Ding ding ding! Welcome to round two. Here we are for the follow up session of my reading years. Are we seating comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
In my previous post about childhood reads, I looked at a few of the books that have left a mark on my bookshelf, brain and heart. And whilst my love of reading might have begun in single figures, it certainly didn’t stop when they increased. So here we are for the second part.
I live in the UK, so when I started secondary school at 11, having a whole library at my disposal, every day, whenever I wanted, that would order books in on request, was enough to blow my mind. It more than made up for the horrific bullying (kind of, I am very much exaggerating here, but just trust me when I say it was brilliant), and I spent as much time as possible browsing the shelves. Some wonderful things from the literary world entered my life in this time.
• Historical Fiction I had read Horrible History and the like when in my childhood, and suddenly having access to more expansive historical novels was a wonder. It was during these years that I discovered people like Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory, and it was wonderful. I remember excitedly handing over a request for the next book in a series at the library, and unwrapping the Wilbur Smith books for my birthday. I haven’t lost my love for them.
• The “Wicca” series I got hooked on these books, and I still own the series for relaxing reading. Cate Tirenan also was good enough to reply to my angst filled emails on occasion, being the miserable teenager I was. These books got me through some tough times. Following the adventures of a young woman who finds out she’s a witch, they are the perfect young adult read, and the perfect book to re-read when you need to.
• Penguin Classics You know those beautiful hardback Penguin Classics that are cloth bound and have a white cover? The school library had a whole shelf full of them. And this is where I found books and names I still love today. “One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich” was the first book I had ever read that truly shook my world view. The kind of book that makes you feel like your brain is exploding from all the thoughts it provokes. That book changed my life. It was swiftly followed by the unabridged “Les Miserables”. I remember the familiar weight of that book in my fabric bag over my shoulder, weighing me down in comfortable knowledge. Sneaking pages in wherever I could. The smell of the ink. True joy.
I had my son at eighteen, so for a while I had to take a break from relaxation reads for a while. I could include Julia Donaldson amongst my “most read authors” for those years, and it would be absolutely true. When I wasn’t reading to or for my son, I was squeezing in some time for myself. In the first few months that was often just spent sleeping or managing a shower that took more than two minutes. As he aged slowly, and after I moved into my own house at nineteen, that time changed, and books came back to my life.
• Ancient Egypt I have been interested in Egyptology since I was a child, and my collection of Egyptology books slowly began to grow in my later teens. I found a beautiful little second hard book shop that I would raid whenever I could, parking the buggy outside and climbing precariously down a winding spiral staircase with a baby and a walking stick (probably not my wisest decision BUT HERE WE ARE), and I would add to my book shelf. I increased my abilities to read hieroglyphics, and to write them. I’ve lost count of my books on the subject since.
• More History Very general, but seeing as my above was very specific, that seems a fair exchange. I read a lot of Tudor history, a lot of military history, a lot of criminal and forensic history. I don’t know why history was such a retreat for me at the time, but it was. I’d always loved history, and it simply grew deeper.
• Classical Works Before I became ill at sixteen, I was studying both A-Level History and A-Level Classics, and I still have my textbooks. The highlighted Plato brings back memories but also makes me happy, a throwback to times in classrooms where I had a beautiful view over the sea, and a teacher who didn’t trust computers so hand wrote all his notes for us. Along with that, English Literature gave me the joy of Middle English, and I still adore Chaucer.
• Finally, Whatever I could find in a charity shop for 50p Maybe that sounds odd and finally and weird. But being on a tight budget, as a single teenage mum, meant that I would raid charity shops and see what I could find. Whatever grabbed my attention, whatever was reduced, whatever was within my capabilities of acquiring.
And now? Now I read… a bit of everything. I read whatever I want. The adventures through childhood and teenage years and early adulthood have lead me to where I am now. I have the confidence to choose my own books, and whilst that might sound absurd, sometimes with so much choice it can seem overwhelming, with anxiety added in. I’m enjoying the books I get sent, I’m enjoying the books I’ve chosen both past and present. Reading over the years has been such a wonderful adventure, and I know it won’t be ending any time soon.