This post was inspired by an item in Elle Uk: 7 books that shaped me. I have always been a real bookworm. My grandma, a retired headteacher, taught me to read before I started school and I haven't stopped since! As a child, I was very introverted and I found solace in reading. Books have played a huge part in shaping who I have become.
1. The Harry Potter Series
Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?
I suppose I should start with the obvious. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. My best friend and I bonded over our mutual love of Harry Potter and it has become the foundation of our friendship. I'm planning to marry at Wizarding World of Harry Potter next year. I fully admit that they are not the most well-written pieces of children's literature ever. I have no delusions of their credibility. But they were a huge part of my childhood and I have had some amazing experiences that would not have happened if it weren't for these books.
2. High Windows- Philip Larkin
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as quickly as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
I was introduced to this poetry anthology when I did my English Literature A-level. As a 16 year old, I was especially cynical and sneering of the world. I found solace in the 30-year-old poetic musings that had been written by a since-deceased middle-class librarian in his early 50s. The first poem we were introduced to was This be the Verse. It resonated with me in a way nothing had before and it has still stuck with me today, even if my viewpoint has warmed with age.
3. Plays- Philip Ridley
For me, there's something beautiful and peaceful in the inhuman, humanless devastation.
When we were 18, my best friend studied drama at university. She was studying the plays of Philip Ridley and thought I would appreciate his twisted surrealism so lent me her copy. I read the plays once and never really thought of them again. What stuck with me was his poetic introduction. A good 60 pages, it's more a short story than an introduction. Semi- (or perhaps fully-) autobiographical, it is sick, twisted and utterly disturbing. As a rather troubled 18 year old, I found it comforting to know that I was not alone. There were other people whose minds worked in the way mine did. In fact, people whose minds were even more twisted than my own. I still enjoy reading it and revelling in the insanity.
4. Of Mice and Men- John Steinbeck
'Because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you'
Another book that I was introduced to through an academic pathway. I'm sure a few people reading this would also have studied Of Mice and Men for their English Literature GCSE. I was struck by the raw emotion. The intense love that George and Lenny have for each other, the utter devotion that Lenny shows and the ultimate destruction of his innocence. For such a short book, it is so complex and multi-layered. I can't even tell you how many times I have read it but it makes me cry every time without fail. Oh and if anybody else watches Being Human (the UK one), did you notice the glaring parallel with the ultimate fates of George (even the name is the same!) and Mitchell?
5. Peepo!- Allan and Janet Ahlberg
Here's a little bab,
One, two, three.
Standing in his cot.
What does he see?
I have no image of this book as I don't own it myself.
As I have already mentioned, my Grandma taught me to read at the age of 3. This was the book she used and I can still remember the delight in recognising a word on sight. I fully intend to use this book to teach my own children- and maybe even grandchildren- to read.
So there we have the five books that have made me who I am today. What books would you choose for your own list?