The first book I remember reading
One of the earliest books I remember reading as a bedtime story was about a fairy with a flower-petal hat, named Victoria Plum. In trying to find them online, I have just discovered that these books were written by Angela Rippon!
The books which shaped my childhood
My favourite books as a child were classics such as Beatrix Potter’s stories (Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddleduck were my favourites), The Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan and Heidi. I’ve always enjoyed Roald Dahl’s books (and regularly make sure to read them in my classrooms!) – Danny, Champion of the World and The Minpins made a distinct impression on me then and have stayed with me ever since. As I got older, I discovered fantasy books such as The Hobbit, and of course the Harry Potter phenomenon, which arrived just as I, like Harry, was approaching my teenage years.
The books I read as a teenager
I’d always enjoyed reading, but at secondary school I was able to discover a wider range of books, developing as a reader – and a writer. Stand-out favourites for me were Skellig, Wuthering Heights, The Lord of the Flies, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Handmaid’s Tale and Pride and Prejudice. Each era and author introduced me to something new and gave me a desire to explore further.
The first book which made me want to be a writer
As my time at secondary school came to an end, and I was preparing to study English at university, my ambition was to gain more knowledge of classic literature, to prepare me for what was to come. One of the novels I was keen to read, knowing how it shaped a whole popular culture, was Dracula. I hadn’t ever encountered such a book! The concept of shaping an entire novel around letters and diary entries opened my eyes to the freedom that writers have, to shape narratives however they choose – there isn’t a set formula. It was also one of the first Gothic novels I read, starting a life-long appreciation for the genre.
The book which changed my view of the world
This is a tricky question! I feel that all great books, and writers, have the ability to alter a reader’s perspective. The mark of a great book, in my opinion, is coming out at the other side of it feeling like a different person than the one who started.
I suppose one that left me feeling the most bereft, particularly due to the way it ended, was Cold Mountain. I’d have happily continued to walk in the wilderness with Inman, despite his hardships, for years to come. The novel ignited a desire for exploration in me, and walking outdoors, observing nature, has become one of my favourite meditations. Many times I’ve contemplated climbing out of the window, like Inman, and seeing where the road takes me.
The book which will always have a place on my shelves
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a modern classic. Susanna Clarke is a historical fiction writer I look up to immensely – and would love to have even a speck of her talent and renown!
The books I tell everyone else to read
Anything by Daphne du Maurier – particularly for those who have enjoyed the film adaptations, her writing is even more impressive and impactful.
I also wish I could find someone else who has read Under the Dome by Stephen King and would discuss the plot with me. I’ve never devoured a such a book so quickly, and it kept me thinking for a long time afterwards. Despite asking others close to me to read it, no one has yet!
The books I didn’t finish
Unfortunately, I could never get my head around James Joyce’s Ulysses, and I wasn’t immediately hooked into Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (if the first chapter doesn’t sway me, I usually move on. So many books, so little time!).
The book I am reading right now
The works of M.R. James, for good old-fashioned ghostly scares on winter’s nights!
The book I turn to for comfort
Many of Joanne Harris’ fantastic books are very comforting to me. The idea of living in idyllic rural France, sampling delicious cuisine, is always a comforting thought! Joanne also writes wonderful characters, who invite empathy immediately and speak to you like old friends.