immigration, middle age, suicide, faith and everything in between. It’s also super fun!

6. The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun
You cannot read this book and look at your life the same way. The author captures the restless voice within every 20-something and explains how to craft your life into a story worth telling. Gripping!

7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey
An inspiring book praised by presidents and CEOs everywhere, Stephen Covey’s bestseller will help you strike that tricky work/life balance.

8. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Telling the story of a woman in love with a man torn between her and his mistress, the novel traces the events and decisions that the characters build their lives around.

9. How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
For when you’ve exhausted every take-out menu imaginable, there’s this one-stop resource for simple cooking with great ingredients and basic tools. With over 900 pages of easy-to-follow recipes, here’s to hoping that you’ll be a whizz kid in the kitchen in no time!

10. Do Cool Sh*t by Miki Agrawal
This book was written for the new generation of people who don’t want to follow the traditional career paths. Agrawal wrote this book to remind you that you have a backbone and that it’s cool to get excited, mess up and keep trying when the odds are stacked against you.

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Sometimes you just have to stay in on date night. The reasons could be financial, maybe the weather is terrible or maybe you don’t want to leave the comfort of your own home.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your date though!

There is only one rule to this being a success and that is: strictly no phones or laptops allowed. This will ensure you give each other your full attention and the night will be more memorable.

1. Have a movie night
Fresh popcorn, lots of sweets and a bunch of movies (one choice each).

2. Cook a meal
It’s no secret that food is sensual and that it is the way to many people’s heart so plan a fancy meal together, it doesn’t have to be expensive; there are plenty of economically savvy meals out there.

3. Listen to music
Take turns showing each other your favourite songs, cute! Just make sure you keep it kinda cool – Justin Bieber isn’t going to do you any favours.

4. Play cards
Play a game of Spit for the ultimate relationship game changer. If you lose and pound him in the face and he leaves, at least you know it could never have worked. You need to find someone who understands your passion for Spit (the game).

Other less dangerous card games for two include Gin Rummy or Shithead.

5. Make a ridiculously extravagant cake
Picking it out will be the most fun! We’re talking about a double-chocolate, triple-oreo, buttery, gooey type of cake here. Think ‘what would Nigella make’.

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