Not being sporty, and that includes any form of dancing ability, my single joy as a child was to read. Back tracking slightly, I will admit to riding a bike, but that doesn’t really count if all it was used for was going to the shop to buy sweets, or pinching your brother’s chopper to race up the road for a few minutes.
Parking the bike, and returning to the books then. My first memories are around the magical moments of entering my local WH Smith in Leighton Buzzard, where I spent an age scanning the children’s book shelves, before finally purchasing another volume in The Malory Towers, and St Claire’s series by Enid Blyton.
Ask me now what they were all about, and I can only tell you boarding school, girls and teachers. I’ve never been one to remember great detail about the books I’ve read, nor had the ability to quote sections, or raise a hand to smugly say, “Oh, that’s Shakespeare’s Caesar, ACT 1 Scene 3 when he chose to wear a toga with green edging as opposed the royal red.”
But that doesn’t matter to me. I only know the pleasure I derived from the pages I turned, and subsequent sadness when curling a corner, to mark my place when I had to put it down. I became absorbed in the lives I read about, often wishing to be in boarding school with the characters, even when Darrell Rivers (the protagonist at Malory Towers) displayed her anger in a scene that caused her to “shake Gwendoline roughly.” Can you imagine this being written today? It would probably amount to beating the poop out of somebody!
I followed these up with a few Nancy Drew stories, and as I moved into being a teenager had a good shot at Mills & Boon. I think the latter was mostly down to once again harbouring a wish to be a character in the many exotic scenes – as in I rather fancied being ravaged on a wind-swept beach, as my hair flew around my face, and sand never crept close to where it really shouldn’t be.
Keeping with the historical feel, I stayed with this genre, moving away from M&B, but can’t remember the authors, even though I loved the books.
At some point I felt I had tired of being ravaged, and moved to Wilbur Smith. Now these really got under my flesh. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next instalment of The Courtney’s and The Ballantyne’s. I thoroughly enjoyed following their adventures throughout Africa, never imagining for one moment that one day I would move to South Africa where WS lives.
Jeffrey Archer also became a great read for me. I just loved the way his books read: easy flow, based on historical events, family dynasties coping within great wealth or poverty. I particularly enjoyed First Among Equals, and Prisoner of Birth, but can read them all, over and over again.
Then I changed a bit and started with the likes of Nick Hornby and Peter Burke. And then I changed again, choosing not to stay with a single author, taking tips instead from fellow readers. Mostly the books were good, while occasionally one would head towards the wall.
I’m not sure what prompted my next change, but I moved onto non-fiction for a few years, favouring biographies, auto and other. Michael Caine’s is a riot, as is Michael McIntyre’s. Stings auto-biography left me choosing beautifully written to describe, as well as it being a great story of his life. Katherine Hepburn’s bio was delightful to read, and David Niven’s too. Political bio’s were the death of me. I often found myself bogged down in politics that I couldn’t fathom no matter how many times I read, and re-read, and re-read again the text. That said, I finished Kennedy’s and both Clintons. All three will work well as door stoppers, so don’t be put off.
My current reading is back to tips from fellow readers. Oh no, how could I forget Ben Elton. The man is a genius. He started with comedy and has now moved onto WW1 fiction, which is superb, and was inspired by his Grandfather. Time and Time Again, while WW1 based, throws in a fraction of time-travel that is quickly forgotten. The First Casualty too, wonderful read.
And back to current we go. My most favourite book at the moment has got to be The Girl on The Train, by Paula Hawkins. This was superb, and a book I described as reading in one sitting, only stopping for refreshments and ablutions.
The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon has kept me engrossed for the first 2 in the series of 9. They are LARGE books, and once again have a huge historical theme – I’m starting to see a pattern here with my reading!
Needing to take a break from period fiction, before returning to Outlander, my kindle is settled on The Lady in The Van, a novella by Alan Bennett, which is proving to be a great read, and has inspired a recently released movie with the great Dame Maggie Smith.
In general then I would say I am not a snobby reader, in that I will read books on the top seller lists, as well as tips and plugs in the media. You might have noticed there are no classics on my reading list, and or influences. And this is true. I struggle with them, simple as that.
One rule I do have though is do my best at avoiding books that are sprouted as “if you don’t read this you are an idiot.” You know the type, pages of elaborate language with tinges of remorse that when turned into movies will at best allow a good couple of hours of sleep when watched, movie house or home.
So there you have it. What got me started, and where I am today. A simple list of my reading pleasures that has provided me with a good few hours of reminiscing.