No matter how far you are from your loved ones, be it a long distance or a short commute, being away from home can hit massively for both new and returning university students. To combat homesickness this autumn and wintertime, pick out a book that means a lot to you and annotate it to gift to your special person. That way, when they’re reading, it almost feels like you’re there experiencing the story with them. If there aren’t any books that spring to mind, don’t worry, The Mancunion’s got you covered with a few recommendations for all of the most important people in your life.
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott: Little Women is a heartwarming novel that centres around the four March sisters and their transition into womanhood. Alcott depicts relationships between the sisters as both turbulent and yet one of adoration and unity as women in the 19th century. It replicates family dynamics in a way that is otherwise difficult to put into words, making it the perfect choice when gifting an annotated book for sisters or even friends.
Sadie, Courtney Summers: Courtney Summers writes of a heart-wrenching search to find out the truth of what really happened to protagonist Sadie Hunter’s younger sister. This book is slightly darker, so might be an apt choice for those who enjoy thrillers whilst still highlighting sisterhood and the lengths we are willing to go to for the ones we love. The book also adapts an interesting form, with parts being written in a podcast style, meaning that there are plenty of quotes to annotate and doodle around.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han: This choice is perfect for all of you who love those nostalgic memories of wintertime spent with family; the book is full of warm descriptions of baking, making memories and the bonds between three sisters as they all enter different stages of their life. It relevantly talks about university and how it feels to seemingly lose your combined sister and best friend when they move away. It would be a fantastic choice to send to those missing you back home and talks tons about the special and irreplaceable bond between siblings.
The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis: Almost everyone has heard of the classic tale that takes place in C.S. Lewis’ fictional world Narnia, but how many of them have received a personalized copy of the book? Instantly become the favourite sibling by annotating all of those touching moments between the four children and gifting it to your brother or sisters this year while you’re away at uni. There are three books in the series, but the first (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) is both the most famous and the shortest, meaning it is reasonably manageable to make into your little project just in time to send home in the months to come. The story follows adventure, teamwork, and of course the love-hate relationship we often have with our siblings. What better present than that?
Before the Coffee Gets Cold, Toshikazu Kawaguchi: A more sentimental and perhaps cathartic choice for loved ones and parents, in particular, is Before the Coffee Gets Cold. The novel follows a cafe in Tokyo where customers are able to time travel into the past with the one condition that they get back from their adventures before their coffee is cold. Readers hear stories of love, loss and simply the raw emotions brought on by revisiting memories of our most influential life relationships. This is the perfect way to say I love you, and accurately describes the feelings we often struggle to translate into words.
I’ll Love You Forever, Robert Munsch: If you’re shorter on time, but still want something to remind your parents just how much you appreciate them whilst they anticipate your return home from university, consider this timeless children’s book. Although it isn’t exactly the most challenging thing they’ll read this year, it’ll certainly be the most special. The short story details a mother who sings a song to her son every night as he matures into a young man, who then returns the favour to his mother when she is no longer able. It is ultimately a reminder of the endless cycle of love and selflessness delivered from our parents and projected onto our own families later on in life.
Agatha Christie/detective books: If you fancy something more interactive, find yourself an action-packed detective novel something like Agatha Christie’s works and get writing in those margins. As you read, write down all of your theories, thought processes and suspicions, so that as your loved ones read, you’re solving the crime together with them. This is a brilliant choice for those whose parents are big fans of crime and thrillers, whilst also making memories and connecting with them even whilst studying away from home.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky: Chbosky’s coming-of-age novel talks in length about friendships and the struggle of finding out who you are as you adjust to newfound adolescence. Everyone remembers the tunnel scene if they’ve watched the film adaptation – Emma Watson hanging out of the car window as David Bowie’s Heroes blasts – the epitome of freedom and adrenaline that comes with teenage years. And yet alongside this, the book confronts difficult topics about mental health and the stigmas that surround it. The friends we find during these turbulent years often stay for life, so why not thank them by scribbling down all of the soppy thoughts that you’d never admit to them in person and gift them this book as a gesture of your appreciation?
Harry Potter, J.K Rowling: One key memory in lots of our childhoods is reading and watching the Harry Potter series time and time again. It has that nostalgic feeling that will never go away, and whether you’ve left your Harry Potter phase or are forever deep in its clutches, it’s a reminder of those years where magic and reality seemed one of the same. So, pick out your favourite (there are seven to choose from!), and take your own spin on it in the margins of the pages. It would make the ultimate present for that friend who’s stuck by you throughout thick and thin, and a gift that they’ll truly cherish.
And Still I Rise, Maya Angelou: If either you or your friend are more into poetry, why not give them something special with Maya Angelou’s And Still I Rise? This volume of poems will both conjure feelings of sorrow and empowerment, reminding you of your own ability and strength throughout all hardships. There are key themes about what it means to be a woman and an undying unity as such. Nourish the friendships that grow both together and apart with a gift they’ll never forget, and with something they can read over and over when they miss you the most.
The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller: Greek mythology and love as old as time – tell your partner how much they mean to you with Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles. The story follows the development of a tragic love story between Patroclus and Achilles who are destined for entirely different things but remain the ultimate tale of love and soulmates. The quotes speak for themselves: “I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.” Make sure you grab a pen (and plenty of tissues) with this one.
The Priory of the Orange Tree, Samantha Shannon: If fantasy’s your thing, try The Priory of the Orange Tree. It’s definitely not an easy choice, spanning over 800 pages, but it is one you won’t regret if you want to challenge yourself (and your partner). The novel details issues of politics in a fictional world, dragons, unique characters and an epic love story between two of the novel’s key women. The writing is beautifully whimsical meaning there is never a shortage of content to annotate, whilst also making space to take creative liberties when dedicating it to your special person.
Normal People, Sally Rooney: Rooney’s Normal People is beloved by many for its candid analysis of love and disaster. The book has incredible characterisation and talks frankly about the struggles to communicate what we truly feel with the people that matter the most. Set in Northern Ireland, Marianne and Connel meet during school as they are still struggling to understand themselves and their identity in wider society. As they mature and move to the same university in Dublin, we see how repeating mistakes and changing attitudes contribute to our relationships and understanding of one another. It contains some of the most heart-wrenching gestures of love and doing what we think is best for those we care about, making it ideal to gift to your partner whilst discovering who it is you want to be.