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reading list

I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. There, I said it.

January is hard enough without the tradition of keeping your favourite things at arm’s length or deciding that your body isn’t good enough because you’ve enjoyed the seasonal festivities. The culture of starting anew and being bombarded with advertisements about ‘really going for it this year’ are enough to make anyone feel awful when they can’t quit something cold turkey or commit to an insane exercise regime for more than a week.

I am all for starting new things, but resolutions don’t have to revolve around inviting loss into your life. I like resolutions that invite us to look after ourselves in different ways, to invite good and useful things into our day-today lives. Maybe not an insane exercise routine, but just getting out for a walk on your lunch break for some air and light for you mental health, or starting a few mornings a week with a quick meditation, taking more time to do the things you love.

I think one of the things we all rediscovered this year was a love of reading, and in 2021, I want to commit to incorporating it into my routine in a meaningful way. With the vaccine on the way, it’s going to be too easy to slip back into that non-stop, always on the go lifestyle. But if lockdown has taught me anything, it’s the happiness that can be found in slowing down, in having an excuse to stay in and say no to invitations, and simply settle down with a good book. I don’t want to lose this habit, as it’s something that has brought me joy in a dark and confusing time in my life and I’m sure it has done the same for plenty of you.

With that in mind, I’ve created a master guide on the advice available out there for cultivating or continuing your reading habits in 2021…good luck readers!

Read what you want to read.

I hate when people say they hate reading and have only ever read the books they were forced to read in school. Of course you hate reading if the book was picked out for you for educational purposes. Or worse, you’re reading a book because ‘it’s a classic’. Just because it’s a classic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something you’ll like. I’m an English major and I don’t particularly love Herman Melville or Yeats (there I said it). By reading what we want to read – whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, thriller or romance – we automatically become more invested in the habit. Take pride in your favoured genre or style and dig in!

'The world belongs to those who read'. – Rick Holland

Always have a book with you

You never know when you may have a spare few minutes here or there throughout your day. Waiting in a long line at the bank, the doctor’s office, the journey to and from work, are all opportunities to stick your nose in a book for a few hours. If you have time to take out your phone to scroll through Instagram, you have time to check out a couple more pages of your book.

'Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.' – Mason Cooley

Set aside time for it

It’s all well and good to get snatches of time here and there while you go about your day, but to make real progress, fully immerse yourself and reap the calming benefits of reading, there needs to a be part of your day that you dedicate to reading. Even if it’s three days a week, take the time you usually spend on your phone before bed or grabbing a few extra minutes snoozing after your alarm goes off to get into your book. Do you really need to watch Gilmore Girls or Friends again for the fourth time? Is it not time to spend that effortless Netflixing doing something both entertaining and useful?

'Reading is a means of thinking with another person’s mind; it forces you to stretch your own.' – Charles Scribner Jr.

Keep a list

Write down the books you hear about, the books you want to read, the books you have read and tick each one off as you get through it. This is not to rush you through them or to make it feel like a race, but to create a sense of achievement. This time next year, looking back on that list, you will have a head full of new worlds, ideas and perspectives that all came from slowly chipping away at your list.

'A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies; The man who never reads lives only one.' – George R. R. Martin

Thrift shop

Books are expensive – trust me, I know – but there are so many places supplying secondhand books these days. There are amazing finds to be found amongst the bargain stacks. There’s usually stacks in the back of charity shops, which are especially good for bestsellers and romances, but if your genre is a little more specific, there are some great bookshops with second hand sections to check out like Vibes and Scribes in Cork, Charlie Byrnes in Galway, Chapters Bookshop in Dublin and plenty more all around the country.

'Reading forces you to be quiet in a world that no longer makes place for that.' – John Green

Create a space in your routine for reading

Make this time a treat for you. Have your favourite hot drink nearby, a small treat for yourself and a do not disturb sign on the door. Put your phone on silent or airplane mode so you don’t get distracted and fully commit to having this time just for you and this book.

'When trouble strikes, head to the library. You will either be able to solve the problem or simply have something to read as the world crashes down around you.' – Lemony Snicket

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#BlackLivesMatter may not be trending anymore, but that doesn't mean that the problem has disappeared. It's important that as a predominantly white society we continue to actively work towards learning and improving, to strive for better equality. In order to gain a finer understanding of the perspective of Black people, or people of colour (POC), why not read books through their narrative?

Romance and chick-lit books are always fun to read. If ever you're craving a bit of light escapism to distract you from this slightly worrying reality we're all living through at the moment, then romance is the way to go. We've compiled a list of fun romance books, perfect for easy reading, all featuring characters who are Black/POC, to help you diversify your shelves. Because at the end of the day, everyone deserves a happily ever after, no matter the colour of your skin.

You Had Me at Hola

Award Winning author Alexis Daria brings readers an unforgettable, hilarious rom-com set in the drama-filled world of telenovelas—perfect for fans of Jane the Virgin and Ugly Betty.

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling, Jasmine, finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she lands a coveted, starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez. 

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents.

Naturally though, rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.

The Sun Is Also A Star

So much more than a teen love story.

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Get a Life, Chloe Brown

This hilarious best-seller is quite frankly, a treat, which perfectly illustrates the age-old relationship trope, when opposites attract.

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost-but not quite-dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”. She’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

That's when she enlists Red to help her out; the tattooed handyman and artist — not to mention he drives a motorcycle!

Now That I've Found You

This is a YA novel about searching for answers, love, and your eccentric grandma in all the wrong places. It features romantic tension, Hollywood scandal and a fun-filled chase all around New York — what's not to love?

Following in the footsteps of her überfamous grandma, eighteen-year-old Evie Jones is poised to be Hollywood’s next big star. That is until a close friend’s betrayal leads to her being blacklisted . . .

Fortunately, Evie knows just the thing to save her floundering career: a public appearance with America’s most beloved actress— her retired grandma, Gigi, aka the Evelyn Conaway.  Days before Evie plans to present her grandma with an honorary award in front of Hollywood’s elite, Gigi does the unthinkable: she disappears.

With time running out and her comeback on the line, Evie reluctantly enlists the help of the last person to see Gigi before she vanished: Milo Williams, a cute musician Evie isn’t sure she can trust. As Evie and Milo conduct a wild manhunt across New York City, romance and adventure abound while Evie makes some surprising discoveries about her grandma — and herself.

The Marriage Game

This entertaining rom-com featuring a high stakes wager between an aspiring entrepreneur and a ruthless CEO, is wonderfully scattered with references of Indian culture.

After her life falls apart, Layla Patel returns home to her family in San Francisco to start a new business above her father's restaurant. But what she doesn’t know, is that her worrisome father has set her up on a dating site and arranged a series of blind dates, just for her — leaving Layla completely in the dark, until the first one comes knocking on her door…

CEO, Sam Mehta, is in search of a quiet new office, when he finds the perfect space above a cozy Indian restaurant that smells like home. But when communication goes awry, he's forced to share his space with the owner's beautiful yet infuriating daughter Layla, her crazy family, and a parade of hopeful suitors, all of whom threaten to disrupt his carefully ordered life.

As they face off in close quarters, the sarcasm and sparks fly. But when the battle for the office becomes a battle of the heart, Sam and Layla have to decide if this is love or just a game.

Real Men Knit

After the death of his adoptive mom, Mama Joy, Jesse and his brothers struggle over what to do with her Harlem knitting store. Jesse wants to keep the store open; his brothers want to shut it down.

Jesse makes an impassioned plea to Kerry Fuller, his childhood friend who has had a crush on him her entire life, to help him figure out the knitty-gritty of how to run the business. The more time they spend together, the more the chemistry builds. Kerry, knowing Jesse’s history, doesn’t believe this relationship will exist longer than one can knit one, purl one. But Jesse is determined to prove to her that he can be the man for her—after all, real men knit.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, a sweet YA romance, is the story of Lara Jean. She's never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed.

But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh.

As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

The Worst Best Man

Critically acclaimed author Mia Sosa delivers a sassy, steamy enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy about a woman whose new job requires her to work side-by-side with the best man who ruined her wedding: her ex-fiancé's infuriating, irritating, annoyingly handsome brother.

If they can survive the next few weeks and nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead. Except Max has been public enemy number one ever since he encouraged his brother to jilt the bride, and Lina’s ready to dish out a little payback of her own.

But even the best laid plans can go awry, and soon Lina and Max discover animosity may not be the only emotion creating sparks between them.

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It’s Electric Picnic weekend and instead of prancing around a field to The 1975, I will be staying at home and sulking like a toddler because I left it too late to get a ticket.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom as I’ve got a reading list the length of my arm to get through. I’ve picked five of my top reads for those of you who are going to be stuck at home whilst half the country descends upon Stradbally.

Why not avoid the never-ending EP posts on Instagram by reading one of these books?

1. Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory (Bloomsbury)

You’re never too old for a glorious coming-of-age story. I Hold Your Heart follows the love story of Gemma and Aaron, but when does love become possession? 

When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about. But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?

2. Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard (Harper Collins)

Nobody writes a crime story quite like Catherine Ryan Howard. Her latest release Rewind is bound to grip your attention from the very first page.

Andrew, the manager of Shanamore Holiday Cottages witnesses the murder of his only guest via a hidden camera in her room, but when the killer destroys the camera, Andrew questions how he will live with himself. And can’t help but question who is the killer?

Rewind is a tense tale about a murder caught on camera, but you’ve already missed the start. To discover the murderer you must rewind the tape and watch it until the very end, no matter how terrifying the footage.

3. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (Penguin)

I recently watched the movie adaption of this book and it is nothing compared to Nicola Yoon’s phenomenal story. It's safe to say The Sun Is Also a Star is by far one of the greatest YA books of our time.

The Sun Is Also a Star follows Natasha as she fights to stop her family being deported from New York to Jamaica. Natasha doesn’t believe in destiny, fate or love at first sight, but then she meets Daniel, a budding poet who is living the life his parents want him to lead. Daniel believes he can make Natasha fall in love with him in a few hours, but can he change the mind of the girl who believes in science,not fate?

4. Meet Me In Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb (Harper Collins)

Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb are the most delightful duo in the literary world. Their book Last Christmas in Paris will forever hold a special place in my heart so I was unbelievably excited to hear about the release of Meet Me In Monaco.

Their latest tale whisks the reader away to 1950s Cannes for the iconic film festival. The mesmerising tale features not one but two love stories, including one of the iconic Grace Kelly who married Prince Rainier III. The other love story follows that of struggling perfumer Sophie Duval and British photographer James Henderson. The two couples may live incredibly different lives, but they are all asking the same question- What are they prepared to give up for love?

5. For Ava by Vera Twomey (Mercier)

To what lengths would you go to give your sick child the chance of a better life?

When Very Twomey’s daughter, Ava, is diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that causes frequent and often life-threatening seizures, the family’s life is thrown into chaos.

As prescribed drug after prescribed drug fails, and the medical system all but gives up on her daughter, a potential new treatment comes to light: medical cannabis. Illegal in Ireland, Vera vows to do whatever it takes to ensure that her daughter gets access to this potentially life-saving treatment. Whether it’s protesting and campaigning across the country, walking hundreds of miles to the country’s seat of power, breaking the law, or even confronting a government minister face to face- Vera Twomey will do it all for Ava.

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