Thursday, February 11, 2010

My favourite books

Okay, it's been a while since I said I would write about my favourite books.  I really ought to get on with it, it would be a pleasant diversion from the stresses of selling a home!

As a child I was obsessed with Enid Blyton, especially the Faraway Folk series and The Naughiest Girl in School collection.  In fact, I wanted to go to Boarding School solely based on those stories.  Sadly, my parents never came around to my point of view and regular public school was my lot in life.  No late-night adventures ever happened there!  As I grew a little older, Enid Blyton gave way to Trixie Belden mysteries.  But I've never given up my love for darling Enid.  Oh, and Milly Molly Mandy.   I was so happy to have a daughter that I could smother her in those stories from my childhood.  I had kept most of those books throughout my teenage and young adult years very carefully, and when I left home they were stored away until I was able to collect them.  When that time came it turned out mice and silverfish and the like got to them first.  So I buy my favourite childhood books where I can for my daughter.

As a teen I read To Kill a Mockingbird.  I even tried to convince The Groom to name our daughter Harper or Scout.  He wouldn't be in it.  This is the novel that woke me up to the injustices in life and the world.  Until that novel I was relatively naive and insulated from the world.  I am thankful to my parents for my sheltered upbringing, but that novel was the beginning of who I am today I believe.  

I have always loved Shakespeare, for me, he is one big mystery.  I don't always understand him but I just, I don't know, get him.  I tend to favour the comedies, but Macbeth is my favourite.  I like the hilarity of Midsummer Night's Dream, but we studied it to death in one English Literature subject at Uni and now I'm a bit over it.  Too much dissection can ruin it for me I think.  I treasure my collection of his works in paper back form.

As a teenager I was given my uncle's old copies of Animal Farm and Brave New World.  They were his books from school, so those Penguin editions are quite old and brittle so I don't read them anymore.  Funnily enough, I never read them in the way that they are intended to convey a particular message.  I thought Animal Farm was funny and Brave New World a bit 'out there'.  I am glad that I read those at the age I did.  Now if students read them for the first time it's usually to dissect them within the 'critical literacy' framework, looking for particular discourses and honestly, to pick them to pieces.  As someone with a degree in Education majoring in English, I think the syllabus has taken away the sheer enjoyment of reading for pleasure.  Now to get off my soapbox.

I discovered Jane Austen late in my teen years but it's only been in my 30's that I've come to love her more than most other authors.  I wonder at times if I was simply born in the wrong century.  I love all (nice) things Georgian and I like the rules surrounding society.  Sometimes I think life would be simpler if we all knew what was expected of us.  I love the pomp and ceremony of the era and the clothing.  Knowing my luck I would have been born into the working classes so had I have lived then I probably would not have enjoyed it as much.  My favourite novel is Sense and Sensibility, although I love the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth.  

Along with Austen, I also like the Bronte sisters, with my favourite novel being Emily's Wuthering Heights.  But I also like Charlotte's Jane Eyre.  They are both very different but written very well.   

As you can see I tend to favour the 'classics'.  I don't know if this falls into that category, but I am fascinated by Seamus Heaney's bi-lingual version of Beowulf.  I did a semester of Old English at uni purely because of this poem.  It was a pre-requisite for Middle English, which looked at Beowulf, but I didn't end up taking that second subject after all.  I read the poem like a novel, breathlessly and quick.  I got up a speech rhythm not unlike a gallop in parts.  I felt exhausted at the end of the poem, like I had gone along with Beowulf on his journey.  I feel that J.K. Rowling borrowed some of the tale for some of her scenes in The Goblet of Fire, the whole gilli-weed bit was too similar to a scene in the poem.  But good on her if she did.  

You may have noticed that my childhood was shaped by child focussed novels.  This has yet to leave me.  I am a massive fan of the Harry Potter books.  Massive.  So much so that I can't bear to watch the movies (but I do) because I tear them to shreds over how much they have differed from the novels.  The Groom finds it embarrassing to go with me to the movies because I'm all "that's NOT what happened in the book".  I have also been known to elbow small children out of the way to get my hands on the first book on sale day.  Well, if I've been standing at the front of the line two hours before the store opens then I ruddy well ought to get the first book!  And I would find myself into the wee hours of the morning pouring over Mugglenet.  I'm such a sad, sad human being.

Above all, my favourite reading has to be biographical books on female English monarchs.  I love Katherine of Aragon especially.  I love anything written by Antonia Fraser, too.  I'm not overly interested in any monarch after Queen Victoria, but I so love strong women who have forged a role in life for themselves despite the times they lived in.  

There are so many more books I love to read that I'm afraid I shall be here all day listing them all.  Patrick White, Tolkien, Upton Sinclair, Thomas Hardy, Kate Chopin, Virginia Woolf are some of my favourite authors.  

There is one book that I cannot allow to escape unmentioned, and that is Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth.  It was read to us by my Grade Three teacher every day after lunch recess.  I LOVED IT!  I tracked it down after having my children so they could share in it when they were older.  They are yet to read it but I am sure they will love it as much as I do.  I think that my love of the book has more to do with that teacher being my favourite teacher than anything else, though.

At the moment I am reading The Constant Princess by Phillipa Gregory.  It's the book I am reading whilst waiting at school to pick up the children.   I loved The Other Boleyn Girl but hated the movie.  I do tend to have more than one book on the go but the other books I'm reading at the moment are craft books because I'm getting a start on Christmas presents early this year.

I am thankful that my parents were generous with books.  They always bought us Little Golden Books everytime they did their groceries.  I've always been surrounded by books and I really doubt I could live a life without them.  And neither can my children.  The Groom thinks that with the pile of books surrounding my side of the bed he will one day wake up to find me smothered to death under a mountain of fallen books.  Other than drowning in a vat of chocolate, I think that would be a good way to go!


  1. I too have a great passion for books. Some of your favourites are mine as well. I love reading and my hubby says the same thing about the mountain of books next to my bed. Really enjoyed reading your blog.

  2. Wow, we are peas in a pod! So many of your favourites are mine too! I've already read some Enid Blyton books to the kids, but my absolute favourite books are those about English monarchs too! I have a fascination for ANYTHING set in medieval and/or Tudor England. I'm pretty sure I lived back then....

  3. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  4. Thank you to you all for your comments. I couldn't imagine being a person who doesn't like to read. For me, it's as necessary as breathing.

    My main aim in this blog is to explore the journey of ME. And I think that who I am is shaped what I read as much as what I experience 'in real life'.

    I went out to our next house today and measured a wall in anticipation of hubby building a bookshelf as tall and as wide as the wall! I think I shall need it, and probably end up building one on the opposite wall too!

    Yamin, thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'm only new to this and don't really publicise my blog so it's nice to be validated in what I'm doing.


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