Thursday, 20 September 2012

My life in books:

'Marmalade and pears, toothpaste for bears, mustard and custard and carrots.'

Books have always been a huge part of my life.  My parents are both big readers, and constantly read to us, took us to the library (to inevitably take out the same books over and over and over again) and encouraged us to read ourselves from a very young age.  I have fond memories of so many children's books, but Teddybears Go Shopping is probably brought up and quoted most often in our family.  I'm really sad to see that it's out of print now, but there are some second hand copies for sale online.

Tintin was my first crush (yes, I know...) and I absolutely loved reading all of the Tintin comics I could get my hands on when I was a little girl.  The Secret of the Unicorn was one of two that I actually owned, and my copy is extremely battered, well read and well loved.  I was a big fan of the recent film (and, between you and me, the film's story made a lot more sense than the comic's) but you can't beat the amazing eccentricities of the original.

I've never met a girl my age who didn't love Jacqueline Wilson's books in their early teens.  I read and loved a huge number of them, but the Girls... series was easily my favourite.  I found the main character, Ellie Allard, very easy to relate to at that awkward age, and I'm sure that pre-teen girls will love and connect with her for generations to come.

I was quite late to the Harry Potter party.  I cannot claim to have loved it from the very beginning and, alas, will never be a truly hardcore fan.  The first book I read from the series was actually number four (
The Goblet of Fire), but after reading it I immediately went back to the first three and caught up on what I had been missing.  For books five, six and seven, I pre-ordered and then queued up at my local bookshop at the midnight release to receive my copy.  Don't lie, at least some of you did it too.  I much prefer the books to the films (and even the books start to get a bit suspect when Harry becomes an angsty teen) but I was, and probably always will be, very emotionally invested in the Harry Potter franchise.  I have re-read The Chamber of Secrets the most, and if I ever have children I'll be excited to read at least some of these books to them and to share the magic.

I went through a phase of reading Muriel Spark novels, including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, when I was about 12 or 13, and remember very much enjoying them.  I decided to write about her novels for my Advanced Higher English dissertation when I was 17 and in my final year at high school, and it was only then that I began to notice all of the... well... dirty bits.  I recently re-read Jean Brodie, and yet again found even more hidden in the story that I hadn't picked up on the first few times round.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that this book (and all of Muriel Spark's work that I have read) can work on many different levels for various age groups, and to me that is the sign of a talented writer.  I now live in Miss Brodie's neighbourhood, and go past landmarks that feature in the book on a daily basis, which makes the literature geek inside me smile.

Never mind the Brontës, Shakespeare and Stevenson: Danny Wallace is easily one of the proudest literary discoveries of my university career.  I saw the (arguably rubbish) film adaptation of Yes Man first, but eventually discovered that the movie was based on a real writer's hilarious experiences and quickly got sucked into the book.  I have given Yes Man as a gift to friends multiple times, and converted plenty of people to Danny's work.  (His other books are amazing too, I read them all in quick succession after Yes Man.)  I got to meet him at a reading and signing at my old university, and he was truly lovely, despite obviously being very tired!  If you were only to read one of the books on this list, make it this one - I promise you won't regret it!

'You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.  You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.'

Remember the Advanced Higher English dissertation that I mentioned earlier?  We were given a lot of freedom about choosing our own topics, but I still remember my teacher scoffing something along the lines of: 'just as long as you choose a proper book, and not Fight Club, or something'.  So I wrote my university dissertation on Fight Club instead.  Although my dissertation was a stressful experience, I'm proud of myself for completing it, and I came out of the other end still loving Fight Club (both the novel and the film adaptation).  I also once put the above quote from Palahniuk's book on a pretentious sign in our kitchen in uni halls in an attempt to encourage some of my flatmates to do their washing up.  Needless to say, it didn't work.

This post was inspired by (i.e. unashamedly copied from) Lauren over at 'A Blessed Unrest' who posted her version at the start of this month.  You can find her original post here:  Please feel free to share your desert island reads in the comments!


  1. LOVE THIS. I loved the Tintin books as a kid, still have all of them, despite how uncomfortably other races are depicted in them :|. Harry Potter, check, Jacqueline Wilson, check (I met her once, she signed my copy of Dustbin Baby). Danny Wallace too! You read Join Me? Or Friends Like These? Both are awesome too. We went to meet him when he was here too. Was awesome.
    S xx

    1. I've read pretty much all of Danny Wallace's stuff, and I love it all :) Haha, funny to think that we must have seen each other there but didn't know each other at the time! xx

  2. I love how my list would only intersect with yours for Harry Potter and Danny Wallace, even growing up in the same house we have such different reading lives. Oh, kudos for managing to narrow it down, my list is about fifty books currently.

  3. :) I loved Asterix :) and Richard Scarry books. Alison was a huge fan of Jacqueline Wilson but also Jodie Piccoult who is a bit eerie for me. As a teenager I loved to read Mum's Agatha Christie books, now looking to study criminology :)