5 Books You Need to Read, Recommended by an English Lit. Student

Now beside the possibly pretentious title I did really want to write this. Not because I think I know it all and believe I am the fountain of all knowledge when it comes to reading but because I’ve genuinely received something from each and every one of these books.

To me I find walking into a library or a book shop really overwhelming. I’ll pick up one book thinking it sounds great but then put it straight back in the thought that there could be something better around the corner. Unless I know what I am going in for, I can almost guarantee you I will come out empty handed.

In a lot of respects that is why I like my course so much. I get educated on history, world views and issues, language, the birth of societal norms and stereotypes and finally, the evolution of the world, all from reading literature. A lot of the time people view an English Lit. course as a waste of time but I would not have received the chance to broaden my horizons and my character without it. I would still be picking up and setting down books in shops, overwhelmed and possibly naive with the world.

So, I thought I’d share 5 of my absolute favourite books from my course thus far (I am currently in my third year). Each book is a piece of fiction and each are extremely important in their own form but together might make you look at things slightly differently.

Book 1 – Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a classic piece of literature. Very short in form with it being a ‘shilling shocker’ but all the same it is extremely captivating. Stevenson managed to create a whole new form of character identity within the split persona that went on to influence many thrillers and horrors you probably watch today. I thoroughly enjoyed this novella, Stevenson’s focus on good vs. evil is highly applicable to today and is probably why it remains so popular.

If you want a short read and love stories centred around crime, mystery, science and relationships then this is definitely for you! Plus he was Scottish writer so what’s not to love!?

Book 2 – Virginia Woolf’s Orlando

This is a more recent read but one I think would be important to add to anyones reading list. I must admit I have found Virginia Woolf’s reading particularly difficult to read in the past however I must give an exception to this particular novel. It’s written as a biography on Orlando inspired by Woolf’s relationship with Vita-Sackville West. Orlando is one of the first representations of a trans woman in literature, an inspiring tale which documents some of the hardships one faces being a woman, especially a trans woman in that era.

Woolf explores what it means to be female, a major part of this novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. Her narrative was gripping and both educated and informed me on the issues trans women face.

Book 3 – Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

Education through literature is one of the main things I am extremely grateful for. I think a lot of people believe we have to pick up non fiction books to become educated on matters of race, religion, gender, society, politics etc. but that is simply not the case. It is through reading and understanding experience that we can truly understand issues of representation and why such attitudes were created.

Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is one of my favourite novels, one I picked up in my second year. Detailing the story of Okonkwo we see the life of an African tribesman and the difficulty he faces when colonisers come to take over his territory. This novel is important for many reasons. To start with it is one of the first representations of African life that is not depicted through the eyes of a white man. Moreover, we see how colonisation really took affect and disrupted life for so many.

One of my favourite things Achebe has said is, “African people did not hear of culture for the first time from Europeans […] their societies were not mindless but frequently had a philosophy of great depth and beauty […] they had poetry and, above all, dignity.’ He highlights how his novel is there to depict how Africans were not brainless or culturally ignorant like many white men depicted them. African people have lives and a rich history one that existed before the colonisers arrived. A fact which seemed to be disregarded in literature and politics of the time. Achebe’s novel is one I could write about for ages but would probably disinterest you at some point. So instead, I implore you to give it a read. It’s engaging, educational and throughly interesting. A personal must have for your reading list.

Book 4 – Madeline Miller’s Circe

Circe is a reasonably new book, one I had the pleasure of reading in first year when it was new on the literary scene. If you love books based on myth and fantasy then you are bound to enjoy this.

The novel is a good example of how social issues can be intertwined into fiction, especially in places you would not necessarily think to find it. Circe deals with important themes of womanhood, abortion and fertility. A novel with significance to todays political climate as abortion is featured heavily across the world right now (read up on the horrible new laws in Poland for context).

Sarah Waters’ Affinity

This was another new read for me as it is part of my third year reading list. It tells the story of Selina Dawes, a spiritualist in a Victorian prison who plays with the mind of Margaret Prior, a Lady who visits the prison to conceptualise and understand her own mental ‘issues’.

Waters’ book is a mystery focussing on the life of both Dawes and Prior who eventually come together in this mysterious yet captivating story. It took me about the first quarter of the book to fully get into it but once you understand and are immersed into the novel you will not want to put it down.

As part of my course we looked into the idea of power and knowledge when it comes to prisons and the justice system. So, if that in any way interests you or you like stories based on magic and mystery then this will be right up your street.


As I said above, looking for new books can be daunting especially if you are looking for something with more critical merit or educational value. In that sense I hope you found this both interesting and informative.

I must also add that these books are in no way difficult to read, although Shakespeare is important I do not enjoy and nor would I recommend him to you (that is not to say his plays etc. aren’t great to watch, I just reallyyyy wouldn’t recommend trying to read them without the opportunity to have them translated).

If you want any more recommendations check out the ‘review’ section of my blog where you’ll find more novels and TV shows.

Let me know if you end up picking any of them up (tag me on instagram or Facebook with the links below!) or if you have any further questions let me know below!

Much love,

Sophie x


A Week in Student Meals

If I haven’t banged on enough in my food blog posts about the frustration about not knowing what to cook, there is also the added pressure to do it cheaply.

This, I know, can be difficult so I thought I would combine both ideas in one and provide you with what we ate as a flat for a week on a budget of roughly £25-40 a week (for three people, including snacks, breakfast, lunches, dinner etc.), which roughly ends up being £10-15 a week per person.

Keep an eye out along the way for some tips on how to keep your weekly shop prices down and what recipes are perfect for giving you some leftovers for lunch the next day.

It is important to note that my flatmates (Kirsty and Mara) and I share cooking duties throughout the week and therefore split our shop. This in itself is a great way to keep costs down, so if you can, I highly recommend doing this.

Sunday

Homemade Fish Cakes

We pair our fishcakes with salad (which we buy in for lunches anyway), sweet chilli sauce and sometimes some peas or veg on the side.

Homemade fish cakes are one of the easiest and cheapest meals we make. Tuna for example is a staple in our cupboards and gets used for several main meals, therefore you’re not having to go out and buy fish (which I love but doesn’t usually come under our budget unless it is on offer). Plus this meal is super tasty!

Mara loosely used two recipes from BBC Good Food (we loveeee this website for our weekly meals). You can find all their fish cake recipes here.

Now if you have a sweet tooth and are looking for something chocolatey and easy then this recipe is perfect for you. Kirsty made a slow cooker chocolate cake which we paired with Lidls own Ben and Jerrys fish food (tastes pretty much the same at a fraction of the price). It wasn’t the best chocolate cake however Kirsty has recommended scouting about for some different options because the slow cooker reduces cooking time drastically! Perfect for students.

Monday

Cauliflower Steaks

We serve this delicious roasted cauliflower with pea puree (the fancy term for blended peas with stuff in it) – Boil peas (a decent bit because they’ll end up being blended), drain them and add two tablespoons of natural yoghurt, some herbs of your choosing (we have dried mixed Italian seasoning), season with salt and pepper then blend away – and serve with some couscous.

If you recently read my post on ‘My Most Loved Recipes: Savoury Meals and Sweet Treats to Boost Your Week’ then you would have already seen this recipe. Cauliflower steaks constantly gets repeated in our weekly meal plan (also another great tip – plan your meals, this way there is no last minute dash to the shops when you’re hungry). It is a firm favourite and a great veggie option.

I recommend adding more paprika and garlic granules when baking the steaks. You can find the recipe here.

Leftover Tip:

We usually bake two cauliflowers for three of us, which depending on the size and how hungry we are provides a small amount of leftovers. I then had a sushi bowl with the leftovers the next day. Sushi rice is a great one to make throughout the week for lunch because it will last you a few days – we have it for dinner at the end of the week if you are looking for a recipe.

Tuesday

Sticky Cashew Chicken (GF)

This was a new recipe Mara was trying and it was a hit! Chicken thighs are a great way of getting protein while not breaking the bank. From lidl you can get a tray of 5 for about £1.75.

Mara paired it with some noodles and broccoli and it tasted great! (there was even some leftover chicken which I had with more of the sushi rice the next day for lunch).

Find the recipe here.

Wednesday

Baked Sweet Potato

Baked Sweet Potato is another favourite in our flat, it gets repeated weekly and is a great alternative to the usual baked potato.

It is also a great opportunity to use up some things you have in the fridge/cupboards.

I microwave the potatoes for around 20 mins (pierce them with a fork first) and then bake them for an additional 20 mins in the oven at roughly 200 degrees (fan).

This is another occasion where we use tuna (we add mayo and then either red onion or apple if we want) because its always in the cupboard.

It also provides the perfect opportunity to use the couscous from the cauliflower steaks which we also had with a salad, some leftover sweetcorn that was in the fridge and some beetroot which is also a staple in our cupboards.

Thursday

Corn Beef Hash

Corned beef is another cheap source of protein and potatoes are extremely cheap. So a win win.

Not the most appealing to look at I must admit but it is just what you need on a colder day. It very much reminds me of stovies (if you’re Scottish hopefully you’ll know what I mean), and reminds me of home.

You just need around 6-7 decent sized potatoes, all cubed and boiled until soft. Dice an onion and fry it in some oil, then add in the corned beef (break it up with a wooden spoon) and the potatoes. Fry unti it is nice and crispy.

I also decided when making this that I would spice up some ordinary baked beans by adding in some paprika, garlic granules and Italian seasoning. I like my beans over done (they go mushy) which means they go perfectly with this dish.

Friday

Lasagne

Now, who doesn’t love a good lasagne night, especially if it involves a side of dough balls or garlic bread! When having meat in our freezer we are lucky that we get to stock up from Costco however, we are also very good at finding a bargain. So, if you have a lidl close to you (which is our shop of choice) make sure to go earlier in the day because you’ll get great deals in their fridge section.

Tip: On the conversation of buying meat, we pretty much always freeze it, so you won’t need to worry about it going off. So if you see a good deal but its on its last day, don’t worry!

Kirsty loves making lasagne and is very good at it. She doesn’t really go by a recipe because they usually involve red wine, however she does recommend using a basic tomato base sauce, like a spaghetti bolognese (so any recipe should do) and then add a white sauce and lasagne sheets and top with cheese!

These dough balls were from M&S and were VERY tasty. Keep an eye out for Lidls ones too because they are also great!

This meal provided us with enough leftovers to have it again for our dinner on Sunday. So, a perfect meal to keep your costs down!

Saturday

Sushi Bowl

The prettiest looking meal, in the sense of it being one of the most colourful ones! This is very much a recipe which can be altered depending on what you have in the cupboard.

Make some sushi rice (instructions should be on the package), chop up some carrot, cucumber, fry some broccoli in soy sauce, garlic and honey, chop up some tomatoes, add some beetroot and if you want bake some salmon. When it comes to the salmon, this is something we found on offer (on reduce) in lidl so we decided to bake it in the oven for about 15-20mins in a soy sauce, ginger mix with some lemon and then flaked it over our bowl. However, this is often something we have as a veggie meal so don’t worry if you don’t have meat – this will also reduce the price. I also add a fried egg to the top (seasoned with Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and paprika.)

When it comes to sushi bowls the toppings are just as important as the actual components to the main bulk of the bowl. Having sesame seeds, fried onions (this is pre fried and dried onions that you buy in a tub) and sriracha mayo are integral to the taste. Plus you’ll find yourself adding these things to a lot more of your recipes, trust me!

Tip: To finish off I thought I’d recommend what we always start with. Sit down before your shop and plan out what you’re eating when and who is cooking. This way you have a routine to your week and there is no last minute stressing. Additionally this is the perfect time to check what you already have in the cupboards, so you aren’t buying more than what you need plus you might be able to find a meal already available in your home.

It’s also important to note that all recipes are easily adapted. There is most likely some obscure ingredient somewhere or something you don’t have and that’s fine. The recipe will still be taste fine and substituting is always a great idea if you’re stuck. Google is your best friend!


So, that’s our week in meals! An assortment of veggie and meat meals, which can easily be interchanged depending on your preferences.

I think a lot of people have this idea that as a student you have to eat the bare minimum or beans on toast every night (not that there is anything wrong with beans on toast). But as three people who absolutely love food and cooking, that was never going to be an option.

It’s all about finding a balance and figuring out where you can spend more and where to spend less. Introducing more veggie meals and using what we already have is definitely huge steps we’ve taken to not only be more sustainable but also cheaper.

Feel free to let me know below if you want to see another blog post on our weekly meals. If you want some inspiration for lunch you can check out my previous post here.

Let me know if we’ve inspired you or you end up making any of the above recipes. We’d absolutely love to see your photos (tag me in my socials linked below)!

Much Love,

Sophie x


What to Bring and What Not to Bring to Uni.

As a third year uni student (which is extremely scary considering it feels like I only just went into first year) I think I’ve gotten a good idea of what is necessary and unnecessary to take to your new home. Whether that is in student accommodation or private renting.

I’ve accumulated suggestions from a range of different students living in different accommodations (thank you!) and different places. This way you are getting suggestions that will hopefully serve you well.

Before I get into a list of things I think its important to preface this with some things you should do before you even start shopping;

  • If you can, try and find your flatmates. This way you can speak to them and make sure no one is taking double of items. No one needs two kettles and toasters etc. In some cases doubles are not a problem however it’s important to make sure you’re not overcompensating and filling up your car unnecessarily.
  • Check what your accommodation provides. Like I mentioned above often your accommodation will actually have toasters and kettles but if not its good to get them in advance so check just incase. Similarly, when I moved into private renting accommodation there were already plates, bowls and glasses there which I was unaware of, which meant we didn’t actually need to take any.
  • Make a list. Properly think of what things you’ll be cooking or what you’ll need to feel comfortable. Everyone has different needs and wants when it comes to this. There is no point taking things just for the sake of it.
  • When packing make sure to pack your things in rooms so, toilet, bedroom and kitchen. This makes unpacking a lot less stressful; you’ll thank me later.

What to Bring – Kitchen:

  • Make sure to have cutlery which has an individual style to it. Pure metal ones are overused and you’ll most likely see more than one pair in your accomodation. If it has a design it means your cutlery is less likely to be stolen or go missing.
  • A few cups and glasses. I know right now you’re only catering for one but most likely you’ll have friends over at some point so a few of everything is the way to go.
  • Individualistic plates and bowls (also take a few) are important. Plain white is also most likely going to appear in your accommodation by someone else. This will make moving out difficult if they’ve all gotten mixed up.
  • if you love a toastie, then a toastie machine/George Forman is very useful and can be used for many things, This is definitely one I’d speak with your flatmates about because one of my friends ended up having three in her flat.
  • A few trays for the oven will be one of your most used items, especially if you’re not much of a cook. Think about one big enough for a pizza and then a smaller one that could always fit half the shelf so someone else can cook in it at the same time.
  • A few dish towels are important and get dirty quickly so make sure to get at least two so they can be replaced.
  • Decent Knives: these will last you a while, in fact you should be thinking about the fact that all these items will do you through your uni years. Decent knives makes cooking a lot easier.
  • Stir Fry’s are incredibly popular because they are cheap, easy and quick. I’d advise getting a Wok. They last ages and are very useful. You can also get single Woks which are smaller if you’d rather.
  • A range of pans in different sizes. Make sure to have a decent one for pasta, a frying pan etc. Think about how you cook at home (or how your parents cook) and what pans are most often used and how many.
  • Measuring cups/spoons and a measuring jug are very handy. If you’re wanting to do some baking, be a bit more adventurous or simply need a jug to mix drinks or put something in the microwave, jugs are multipurpose and measuring spoons are useful.
  • A sieve/drainer for draining pasta is one often forgotten about but is actually very useful.
  • A few wooden spoons, potato masher, a serving spoon/ladel, spatula and something to hold them all in, is useful and keeps everything in one place. (the potato masher is something I didn’t use a lot so it depends what you prefer).
  • A small oven dish for cooking pasta bakes, shepherds pie etc. is very handy and one often forgotten about.
  • A good pair of oven gloves are important. *Don’t do what I did and nearly set them on fire by accidentally setting them on a hob which was recently turned off.*
  • Chopping boards. This is something you don’t need to overdo but a few will do you well.

Things you don’t need: Personally I gave up with ironing. I did take one with me because a family friend kindly gifted me money to get something. A few of my flatmates used it but even now it only comes out of the cupboard every so often. I wouldn’t say it’s a necessity, a good way to get wrinkles out is hanging it in your bathroom after a shower.

Tip for the Kitchen: Aside from the kitchen utensils etc. a good idea before moving is getting a package of your favourite foods so when you’re there you feel more at home and don’t have to feel stressed about doing a big shop. Taking some cereal, biscuits, pasta, pasta sauce, diluting juice, tea, coffee, any condiments etc. will be a life saver, basically any non perishable goods which will last a while.

Tips for living with flatmates: As soon as you are there make a rota for cleaning and taking out the bins. Trust me, it is much easier to get this out of the way at the start when you’ve got nothing personal going on and you’ll avoid conflict if its just part of your routine.

Bedroom:

  • Look at what you have in your bedroom currently. I know you might view your new flat as semi permanent and not worth doing anything too but a year is a long time. To make your stay more comfortable try and take some pieces from your current bedroom. When I went I took some fake plants I had (don’t come for me), some frames (not allowed on walls but can be leant against a wall), photos of friends, fairy lights and some little mementos of my favourite things.
  • Your bed is most likely not going to be the most comfiest of things so a mattress topper, mattress protector, a decent duvet and some good pillows will go a long way in not only making you more comfortable but getting you a goodnight’s sleep.
  • If your room is lacking colour then adding some decorative pillows will not only brighten up your space but make it extra comfy and will be handy if friends pop around.
  • Take an extra set of bedding so when one is in the wash you don’t have to rely on it drying that day because a lot of the time the drier doesn’t work properly.
  • Over the door coat hanger. To save space in your wardrobe, this is really ideal. You can hang your bags, jackets and reusable shopping bags here and it makes it easy to grab whatever you need and go out the door. This will depend on what door you have, if it is a fire door you aren’t allowed to have it there however instead you can hang it on your bathroom door.
  • An important thing to stock up on either for your kitchen or bedroom is medicine. Including; Cold medicine, ibuprofen, paracetamol and plasters and most likely a flatmate will need it. Just a warning FRESHERS FLU IS REAL. It’s nasty and I probably spent most of first year with some sort of cold so be prepared.
  • I feel like you probably already know this but some blankets really are useful. Not only for adding a layer of coziness to your room but are also great for taking to your living space If you’re cold and can also add some colour to your room.
  • Hangers. You will definitely need these. I came to uni with a decent amount and still had to go and get some more.
  • A basin. One of the more recommended items from friends, this will be handy if you go mad at freshers or get ill. Plus while it’s not being used you can easily store it away with extra bits in it. Your kitchen most likely will already have one in the sink, but having your own is probably preferable.
  • A laundry bag. I had both a basket and a bag and hardly ever used the basket. It was more of a storage item than anything else. The bag makes taking your washing to the laundry bit of your accommodation a lot easier because more often than not you’ll have to walk to it.
  • This isn’t exactly an item for your room but more for your comfort. Taking some hoodies and/or a dressing gown and some lounge wear is something I didn’t really keep in mind when I first moved down but needed and used a lot once I got some.
  • A drying rack for your washing is extremely useful and something which can be discussed with your flatmates if you feel comfortable sharing one or two. The washing machines and driers in the laundry room are not reliable.
  • To add to this a hot water bottle is great for period pain and to keep you warm.

*Remember you aren’t allowed to take electrical goods because they need to be PAT tested so go for battery operated things. Straighteners etc. are okay.*

What you don’t need: Remember your room is going to be small (or most are). You don’t need to pick up your entire life and throw it into your room. You’ll be going back home for Christmas soon enough so you can get anything you’re missing then. This also goes for summer clothes. It is slightly warm in September but you definitely don’t need all of it down with you, be more prepared for autumn/winter and take some more summer clothes with you at Christmas or Easter.

The doorstop is something you’ll hear a lot of people rave about and say is essential. I never used one and when speaking to friends about it no one suggested this as a must have. Instead why not just use a box or something you are unpacking from?

Things like curtains aren’t necessary, they are provided. I know that is a bizarre thing to include but I can imagine someone doing that.

Bathroom:

  • To keep those pesky germs away take some cleaning products, especially for your bathroom. It gets dirty easily (which you rarely notice if your parents usually do it for you).
  • Like I said for the kitchen stocking up on your bathroom essentials is extremely useful. This way you have them when you arrive and probably will last you a decent while.
  • Take a bath matt, it saves you sliding getting out the shower and makes the space look nicer. It’s also an easy way of adding colour.
  • Towels. Make sure to have around 2-3 large towels, some hand towels and whatever else you usually use. It’s also a good way to add colour.
  • Stock up on toilet roll. Say a 24 pack will do you a while and saves you the hassle of trying to take them home on a shopping trip.

I hope this is useful and provides some clarity on what you need to take and what might not be on the top of your list.

Please share with any friends or family going away, I personally wish I had something like this when I was moving.

And good luck! It’s an exciting opportunity! I think I’ll do a blog post soon on my thoughts and feelings of my first year experience and debunking some expectations of it.

But don’t worry and take it as it is. If you’re not in a great flat ask to move or wait until you are on your course. Just because you are in a flat with some strangers doesn’t mean they have to become your best friends (but some do and that is great!).

Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who left suggestions! It made writing this post a lot easier.

Much love,

Sophie x