There comes a time in a girls life when she's approaching another age milestone and she's just gotta look back and reflect on some of the books that have impacted her life.
I did this recently with one of my book clubs, because...well I could. But completing this small and seemingly nonsensical project ( to the untrained eye) brought about a whole host of emotions and feelings. Reminiscing about books read over 30 years ago was truly a satisfying activity. It reminded me of the days when books began to take over my life; when immersing myself in an alternative world was sometimes the preferred option. And of course why I still make the time to read and always will encourage my three young children to.
The books I've chosen are in chronological order.
The battle of bubble and squeak by Phillipa Pearce.
I must have been about 9 or 10 and This is the first book I remember being read to me in class by my teacher, Mrs Randall. She was so animated when she read it out loud that I just couldn't wait for the next instalment . It made me feel warm and fuzzy and is definitely THE book that got me hooked. I read it again recently with my then 7 year old daughter and I realised that even at such a tender age, I had understood some of the fairly mature themes of the book the first time round.
Just as long as we're together by Judy Blume.
Like many 11 year old girls, I loved Judy Blume books for her ability to resonate deeply with those of us who were approaching an age where we were experiencing unfamiliar sensations around our bodies yet at the same time presenting an air of indifference to our somewhat perplexed parents. It was the first time I read something and thought 'I'm not the only one who feels/thinks that' And of course there were plenty of rude parts to snigger about. I also remember being lent a copy of 'Forever' by Judy Blume ( Judy herself didn't lend it to me - I think it was one of those school friends who was always that little bit further on in the adolescent leader board). I was reading it in bed one night and my dad came to say goodnight. He looked at the cover and made some reference to the genre of the book. I remember feeling mortified for a split second. Before i carried on sniggering to myself about 'Ralph'
The Curious Incident of the dog in the night time by Mark Haddon.
This book was recommended to me by a dear friend. It was the first time I'd read a book on recommendation. Up until that point I'd rather ashamedly neglected reading for a while. Instead, as was the motto for the 1990's, I was in the words of Renton from Train Spotting, choosing life. I instantly fell in love with the protagonist Christopher and I was in awe of the quirky unique ( at the time) style of narrative spoken from the perspective of a 15 year old boy with Aspergers Syndrome. It also fueled my fascination with the human brain and I then went on to study and gain my degree in Psychology.
We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver.
I chose this book as the first book for a book club I founded in 2006. We started off as about 10, but the wheat was soon separated from the chaff and we found ourselves as the fabulous 4 we still are 12 years later. No one actually read the book at the time except for me ( my fab 3 had yet to join and thankfully sought out my group 2 months later saving me from a motley collection of social misfits) and instead it was mocked by one particular loon.
It provoked my thoughts about nature and nurture ( as was the sub genre of the book) as I was just beginning my studies in psychology. This was also the book that put me on the path to exploring other deeper genres which weren't the usual Marian Keyes chic lit I'd so often turn to.
It also opened up a whole new world of literature to me, as Shriver is renowned for her perspicacious and eloquent prose,often choosing unfamiliar words which tested my knowledge and seemingly limited vocabulary.
And of course the ending to this book is so shocking and unexpected that it has stayed with me still.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
This book did actually change my overall perspective on my working life and career. I was working for an affluent yet particularly disagreeable family ( ok let's cut the crap, she was the wicked witch and he was the devil incarnate) after reading how the protagonists ( I think Minny and Aibileen share centre stage in this novel) stand up for their rights and disgrace their employers. I too stood up for myself after reading this having been treated despicably by a family who felt their wealth dictated their status above me.