As I’ve blogged before, reading is more than just a past-time for me. It’s more a friend, a comfort, and always there when life is chaotic, and confusing. I can switch off whatever worry simply by opening a book and getting lost inside someone else’s life for a while. I’ve been a huge reader from day one, and I think that comes down to my mother supporting that love from an early age. She’d take me to the library, or buy me the Little Golden Books that are sold at supermarkets and I’d be content.
I thought I’d share my life in books today…but it was almost impossible to narrow the list down. It’s like picking a favourite child, I’m guilty of leaving plenty of books out today that have shaped my life, or made me rethink my views on a certain subject, but here are a few…
As I mentioned, the first books I ever really remember reading were the Little Golden Books, mostly fairly tales about princesses and being saved by a Prince… Snow White was a favourite, and of course I had the movie, a big fat VHS tape back then. But it was the book I preferred.
As I got older, I had some amazing teachers who’d let me go to the school library during class time and pick a bunch of books to take home over the weekend, one book for me, was simply not enough for a 48 hour period.
A book that has always stayed with me from childhood was Melissa’s Ghost by Michael Dugan. I think I was around nine when I read this, and have read it numerous times since then, including recently when I found two copies for my boys. Melissa’s family pack up their big city living and head to a rural town to try their luck on an orchard. Melissa is an independent young girl who likes reading an exploring. Not long in to the move she wakes to find a ghost at the end of her bed each night. He knows a lot about their farm, and why they can’t find the water they desperately need to make the orchard a success. She heads to the library to search for records of the farm, and find out who the boy is and what he wants. It’s still a favourite. It reminds me of my childhood, where we’d pick up our bike and head out for the day, only coming home to eat. Kids don’t have that same freedom anymore, and for me, it’s reminder that kids need to do kid stuff… less screens and more adventures.
I must have been older again for The Undercover Secret by Colin Thiele. It was one of the first books I’d read with a huge twist that I didn’t see coming. It was so clever and to this day, I still remember it, twenty plus years later, I think that’s a sign of great writing. I’d love to find a copy of this, but so far haven’t had any luck. I wonder what I’d make of it now. Colin Theile was a South Australian writer, and at the time I lived in SA too. He was most noted for his book Storm Boy, which later become a movie.
When I was around fifteen I read To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it and then I read it again. I adored it. It gave me hope that there were people like Atticus Finch in this world. And it made me angry that there was so much hate and intolerance. Upon re-reading it as a mother, it appeals to me now on such a different level again. It’s amazing how the words don’t change, but you do. This quote from the book really resonated with me recently, and reminds me to be honest with my kids, and as much as I want to protect them, they also need to know how to stand on their own.
“There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ’em all away from you. That’s never possible.” Atticus Finch – To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
When I was about sixteen I went through a scare-myself-silly stage. I read a lot of Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. Carrie was the first Stephen King book I read, and it is fair to say, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that book. The tormented girl who goes crazy, the bullying, the telekinesis. I hadn’t read anything like it at the time, and while I was terrified, I was also in awe. As I’ve gotten older though, I can’t read horror at night, just in case, you know, the windows rattle and you see a shadow by the door… Nope. I can only read horror outside in the blinding sunlight, so I have an escape route 🙂 And while I wouldn’t say Carrie is my favourite, it does remind me of that stage of my life where I read horror for the sheer thrill of it.
In my 20s I read a lot of Bryce Courtney. The stand out is April Fool’s Day. It’s a memoir about his haemophiliac son who contracted AIDS though a blood transfusion. If you don’t know, Bruce Courtenay was a prolific author who lived in Australia. Orginally from South Africa, he wrote The Power of One, and so many other great books. This book though, is an honest account about his son, and he doesn’t hold back. There were times I was angry with Bryce in the book because of the choices he made, but mostly I just respected them as a family and all the trials and tribulations they went through. I’m beginning to see a pattern with the whole sob-fest book-love here. But I think seeing someone’s struggles, whether non-fiction or fiction opens your eyes (and heart) and makes you a more compassionate person.
I was pregnant with my twins when I read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I’d seen his (and blubbered my way through) segment on Oprah. Heavily pregnant, extremely emotional, (well I’m always emotional!) it struck a chord with me. When the book came out, I read it a billion times. Sometimes going back to read just a few pages, and I’d be reminded about what really matters in life. It was inspiring, and as a girl who was about to become a mother, it was full of the kind of advice I really enjoyed. I particularly liked the ‘it’s just a thing’ stories. When Randy babysit his sisters kids they basically wreck his convertible, through no fault of their own, they’re sick, they spilt drinks, general kid stuff…and he was like, shrug, the car is just a thing. This message continues throughout the book, and it’s also about following your childhood dreams, and finding your passion, despite the odds. If you want something you can make it happen. I loved the messages, told to us by Randy after he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His book is a legacy, that I’ll read over and again.
This next one is my all-time favourite book. I read it about five years ago, and I know I’ll never forget it. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, is so well crafted and layered it is a thing of beauty. With each flick of the page there’d be a new layer of the story, which somehow were all tied up with such care. The characters lives all eventually converge, despite them all from being different castes. It’s the type of book that makes you wonder about the lives we lead. If you were in India, how your life would be different. The struggles these characters faced were even more powerful because they do happen, and how can they happen? How is one world so completely unfair? The ending was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, I’ve ever read. HEARTBREAK! I think I bawled for about five days after. A truly remarkable book. If you haven’t read, you really should.
My go-to re-read at the moment is The Fault in Our Stars. I know it’s YA, and I don’t usually read a tonne of YA, but I do read anything by John Green and Matthew Quick. Their ability to write is mind blowing, and I’ll always be a fan of theirs no matter what genre they choose.
I had no idea what TFIOS was about, I only bought it because I kept seeing John Green’s name all over the place.
Well. Cue the ugly crying. Far out! I don’t know how you can’t love it. I know a lot of people say they don’t like the way Augustus and Hazel speak, a little too obscure, and pretentious, but I liked it. There were so many lines in this book that made me stop, and go, I WISH I HAD WRITTEN THAT.
I have to share some of them, and if you haven’t read it, you’ll see what I mean.
“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
“You are so busy being YOU that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.”
“I love you present tense.”
There’s so many parts of TFIOS I could share, but they’re a little lengthy!
The Catcher in the Rye. JD Salinger. I actually only read this for the first time a couple of years ago, and have since read it a couple more times. I just love it. I’m always surprised when people say they don’t like this book. To me, it feels so real, Holden seems real, I just want to reach through the pages and give him a hug. I’m fascinated by JD Salinger too.
I read Catch 22, by Joseph Heller after The Catcher in the Rye. I felt somehow a whole life of reading had been lacking to miss these classics. This book just blows my mind. I found it difficult to read at times, but the round-about humour just killed me. I loved it. And I want to read it again. I think it’s the type of book that you’d learn so much more reading a few times over.
Mid twenties I stumbled on books about exotic countries, or travel. I read nothing for a whole year except books set overseas. It was almost like being there, sometimes. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes is a favourite. The book is so different to the movie. I loved the adventure of it all. Moving to a foreign country, and toiling hard to grow your own food, and writing at nights. Frances has the most beautiful writing style. Her metaphors are gorgeous, and I find it a comfort to re-read this when I’m stuck for a book.
Anther favourite is Chocolate by Joanne Harris. I’ve always loved this book. The way Joanne describes making chocolate, the magic twist to it all that seems believable, not paranormal. Roux, oh Roux, I love you so. It’s guaranteed if Joanne Harris has a new book I’ll buy it. I don’t read the blurb, I just buy it.
I read The Road, Cormac McCarthy a year or two ago. At first I couldn’t read The Road. I was like, WHERE ARE THE COMMAS! But I tried again a few months later, and I couldn’t put it down. I think it was the first apocalyptic novel I’d read, and I’m glad a friend recommended this one. I was right there with them, urging them on to survive. And again, one of the best endings of a book, only because I was like BUT WHAT? You can’t just stop there! I often think of it, and wonder what happened to that little boy.
I could go on, and I’ve missed some other great books too. But for now, these are some of the books that shaped my life, and that I still think about.