Battle of the TBR: My Book Buying Ban

So, as of today, after going through every book in the house that wasn’t my boyfriends (and some that were that I want to read eventually), I have 95 books on my physical TBR. 95. That’s actually insane. This is also not counting some books I’m waiting on from a book-swap, which will take the total to 102.

I argue it’s because I love books. I love shiny new hardbacks of recent releases, I love battered paperbacks from charity shops, I love a cart full of 1p secondhand titles on Amazon, I love buying books as a treat, buying them when I’m sad, buying books recommended by friends, and stocking up on a new author I’ve discovered.

But it’s ridiculous. I keep buying books faster than I can read them – and I read them fast. And the sad thing is that I hardly even feel excited about them anymore – books that I was so desperate to buy now sit forgotten on my shelf as I bring more and more into the house. I needed an intervention, and since all bookish areas of social media are filled with adverts, promos, reviews, and endless jokes about people not controlling themselves in bookshops, the intervention needed to come from me.

So here it is – I will stop buying books. Period. Until my TBR is down to 10 books (which I feel is a reasonable number to have waiting in the wings for my attention) I will not be buying books. There will, of course, be some exceptions: books from author events (I have one that I’ve already bought a ticket for in July), gifts, and book swaps (just because I’d rather trade with someone than donate them to somewhere they might never made it onto the shelves).

Given that I read anywhere from 50-70 books a year when I’m studying, it’ll take me around 2 years to get through it – not including any gifts and swaps, of course, which will make it even longer to get through.

I’ll try and do a monthly update on how I’m doing, which books I’ve received from my rule exception, and how I’ve felt going through backlist books rather than newer (more exciting?) ones.

Have any of you been on a book buying ban before? How did it go?

Spending Diet

Today I’m going to talk about something that I haven’t before on this blog, and that topic is money.

Since the beginning of the year especially, and after reading The No Spend Year, I’ve been attempting to become more conscious with where my money is going and what I’m putting into savings every month. In the last week, I’ve accepted an offer for a masters degree, which although is a really exciting opportunity, comes with a whole host of new financial worries. With my fees for one year of study coming to just over £6k, and the government loan for postgraduates stuck at £10k, there will have to be some serious lifestyle changes that come with my next round of studies. That’s not even including this summer, where I will be getting no support from student finance, and even with working extra hours will have nothing left over once the essentials have been paid.

I will be keeping my current part time job in order to help pay the bills, and luckily with the loan and my income combined, all the basics will be covered during term time, leaving about £60 a month spare. Although this is much more than I ever had ‘spare’ for the majority of my life (and even the majority of my degree), since having a little extra income my spending choices have adapted to meet my disposable income.

So, in light of this, I’ve decided to put myself on a spending diet, from now until graduation. Instead of doing the tempting thing, which would be to ‘make the most’ of my spare money while I still have it, I will bring down my spending to what it will have to be over the next year. Everything that I have coming in that is ‘extra’ will go straight into my savings account, meaning that if I do desperately need more than what I have coming in next year, I can feel more comfortable dipping into what I’ve put aside.

I’m also hoping that choosing to reduce my spending now, as opposed to being forced to come September, will make the transition easier and that I won’t feel tempted to over spend or use up my savings.

I’m hoping to keep a mini weekly diary of my spending in order to keep track of it, as well as little ways that I’ve managed to save money on day to day costs.

My Capsule Wardrobe Inspiration

As part of my quest for less, I’ve started with culling my wardrobe with brute force. Three bin bags later and a lot of folding, I’m down to significantly less that 100 items of clothing, most of which are pieces I completely love. I’ve began to notice where I go wrong with shopping – impulse buys, trendy, and ‘not quite perfect but near enough’ pieces being the most discarded ones – so I’ve managed to narrow down exactly what works for me, and more importantly, the difference between what I find aesthetically pleasing and what I will actually wear day to day.

 

Things I’ve Learned:

  1. Most of my favourite items are navy, light blue, black, and grey, which for the longest time I’ve fought against and constantly attempted to add colour to no avail. I think I need to accept that I feel my best in neutrals, and that I feel more confident in mixing pattern and layering with items like these than I ever do in bright colours and prints.
  2. I have a uniform of flats, skinny jeans, and a loose button up shirt, and whenever I deviate from it is when I feel the most self-conscious. Being plus sized means that the oversized shirts hide my least favourite body parts (my breasts and my stomach), whereas the skinny jeans highlight my favourite (legs). I also love the effortless look, which can easily be altered by a blazer or jumper over the shirt, and can easily be dressed up or down.
  3. I love more masculine clothes when it comes to my casual outfits – aside from skinny jeans, most of my wardrobe is tailored items, smart flat shoes, and fitted jackets and plain jumpers.

 

Current Capsule Wishlist:

  1. Some LK Bennett ballet flats in black – my only black flats at the moment are some lovely but rather clumpy tassel loafers
  2. A navy silk shirt – I have my eye on a particular one from work with a delicate floral pattern
  3. A black/ herringbone unstructured blazer – I have a thrifted navy blazer that I live in during spring, but I think something more casual would go with even more in my wardrobe
  4. A white linen t-shirt – despite owning a lot of plain basics, I’m distinctly lacking in a good white t-shirt, and I think linen will be a great fabric to layer with in spring and keep me cool in summer

 

Style Inspiration:

  1. Clemence Poesy – fabulous boyish French chic. I can’t get enough of her outfits and natural make-up look.
  2. This blog – the blogger lives between Paris and Amsterdam, and shares my love for oversized shirts. I’ve read her blog from beginning to end several times.
  3. My own Pinterest board – I’ve finally started collecting all of my wardrobe basics inspiration in one place, and hey, I’m not afraid to say I’m occasionally inspired by myself.

 

If you have a capsule wardrobe, what are your inspirations and motivations? If not, would you ever try one?

Why We’re Not Buying Valentine’s Day Gifts This Year

As January is finally drawing to a close, almost every shop on the high street right now is filled with red and pink Valentine’s displays. With giant A3 cards, pointless teddy bears, flowers that won’t last the week, and ‘sexy’ lingerie being advertised to ‘give him a night to remember’ (don’t even get me started on how awful these campaigns are) staring out of shop windows, I suggested that this year, the boyfriend and I take a break from buying each other cards and presents.

Luckily this year, the boyfriend has been able to get the 14th off from work, and it falls on a day where I don’t need to be at university, so the fact that we’d already be spending the day together got me thinking about what I really want to spend my money on. We’ve planned a day out in Leeds to go to their Valentine’s Fair, with lunch at our favourite sushi place, then home to a bottle of wine and a film. In my head I had already started adding: with the cost of rides, a nice lunch, and petrol money, that’s already double what I would normally spend on a gift and card!

Not only that, neither myself nor the boyfriend has anything we particularly want at the moment – so not only is there the upfront cost on top of our day out, but also we’d just be bringing more clutter into the house for the sake of giving. After some thought (and I small initial protest of ‘but I like getting presents!’) we decided that the day would be much more enjoyable if we spent the money from presents and a card on food, activities, and a rare day off together.

Have you done anything to cut costs with your partner this Valentine’s Day? Let me know in the comments!

 

How to Keep Reading on a Busy Schedule

 

Since coming to university, I was worried that I would lose the time to keep up with reading new releases and tackling my TBR on top of everything I needed to read for my classes, working a part time job, and just generally having more social commitments. What I’ve actually managed to do, however, is hugely increase the number of books I’m reading per year, despite having things booked in almost every day of the week. I thought it might be good to make a quick list of the things I’ve been doing to fit my main hobby into a busier lifestyle, and to maybe help some people who aren’t managing to get as much done as they’d like.

 

Read on Public Transport

Seriously, this where I get most of my reading done. Although since first year I don’t actually take the bus to university anymore (but when I did, even five minutes a day got me through a lot), I do still take the train to visit family and friends. Since I generally can’t get any internet on trains, and I’m surrounded by strangers rather than friends, it’s such a great, uninterrupted stretch of time where you can read in peace.

 

Listen to Audiobooks

Although I don’t do this as much, I know my boyfriend reads (listens?) to most of his books this way. Audiobooks are great instead of music on your walk to college/work/a friend’s house for pizza, and you can get through one in no time if you have it on whenever you’d normally listen to music. They’re also great for when you’re tidying or doing chores, because it means you’re actually doing something semi-fun when doing the dishes.

 

Take a Book Everywhere

Although I know most die-hard bookworms do this, carrying a book or an e-reader in your bag wherever you go really does come in handy. You never know when you’ll have ten minutes to kill while waiting for someone, or you may just get to a lecture early and want something to do other than endlessly scrolling through Tumblr on your phone. Cramming in a few pages in a break that only lasts a minute or two can still get you further through your current read.

 

Prioritise it

Even just making sure you take half an hour a day – maybe with breakfast, or before you go to bed – can be a great way to get a huge chunk of a book read, and it a great way to switch off and relax for a little bit. This generally will mean sacrificing a little time that you might otherwise spend watching Netflix or Facebook, but it almost always feels more productive. If you do read before bed, it’s actually better for your sleep pattern if you’re staring at a page rather than a screen; that is, as long as you don’t hit on a plot twist at midnight and have to keep reading.

 

Stay Active in the Community

I’ve found that since running a book blog, not only the number of books I’ve read has risen, but so has my motivation to read. Just by browsing a few blogs, joining Goodreads, or just having BookTubers on in the background really motivates me to shut off the computer and read afterwards. It’s also meant that I’ve met a lot of amazing bookish people that I can chat/fangirl/cry to about new books, or even find readalongs or readathons, giving you a set timeframe in which to read, with the bigger reward of being able to share it with other people who will get just as excited as you.

 

Hope you guys have found this helpful!

What ways do you keep on top of your TBR when you’re busy?

5 Reads for Bad Mental Health Days

 

I’ve found that over the last few years, a few titles keep cropping up when I go to pick up a book to help me along on bad days. Although only some of these are directly about depression, I’ve found each to be uplifting and hopeful in its own way.

 

  1. The Humans by Matt Haigh

I’ve poured over this book so many times, and although, yes, it is about an alien disguised as an Oxford Professor, it contains beautifully constructed musings on finding the good and happy in humanity as it is. The story, complete with a physical list of ‘life lessons’ at the end, is a wonderful quick pick me up and completely restores my faith in life.

 

2. It’s Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

This book is part novel, part memoir, about a boy’s experience with being admitted to a mental health facility after he calls a suicide helpline. What I find best about this book is that it effectively begins with identifying the problem and the depression sufferer seeking out help – something that is surprisingly quite refreshing in books of this kind. This book explores coping mechanisms, dealing with stereotypes of mental illness sufferers, and a few ‘coming of age’ elements, and I always come out the other side of this read feeling that much more hopeful.

 

3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower

As I tend to feel quite isolated during a down patch, this is the best book to make me feel appreciative of friends and always finds a way to give me a new perspective through which to view the everyday. Besides having a neuro-atypical protagonist, this novel indirectly deals with larger issues of abuse, lonliness, family, friendship, and love, which in the end resolve in not necessarily a positive way, but in a wistful and hopeful one, with a look towards the future.

 

4. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Although this book of poetry is a difficult read due to the content of the first half – rape, extreme negative body image, and vivid descriptions of depressive episodes – the contrast with Kaur’s end point of positivity and love is a fantastic illustration of recovery and how life can always improve and emotional hardship overcome.

 

5. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Yes, Matt Haig is on here again, but this time with this non-fiction/memoir book about his own experiences with depression and anxiety. Anecdotes and essays interspersed with facts and figures about mental health, this book is a must read for practically everyone. Haig shares his own ways of coping, his own journey through relapses into severe depressive episodes, from where he draws strength and inspiration, and many, many words of comfort.

 

Have any of you read these books? What would you recommend or would you read during a bad mental health day?

London Bookshop Haul

 

I had the amazing opportunity to travel down to London for five days this month, and spent the majority of it haunting some highly recommended indie bookshops. After spending a genuinely ridiculous amount of money on books (although not as much as it could have been – student discount and second hand shops go a long way for saving the wallet) I ended up bringing home 9 books squashed between my Converse in my suitcase.

Note: these are not all of the bookshops I visited during my trip, just the ones where I purchased something. If anyone is interested in hearing about the other places I visited in London, let me know!

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Foyles, ft. an inexplicable Red Bandit. 

Foyles

On my first day travelling into London, I knew Foyles was the first place I wanted to hit; I’ve been every time I’ve visited the city, and love getting lost in the four floors of books and stationary. The YA section is particularly vast – I’ve honestly never seen so much space dedicated to children’s and teenage literature. After viewing several of their recommended books, however, I did ultimately decide on a new release I’ve been desperate to read for months: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, a modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series. The cover is completely stunning, and I’m so excited to eventually pick up the other novels in this series, too.

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Any Amount of Books

This was the second bookshop I browsed, only about a minutes walk from Foyles. Specialising in rare and first edition books, this incredible used bookshop had a literal bargain basement. Although even the rare volumes they stock are competitively priced, the basement had books at scandalously low prices. Here, I found Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence, deciding to buy it after accidentally opening it on a passage about the value of an education in art. I also picked up a non-fiction book, The Fall of the Roman Empire by Michael Grant. These books were only £3 each, which made me feel a lot less guilty about buying two books in one place.

Just as I was about to pay, I saw the corner of a book sticking out of a huge stack by the staircase, getting ready to be moved downstairs. After (very carefully) extracting it from the pile, I realised it was the same book I’d coveted at the V&A book sale years before – only this time, it was also £3. Not only did I manage to grab a complete steal of a deal, but this book covers most of the history that is essential to my undergrad dissertation research! So, with an extremely heavy bag and aching shoulder, I ended up leaving with three books.

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Persephone Books

This was a bookshop I’d intended to visit many times, but had never quite managed to make it out towards Bloomsbury: a bookshop that publishes their own books, the titles all from out of print or underappreciated female authors. All of their main titles all have the same beautiful grey covers, with the end papers chosen from patterns (from knitting, to fabric, to wallpaper) from a time period relevant to the novel itself. What’s more is each title also comes with a free matching bookmark, making this a haven for obsessive book collectors like myself who are determined for everything to match.

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Due to the nature of the shop it meant that I found so many titles that sounded incredible that I otherwise would never have heard of, and managed to pick up a catalogue and order form so that I could buy more at a later date without ever leaving the North East. Persephone was by far my favourite shop that I visited during this trip, and it was made all the more special by the lovely conversation about female authors I had with the girl who worked there. I ended up weakening and purchasing two books; one I found myself, The Far Cry by Emma Smith, and one under the strong recommendation of the two women from behind their desks as I browsed, Mariana by Monica Dickens.

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Gay’s the Word

About a ten minute walk (if you don’t get lost, like I did) away from Persephone Books is the LGBT bookshop Gay’s the Word. Although small in size this bookshop packs in a huge number of books, organised by age range, and then by the sexuality it follows the most closely. I especially loved the children’s and YA sections near the front of the store, as it was so lovely to see the number of novels aimed at young people that demonstrated support and acceptance. They even have a small secondhand section, meaning that there’s something for all ages and budgets within the store. I ended up buying The Baby by Lisa Drakeford, which I then proceeded to read in one sitting in the nearby Brunswick Square Gardens. I also bought a postcard with the store’s logo on, which I’m planning to save in some scrapbook pages dedicated to this trip.

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Daunt Books

After reading about this bookshop in Jen Campbell’s The Bookshop Book, I ended up dragging a friend of mine through the pouring rain and a half mile walk to find it. Daunt has three branches across London – I visited the one near Notting Hill Gate – and although stocks a huge range of books, it specialises mainly in travel writing. What I really loved was that the travel writing was organised by country rather than writer, meaning I could really take the time to not only choose which countries I wanted to read about, but the specific angle or time period too. Picked from the India and Japan sections respectively, I bought Slowly Down the Ganges by Eric Newby, and The Japanese Chronicles by Nicolas Bouvier. I also decided to splurge and buy one of their iconic green canvas bags, which I cannot wait to start using when I go back to university this autumn – most probably for transporting library books.

 

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What are some of your favourite independent bookshops? Let me know down in the comments!