As a voracious reader I have thoroughly enjoyed the run up to World Book Day (March 3rd) and the fabulous programmes relating to it. I have particularly enjoyed ‘Faulks on Fiction’ and ‘My Life in Books’ in which 2 different celebrities chose 5 of their favourite books starting with favourite childhood book and finishing with ‘beach read’ or ‘guilty pleasure’. It was so interesting to see what people chose and what it revealed about them as people.
It got me thinking that it might be nice to do a ‘My Life in Books’ of my own so I started thinking back to the sort of books I enjoyed as a child and at key points in my life as I grew towards adulthood. I have been taken by surprise at the emotions that have been stirred on this trip down memory lane and I have found it impossible to narrow down to just a few books those which I hold most important. On reflection I shouldn’t have been too surprised as reading has always been a very emotional activity for me – a total immersion in another world.
Books were not that important in our house as I was growing up and I have no recollection of ever being read to as a small child but from about the age of 8 onwards I totally devoured books. My first memories of reading are of Enid Blyton – Famous Five, The Faraway Tree, The Secret Seven and Malory Towers (I was desperate to go to boarding school) – that was until I discovered the books of Pat Smythe, a famous showjumper turned author. I just loved the stories of girls riding ponies and getting into scrapes – the closest I ever got to that was a very tame ride around an indoor school once a week! However, my all time favourite books from this period have to the Silver Brumby series by Elyne Mitchell.
As I got older I moved on from horses and ponies to writers like Barry Hines. I remember reading ‘The Blinder’ over and over again I loved it so much – or rather I was a little in love with the main character Lenny Hawk! I think he was the first working class character that I had ever come across in a book - all my reading fodder until then had been about awfully nice posh children or talking horses! Suddenly here was someone speaking in a northern accent and dealing with normal stuff like school work and teachers.
At high school I studied English Lit at 'O' and 'A' levels and this opened up a whole new world of reading that I never knew existed. Along with Chaucer and Shakespeare we studied Thomas Hardy, Louis Mac Niece and Wilfred Owen among others – I still have the books!
Aged about 14 I started working in a shoe shop on a Saturday which happened to be opposite a small independent bookshop – in my lunch break I would go and scan the shelves and more often than not buy a paperback – in this way I managed to read the entire collections of Virginia Woolfe, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Jane Austen and the Brontes, probably in a desperate attempt to escape the mundanity of life growing up in a seaside town with an average population age of 60. I still have these books although they are old and yellowing…..
When I was 19 I went to Nottingham to study and there I discovered D.H Lawrence who I absolutely love…………..
I read every novel he wrote and again still have all the books! I also read a lot of Simone de Beauvoir, Collette, Alison Lurie, Anita Brookner and Iris Murdoch (looking back I was not entirely happy there I think)
After leaving college I lived and worked in London for a couple of years and had little or no time for reading. I didn’t seriously start again until I moved to Glasgow where I discovered the work of local writer James Kelman and canadian Robertson Davies who, luckily for me, was a prolific writer. Reading his entire body of work kept me going for quite some time!
I have noticed that my reading habits are a little OCD in that if I like an author I have to read every book they have written almost to the exclusion of any other author, only then can move on – a bit limiting at times but I am slowly breaking the habits of a lifetime (I blame Enid Blyton) This is getting easier as I am reading more and more modern fiction where the authors are still alive and writing!
More recently I have become addicted to Alexander MacCall Smith – The Isabel Dalhousie series, The 42 Scotland Street series and Corduroy Mansions series – hmmmmm still a bit OCD but when I am working long hours and I am really tired a few pages of this kind of writing is very soothing and easy – like a chat with an old friend. However I am managing to fit a few other authors in and around AMS, I now tend to read books that friends have given me or books that jump out at me in charity shops rather than buying from the bestsellers list at Waterstone’s. I have just finished the most amazingly moving book recently purchased at the local PDSA – ‘East of the Mountains’ by David Guterson. I read and loved ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ a while back but this book is just beautiful – it made me cry big heaving sobs but despite this I wouldn’t say this was a sad book – just incredibly well written and life affirming.
Anyhoo, enough of this self indulgent rambling - this is my attempt to select a few of my all time favourite books - there is no way I can narrow it down to 5 but here it is:
Childhood Book: The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell
Teenager: The Blinder by Barry Hines
Young Adult: To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolfe ; The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy;
A Thousand Acres – Jane Smiley
The Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Quincunx – Charles Palliser
The Cornish Trilogy - Robertson Davies
42 Scotland Street (the first book in the series) – Alexander MacCall Smith
I could go on forever…….
Last but not least my guilty pleasure – anything by Joanna Trollope!
Of course no self respecting bibliophile woud be without some hand crafted reading accoutrements! I have bought several of these bookmarks....
both for myself and for friends - they make great gifts and are just lovely! Or you could make some of your own......
using recycled images stuck onto card - the ones above were made from a calender I had 2 years ago - so many lovely images! Frankly, you can never have enough bookmarks - I hate turning down the corners of pages - especially on craft books.
Anyone else want to share their favourite book/books? I’d love to hear!