4 Books (and 1 Series) that Saved my Sanity in College

by - Thursday, May 02, 2019

I'm graduating from college tomorrow! I cannot wait to go back to my college town and walk, see my friends and teachers again. To celebrate, I thought I'd share the books that really helped me get through some difficult times during my college years.

I’m pretty sure my college experience was similar to most: tons of homework, late nights, lots of ice cream and pizza… but it seemed to blow everyone’s mind when I told them that I’d finished another book the previous night.

As an English major, I had my more-than-fair-share of reading and writing to do. But my reading time, the time I took to pick up a book I wanted to read, was how I coped with a lot of stress. It helped me escape when I needed a time to let my brain rest. Other people hung out with friends, went to school events, and watched Netflix (and I did a lot of that too!), but a lot of my free time, the precious little I had, was spent reading.

And, okay, maybe that compulsion to read wasn’t always healthy… like that time I read Daughters of the Deep when I really should have been working on that report. But hey! Some books actually helped me deal with the sometimes-insanity of college! Let me introduce them to you:

Piratica: Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl’s Adventure Upon the High Seas by Tanith Lee

Quick Synopsis: Artemesia regains her memory after bumping her head and decides to follow in the footstep’s of her mother, the Pirate Queen Piratica.

Boy was this book random. I was in my first semester in college when I found this book in my hometown’s secondhand bookstore. This book just seemed to call out to me--it sounded so crazy, so weird...so I bought it.

I only read two books that semester (it really killed me inside to read so little), and this was one of them. It was such a blast. For some reason, I had the self-control to savor this book, chapter by chapter. I read it slowly, over the course of a month or two. It was such a beautiful escape: a wonderful heroine to cheer on, funny pirates, crazy plots. It quickly became one of my favorite books.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Quick Synopsis: Janie, a black woman in the ‘30s, is loved by some and despised by others for her beauty and wit. Her three marriages and an environmental tragedy test her mettle and courage to be true to herself.

I first read this book in high school and loved it. I decided to reread it for a class project my second semester of college. I needed to write an essay analyzing a book based around a few critical theories. I immediately knew I needed to read a book that I previously enjoyed or I would never get through that essay.

I’m glad I did. This book is such a joy to read. Hurston is such a magnificent writer. In all of my college career, that essay was the most fun to write because of this book.

The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima

Quick Synopsis of The Demon King (Book One): Han will do anything to protect his mother and sister, but an encounter with three wizards endangers him and everyone he loves. Raisa wants the freedom to choose her own future, but as a princess, her priorities must put her kingdom first.

Re-reading this series during school was ambitious. But I guess I was really craving some fantasy. I’ll be honest, I barely remember the semester that I read this book in (probably indicates my stress levels at the time???) But I remember a few emotional times these books pulled me through. It was everything I needed--magical, political, romantic.

I also aspire to be Cinda Williams Chima someday. Her books are amazing.

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

Quick Synopsis: Dolssa, a young woman in 13th century France, is being hunted for witchcraft because of her unusual gifts. She stumbles upon three sisters who decide to help her.

I technically didn’t read this during the school year. This was one of the first books I read one summer, and it inspired me so much that I began writing again. I tried writing a bit my first year in college. I finished NaNoWriMo somehow, wrote a lot of fanfiction...which was more than I expected. But then after that, I stopped. I started dating my husband, I got married, I moved, took 18 credits one semester.

My writing well was suffering through a drought. And The Passion of Dolssa filled it back up.

Since then, I’ve written so much. I was able to write quite a bit in the subsequent semesters, and I kept going. All of Julie Berry’s books inspire me, but this one is especially close to my heart.

The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

Quick Synopsis: Brienna is left patronless after studying the passions nearly all her life. Out of desperation, though suspicious, she accepts the help of a disgraced lord with many secrets.

There were many books I read my last semester of college that were wonderful, even amazing. But The Queen’s Rising surprised me the most. On a whim, I’d put it on hold on OverDrive and I decided to read it when I had no other options.

I read this book way faster than any of the others--I think it took me about three days when most of the books I was reading took me a week or longer to finish. This book made me laugh, weep, cheer--and when I finished, I was inspired once again to keep writing. Ross’ storytelling is magnificent. Someday I hope my prose is as stunning as hers.

What books have carried you through difficult times?

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