THE STRUGGLE: Deciding which books to take to Uni

In case you weren’t already aware, this week I set off on my latest adventure – university. This is the first step on the path towards my (admittedly fantastical) dreams, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m moving halfway across the country, and although that means leaving behind my family and my bed, I don’t feel all that frightened. Something about it feels right, like reading the first page of a book and just knowing that it’s going to be incredible.

Obviously, though, leaving home has its downsides. For one, my dorm room is about the size of Harry Potter’s room under the stairs at 4 Privet Drive. (Okay, I’ll admit that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea.) At first, this didn’t bother me. I don’t need a lot of space, I told myself. Just enough for some clothes and a kettle. Oh, and my books of course.

The realization that I wouldn’t be able to take all my books down to uni with me hit me like an eight-hundred-page hardcover to the chest. Blocking the road ahead of me stood a black, churning plot hole – something that hadn’t even crossed my mind before and now threatened to suck the life out of my adventure.

Here’s the problem: I have a massive collection of books. My bookshelf consists of favourites from my early reading years placed carefully alongside my most recent reads. They’re more than just a bunch of paperbacks I happened to enjoy – each book I own holds a special part of me within its pages. Yes, even Twilight.

But I can’t take them all down. They simply wouldn’t fit in the car.

So I’ve found myself stuck inside that dreadful game we bookworms sometimes play to torment each other: “If you were stuck on a desert island, which five books would you take with you?” Except this is real, and the desert island has people on it, which makes it infinitely worse. Sure, five books seems like enough to last a few months or so, but which ones to choose? Old favourites, or new books that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet? Books about university, or books that can transport me to a different planet altogether?


Many tears were shed. Many tears are still being shed. What if I have a sudden desire to reread something I left behind? What if *gasp* one of my family members, to whom my bookshelf lies entirely unprotected, decides to peruse my shelves and leave them in a different order? (I spent hours arranging my bookshelves, and they’re finally looking almost-perfect.) What if I come back, only to find that something’s missing? Or worse, damaged?


It’s taken me weeks, but I finally decided on a selection of books I think will keep me sane until I come home for Easter in five weeks, and repeat this process all over again.

  1. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

How could I not take The Hobbit with me? It’s literally a metaphor for university: a totally unprepared hobbit/teenager is part-forced and part-obliged to go on a journey that seems to spring up out of nowhere and disrupts the peace of everyday life; everything sucks and he/she misses home the whole time, except that there’s something exciting and spiritually awakening about the adventure; he/she feels as though death is just around the corner at all times, but knows that the rewards of completing the adventure will be worth the hellish path taken. I’m just praying that Smaug isn’t a metaphor for finals.

  1. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Really, this is an obvious choice: a girl goes to university and finds her voice along the way. It’s also hilarious, and can dig me out of the deepest of reading slumps.

  1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

This is my favourite series of all time. Leaving it behind would be like finding myself in the middle of an ocean with no Dawn Treader in sight. Plus, not only is reading about Narnia is the perfect escape from reality, but it also gives me hope that I can make a graceful exit from any uncomfortable situation by climbing into a wardrobe.

  1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Admittedly, this isn’t exactly one of my favourites. But over time I’ve discovered that it’s an incredible douchebag-repellant. Seriously, you just pull this book out of your bag and it sends misogynists running for the hills. I don’t even think they know what it’s about – they’ve just seen it all over Tumblr and assume that it’s the number one medium for spreading the feminist disease.

  1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This book makes me ridiculously happy. Do I need another reason?

And one more for luck: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

…because I’m doing an English degree and I really can’t pitch up without a little Shakespeare to keep me humble. Hamlet is my bestie. I read it for the first time when I was thirteen, and since then I’ve included it in every single AP English essay I’ve ever written (no joke – I think my teacher still hates me for it). Every time I think the world is out to get me, I just glance at Hamlet and remember things could be so much worse.

I still feel guilty about leaving all my other favourites behind. All my YA babies are being left on my shelf because I can’t bear to take one and not the rest. And I’m still panicking about whether I should abandon my battered copy of Hamlet for Clockwork Angel because the latter is slightly less emotionally traumatic and has pretty shadowhunters hidden between its pages. And I’m debating slipping in a book of Tolstoy’s short stories because it’s really very small and could probably fit in my handbag. And I just bought a beautiful box set of The Mortal Instruments that is very much at the risk of being stolen by my sister before I get home, so maybe I should throw out a week’s worth of clothes and take it instead. And…

Thank goodness for Kindle, that’s all I’m saying. And libraries, too.

In all seriousness, though, I’m off to uni on Thursday! Unfortunately, I don’t have a Gandalf to guide me, or even a hoard of dwarves to sing me songs about what to expect on my travels, so I’m afraid my blogging might be a little sketchy and unpredictable for the next few weeks while I settle in. But I’ll try my best to post a couple of updates and anecdotes as I go along so that you know I haven’t met a tragic end.



  1. Wayne Bouwer says:

    Loved this Blog. I feel your pain.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pippa says:

    I love your selection Amy 🙂 As I said when we last saw you – you’re going to be amazing (you’re already fab, but I’m super-excited for you!) Go well & have tremendous fun 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Graeme Seals says:

    What about the approach of having a clean slate and recognising that there are LOTS of books at Rhodes and in Grahamstown! And you certainly will be given very long reading lists. All the best Amy


  4. Oh wow, I had this same conundrum *mumble, mumble* years ago (…in the dark ages before Kindles…). Thankfully, my mom was a good custodian of the books I left behind and my dad has mostly forgiven me for all the books I ended up bring *back* at the end of each term.

    Good selection! I took Hamlet too. It totally weirded my roommate out that owned a copy, but it wasn’t for a class. Good luck! Be awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. amybouwer says:

      Glad to know I’m not the only one! Although I must admit that I have endless respect for you – I would very probably die without my Kindle. Thanks for your sweet comment. *hugs*

      Liked by 1 person

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