Summer reading standards: reflections

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The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)

Cormoran Strike is a struggling private detective who is hired to solve the death of supermodel Lula Landry – a death that has officially been ruled a suicide, but her grieving brother is convinced she was murdered. It was a bit slow to get into, but once Strike realizes that Landry may have not committed suicide after all, you can’t put it down.

Rating: 4 stars

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The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

In February 2014, I saw The Vagina Monologues performed for the first time at my school. As I was reading these hilarious, empowering, devastating monologues three years later, I was transported back to sitting next to my then-roommate in a packed Jesse Hall watching women dressed in red moan in pseudo-arousal a la When Harry Met Sally and scream about their pissed-off vaginas. The standout line: “I want to taste the fish. That’s why I ordered it.”

Rating: 4 stars

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The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Published just two months before her untimely death, Carrie Fisher recounts her experiences making the first Star Wars film and entering the realm of fame, but what dominates the book is her affair with co-star Harrison Ford. This was the first book I’ve read by Fisher, who writes with whip-smart wit that often had me scoffing and laughing out loud.

Rating: 3 stars

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Room by Emma Donoghue

I saw the movie at a little indie theater in CoMo last January and cried snot the entire time. Now I finally read the book and cried just as much (if not more). I devoured Room in less than three days, something I haven’t done to a book in years, and I believe everyone should give this a read at least once.

Rating: 5 stars

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Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi

I had more than a few nightmares reading this (including one particularly strange dream that my boyfriend invited his “good friend Charlie” over to dinner) but it was one of the most riveting books I’ve read in a long, long time. I couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t believe it was nonfiction. The story of how Charles Manson built his “Family” and maintained such a strong, Christ-like influence over each of its members is astonishing, bizarre and terrifying.

Rating: 5 stars

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Strangeland by Tracey Emin

Emin is one of the most well-known artists from the Young British Artists of the ’90s, and my personal favorite ever since I learned about her and saw her piece “My Bed” last summer. Like much of her workStrangeland offered brief glimpses into moments of her life. It was written simply and sparsely, no-nonsense and never deviated with unnecessary details of each scene. It offered an interesting look into her life and psyche, but did lag as much as it engrossed.

Rating: 3 stars

The good of 2016

2016 was a rollercoaster of emotions. It was a year of overwhelming negativity for the world, but I managed to find solace in a few different outlets and support systems. For every moment I spent loathing school, there was someone to bitch about it with me. For every celebrity death, there was Disneyland. For every night spent feeling alone and worthless, there was a boy willing to make me a milkshake and watch The Bachelor with me. For every lost friendship, there were new relationships being formed over pizza, wine and Shrek.

It’s easy to remember the bad. The creeps in bars and the election and the social injustices and the not-so-good grades. But honestly, no matter how many bad things dominated 2016’s headlines, it was one of the greatest years of my personal life. Here are some of the memories that stand out, the material objects that kept me sane, and the people who held me upright.

Europe

The three months I spent abroad were the best months of my life. I had never been out of the country before, and flying an ocean away from all of my friends and family to live in London for a summer was terrifying. But I fell in love with England and Ireland and Scotland and France, and I now spend way too many nights looking through my hundreds of travel pictures, wine glass in hand, crying hysterically.

My London family

Europe wouldn’t have been nearly as amazing without these five girls I met and befriended. Together we explored the city’s streets and ventured out to Oxford, Bath, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Barcelona, Dublin, and the Scottish Highlands. It took traveling six timezones away to make friends for life who were around me all along. Here’s to the Southbank Squad.

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So Sad Today and other memoirs 

This year I began devouring memoirs and personal essays. My favorite book released this year was Melissa Broder‘s So Sad Todaywhich I now refer to as “the Sad Person Bible.” It’s unflinching and ballsy and makes me want to follow Broder’s example of not shying away from anything while writing. Along with So Sad Today, I also enjoyed Amy Schumer’s The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo, Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Womanand Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. All of these women inspired me greatly this year.

The YBAs

While in London, I took a class on British culture and learned about everything from the role the English class system plays in society to the mods and rockers of the 1960s. But my favorite thing we learned about was the Young British Artists movement of the ’90s. With the exception of Damien Hirst (I’m sorry I know he’s a big deal but I just can’t get on board), I was fascinated with their shock tactics and how they reinvigorated art for the 21st century. In particular, I loved the work of Tracey Emin. I bought her book of personal essays at the Tate Modern and it’s currently resting on my bookshelf, waiting for me to open. My favorite piece of hers that I was fortunate enough to see in person this summer (and literally cry over) is “My bed“, an installation of her personal bed where she spent days in a depressive state. I thought it was so powerful of her to take her mental illness, which has to be one of the most difficult aspects of her life, and display it to the public.

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Lady Gaga’s Joanne

Lady Gaga has been a huge role model of mine since middle school. Her latest album Joanne just reinforced my love and admiration. It’s so different from anything else she’s done and highlights just how much she has grown since her meat dress days. The songs have such range and her vocals are stellar. Also, every time I hear “Million Reasons” I weep uncontrollably. Whenever I was frustrated with the world (basically every day post-election), this album was a hug around my heart.

Disneyland Paris

After waiting my whole life, I finally went to a Disney park for the first time. I waited 45 minutes to meet Winnie the Pooh and I cried.

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Girls

Girls. Girls Girls Girls Girls Girls – I know I’m super late since season 6 is about to come out and I’m just now starting the series (though, I have watched four season within the last week), but I can’t stop bingeing. It’s been the biggest inspiration I’ve had to write since reading So Sad Today in Heathrow airport. The more the School of Journalism sucks the life out of me, the more I just want to work in a coffee shop/bookstore and write essays and novels.

My best friend

This year I found my best friend, who treats me with so much love, compassion and respect. He keeps me together when I’m feeling low, and half of the adventures I had this year wouldn’t have been possible without him. Here’s to many more.

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