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.