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The Books That Made Me

Thursday, April 18, 2019

I saw someone else make a post like this a few weeks ago but I can't remember who, so if it was you thank you very much! I thought I would share some of the books that have meant a lot to me and have stayed with me throughout my life.

I was a child who read a lot. I loved my local library and am actually working on a zine about libraries that I've loved. We used to go in the caravan for two weeks every summer and I would take thirteen books with me for that time! As a teenager I was really into music so didn't read as much, but there's still a few books that meant a lot to me then. At university I read SO much fiction - I laid in bed a lot reading and it was when eBay had just started so I used to buy book lots off there and take my chances on stuff. I also used to swap books with my housemate Katie. When I was in my twenties I read all kinds of things and then discovered Young Adult literature through a friend. I did my MA and wrote a whole YA novel for it, after a couple of false starts with a crime novel. I now read probably half YA and half other stuff. I have thirty years of reading history to look back on!

Okay here we go, X books that have stayed with me:


When I was quite small I really loved the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. I liked all of them but my favourite was Ramona Forever. A few years ago I rebought all these books on eBay and thoroughly enjoyed rereading them. Ramona is a fun little girl whose logic is perfect but who sometimes gets into trouble. She's irrepressible and I love her. 


I also loved Harriet the Spy when I was little. I can vividly remember borrowing a copy with a blue cover from the library. I reread this while I was doing my MA, it was still lovely. 


I read a lot of Enid Blyton when I was little, like every other 80s/90s kid. I liked the Five Find Outers and the Secret Seven a lot, but I really loved the Famous Five. I realise that the books are really outdated for a modern audience and I'm glad that attitudes have moved on, but I still do have a soft spot for them. My favourite was Five On A Hike Together, where the Five get split up quite early on in the book. Julian and George have to take Timmy to the vet, so Anne and Dick carry on to try to get to where they were heading. They end up overhearing a message about loot hidden in the middle of a lake, and the Five set off to find it themselves. 

I don't remember where I got The Disinherited by Louise Lawrence, but I do still have my childhood copy. It was maybe the first arguably YA book I read that was set in the UK. I was busy reading Point Romance and Sweet Valley at the time, where everyone is American and thin and perfect, so to read something about disaffected kids in the UK was groundbreaking for me. 


As a teen I borrowed books off my mum. I read a lot of Maeve Binchy and Marian Keyes. I think those books can show how to weave narrative really well, so I'm not sad that I read them. I loved Circle of Friends a lot, I even like the film with Minnie Driver even though it's a bit rubbish.


When I was in sixth form my French teacher (who was actually French) encouraged me to read Chocolat. This was in 2000/2001 and Joanne Harris wasn't very known at the time. I gobbled up her first few books and made my parents read and enjoy them too. My favourite is Five Quarters of the Orange, set in Nazi occupied France on the banks of the Loire. The Loire valley is one of my favourite parts of France. I want sunshine and a good book! I really recommend this one.


I read My Soul to Keep when I was at university and loved it. It's really creepy and atmospheric. I've never reread it and I'm kind of afraid to! But I really should read something else by Tananarive Due


I read The Color Purple at uni, too. I can remember so clearly where I was, actually. I was away for the weekend in Whitby in a tiny cabin with my partner and just read this the whole way through one evening. I really like epistolary novels, do you have any favourites? 


Notes From An Exhibition is arguably my favourite novel of all time. It's about an artist, an American woman who lives in Cornwall. She has a husband and four children. There's an exhibition of her paintings after her death and we see how each painting came into existence. It's such an amazing book. My friend Amy made me read it years ago and I've bought it for a few friends too. She's not much of a reader so you know it has to be good!


I really liked three of Carol Goodman's books and I read them all at a similar time in my mid 20s. This one is my favourite, but I also really like The Drowning Tree and The Lake of Dead Languages. They're all kind of sophisticated mysteries, with family dramas at their heart. I love them. I really need to reread them all. 


Also in my mid 20s I got introduced to YA literature by my friend Angie, who I first met on Xanga. Angie is a tireless promoter of diverse authors and stories. She introduced me to this series and I've read all of them. While it now seems really dated, I do have a soft spot for it in my heart. It also opened up a whole world of YA for me, specifically LGBTQ+ literature for children and teens, something I'm really passionate about. I don't think I would be the kind of writer I am if it wasn't for this book and others like it.


I read Station Eleven a few years ago and I love it. It's a dystopian novel set after a flu epidemic has wiped out most of the world's population. It shows how some people die and then what survivors do afterwards and how they make lives for themselves. Weird and all too real, I have made so many people read it. 


A couple of years ago someone in my book club chose The Ballroom. It's a lady called Caroline and she always chooses really good books, she and I must have similar tastes. It's about a woman in a mental hospital in Ilkley and a man she meets there. 


I love Dumplin', a book about a fat teenager and her beauty pageant mom. I loved Willowdean so much. I think the film was pretty good!


I'm sure it's no surprise that Simon vs is one of my favourite books. I love Simon, I think he is so cute and even when he's making stupid decisions you understand why he's making them. I love Simon's family and a lot of the stuff about coming out in this book. 


I genuinely think everyone, whatever race, age, or gender, should read The Hate U Give. It's a powerful story that fits in perfectly in the world of 2019, but it's also just really, really good. I can't wait to see what Angie is working on at the moment, she's very talented. 


Finally, I really loved The Woman In Black when I read it a few years ago. I don't like horror, but I can tolerate it better on paper than on film. I found this so chilling. The bit in the nursery with the chair is the bit that sticks out in my mind. It's such a good book and a great example of horror in books. 

2 comments

  1. I'm so happy you made this post! Not only was it really interesting, but I have read and enjoyed The Drowning Tree and The Lake of Dead Languages and did not realised there was another good Carol Goodman book! I will pick it up!

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    Replies
    1. Ah thank you! She has more books but I feel like these three kind of fit together more than the others. The Seduction of Water is actually my favourite one

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