Thursday, April 05, 2007

The People That Changed My Life

My local English Language bookshop (Kinokuniya) is doing a promotion at the moment of books about books: titles such as So Many Books; The Book On the Book Shelf; Every Book its Reader; A Passion for Books and The Book That Changed My Life.

This last title, The Book That Changed My Life, as well as some of the memes doing the rounds on blogs has made me worry (again). The blurb tells me ‘every reader has a book that changed their life’. Inside the book successful authors list their top ten books and say what individual book had the most profound effect on their life.

So what worried me? I did only flick through it briefly, but there were an awful lot of highbrow titles and authors mentioned and I am suspicious that when someone comes to you and says ‘we’re publishing a book about authors’ top ten books’ they aren’t very likely to admit they like something trashy, are they?

The second thing that made me fret was that I don’t have a book that changed my life and I feel a bit bereft.

Books (period) have changed my life.

I can’t live without them.

When husband asked me to move to Bangkok I decided that I could only if my husband and children came with me and I had a good supply of books. They really are the only things I need (although I may get a bit grumpy without tea).

So it may not be a single book that changed my life, but I have people and events that changed my book life.

In my third year at primary school I was taught by a lovely man called Barry Place – he made me love words and made me realize that I could string them together to make people feel things. On the shelf in his class room I found a book by Lorna Hill about a girl who is orphaned and has to go to Newcastle to live with her horrible cousins, when all she really wants to do is go to the Royal Ballet School in London. It was a series of books and I fell in love for the first time.

I also fell head over heels in love with Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers, Twins at St Clare’s, the Famous Five and I tolerated the Secret Seven because otherwise I’d run out of her stories.

When I was a child we lived in a village without a butchers (bear with me) so every Saturday morning we had to drive to the next village along to buy our Sunday meat. I went every weekend with my Mum to the butchers because opposite was a little independent bookshop called ‘Goblins Bookshop’ (I’m sorry, I can’t remember if there was one goblin or many, so I’ve left out the apostrophe) run by a lovely little man called Mr White. Every single Saturday my Mum would take me into his shop and buy me books. We used to sit in his back room drinking tea, and talking about books. It was magical.

In my second year at high school Mr Caldwell introduced me to AE Housman.

At Grammar school Mrs Dordi taught me a passion for literature from 13 through to 18.

The list isn’t complete without acknowledging my parents’ generosity in buying me books. They consistently allowed me to choose my reading material without judgement, always having books in the house, and encouraging all reading and writing.


Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I read the Lorna Hill books too, and I loved them as well. And I too don't have a single book that changed my life. So I don't think you need to worry. Lovely post.

Pinky Rocko said...

I don't have one book either. I do have memories of books I've read because of where I was at in life and the impact it made on my impressionable mind. Your postings are very enjoyable to read!

Caroline said...

Roald Dahl for me. I loved his books. Now there are a number of stories that have stayed with me and I'm sure that they influence my writing.

Carol and Chris said...

I don't really have one book that changed my life but a number that have influenced me along the way.

As a child I think my love of books was cemented when my Dad read 'The Hobbit' to me. He scared me witless with his Gollum voice but I distinctly remember laughing out loud and being desperate to keep my eyes open so I could find out what happened next. I don't think I knew that books could make you feel like that before then.

JJ said...

Thank you Zinnia. I recently found the first Lorna Hill book in a charity bookshop which I bought with the hope of daughter falling in love too. I read it again first and then gave it to her. I rather wish I hadn't read it as it spoiled my memory slightly.

Thank you Pinky. The measure of those books for me is so often that I feel utterly bereft by leaving my new friends behind. I remember feeling devasted to finish A Suitable Boy, and yet totally convinced that those characters continued their lives in India, but without me!

Hi Caroline - My son loves Roald Dahl, he was introduced to him in Primary School in England, but I've never particularly enjoyed his books. I have a problem with any non realism, and looking back I realise that that was true even in my selections of reading material as a child. Despite loving the school Enid Blyton books, when she asked me to believe in characters with moon faces who lived in trees, I just laughed - and not in a good way.

Carol, for the reason I've just explained to Caroline, I just couldn't get on with the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings; it does make me rather ashamed. However, I've just realised how much I've enjoyed reading Harry Potter alongside my son and that's not exactly realism, is it?

BEAST said...

Why am I not on your list of literary influencers? I introduced you to the many deep works of Guy N Smith, didn't I ;-))

JJ said...

Dearest Beast

You have indeed introduced me to multifarious things over the years, however literary taste hasn't been one of them. A liking for Marmite over Bovril, and cheese and onion over vinegar crisps have been among the many things you have generously bestowed on me.

For those I thank you and for funding my vast and varied book habit over the years.