Reading. I’ve been hooked on books since the first one I remember aged three, the Disney Alice in Wonderland, which I found in my little suitcase when I was left at my aunt’s house. My mother had gone away to have my baby sister and I spent hours during two long weeks in a very quiet house with high door handles puzzling over the words on the page. Just over a year later, I started school and found the key which broke the code.
When I was seven, my father took me to join the public library which had a dedicated children’s section with both fiction and reference libraries. I chose Enid Blyton’s Blue Fairy Book
, read it and took it back two days later. I was allowed to get the tram, not the bus, there and back, alone; the fare was a halfpenny each way. I was frustrated by only being allowed one ticket, as I always saw other books I wanted to borrow.As no-one suggested what I should read, I devoured all of Blyton’s books then simply worked my way round from Alcott to Wynne-Jones. One day I took my book home, read it, got straight back on the tram to return it only to be told I couldn’t borrow another book on the same day. My solution in the school holidays was to choose two books, read one in the library, then take the other one out. By the time I was eleven, I had read nearly all the fiction in the children’s library. I was also reading my way through all the books at home, my mother’s collection of classics introducing me to the heady romance of Lorna Doone
and the creeping unease of Wuthering Heights.
I also devoured my grandmother’s weekly copies of Tit-Bits,
full of saucy cartoons and blue jokes.
Frustrated, I found an old library ticket of my mother’s and ventured into the vastness of the adult library. As the ticket was out of date, I was given a form for my mother to complete. She did this and, to my great delight, I was given three tickets to a whole new world of books. No-one ever checked on what I was reading. Looking back, some of it was pretty unsuitable, but I learned a lot.. Secondary school meant access to the school library and more discoveries. I found M.R. James’ Ghost Stories of an Antiquary and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I read these in school in daylight as they were much too scary to take home.
Over the years, I’ve read every day, whenever and wherever possible, greatly helped now by technology. With my Kindle and the phone app, I don’t have to lug a book around with me, but I still love a real book. In situations where a book or Kindle can’t be read (ironing. cooking, driving….), I listen to audio books, often chosen for length. Martin Chuzzlewit is an impressive 39 hours.
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that my current listening is the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. It is basically Mills & Boon with some ‘kinky fuckery‘ (quote from book). I felt I should know what all the fuss was about. I’m quite bored with it but will carry on to the end. I almost always finish books, no matter how bad. I’ve also just read Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee – not an amazing book in its own right, but an illuminating addition to her famous To Kill a Mockingbird.
What do you read? Are you an e-book fan or wedded to proper books? What about threatened library closures? Comment or email – I’d like to hear from you.