The first book I remember reading
The first story I became hooked on was one called The Cockyolly Bird by Enid Blyton. I actually listened to it on audio format, read by Joanna Lumley. The story follows a bird, my memory is sketchy but I still remember vividly an image the cassette conjured up of a brightly coloured umbrella with a regal, gold crown on the top!
The books which shaped my childhood
My mom would take us to the local library when I was around twelve where I discovered the Sweet Valley High series by Francine Pascal. Those books were not only a sweet escape from my young teenage growing pains but also like a map for middle school. I adored the twins.
The books I read as a teenager
I read magazines a lot between the ages of thirteen and sixteen – Elle and The Face were my favourites. My mom had a big pile of women’s glossies stored in the bottom of her wardrobe and I’d spend many happy hours sat on the floor pouring over their contents. You can see the influence of magazines in The Mind Surfer, I hope, especially the first-person pieces you get in women’s magazines.
The first book which made me want to be a writer
It was always my young ambition to work in a fashion department on a magazine or newspaper, in particular as a fashion assistant. I read a story about a fashion assistant in Elle magazine as a teenager and fell in love with the tragic glamour of her buried in a suitcase of designer clothes and Stussy jewellery. The fashion assistant was upset she had to send all the clothes back to the fashion houses after a shoot and she spent all her working day in a fashion cupboard full of designer clothes!
The writer who changed my view of the world
Susie Orbach, without doubt! I read her book, Hunger Strike, when I was working in London and struggling with my eating. I was quite poorly with my eating, which I touch on in The Mind Surfer, but Susie Orbach’s book contextualised my struggles and brought my eating and weight back on track when (very expensive) private therapists had failed. It was the first time I experienced first-hand the power of books and how they can help people, and I guess, aged twenty-one, reading this was a turning point, where I decided to write my own books to help others once I was in a better place with my mental health.
The book which will always have a place on my shelves
Probably The Mullet by Barney Hoskyns and Mark Larson, a novelty hardback book my mom bought me when I went to university in London. The mullet was back in fashion and I unashamedly sported one for two whole years.
The book I tell everyone else to read
Ways of Seeing by John Berger. It’s on the reading list of many artistic degree programmes in the first year and opens the doors to viewing art with more discerning eyes. It also demystifies lofty museums and expensive art tags. Also anything by the French writer Colette, my favourite being Claudine and Annie in the Claudine series – I had tears of joy finishing that book.
The books I didn’t finish
I have three bookshelves at home and about 85% of the books on these shelves are still unfinished.
The book I am reading right now
Recent purchases I plan to read are the Picador Book of Contemporary Scottish Fiction because I love Scotland. And Baha’i Basics that introduces the reader to the Baha’i religion – I describe myself as spiritually curious and enjoy learning about different faiths from all over the world.
The book I turn to for comfort
Anything by the Singaporean writer, Catherine Lim. She writes short stories which suit my attention span and they’re all so painfully ironic they never fail to make me feel better about my own life – in the same way I listen to Coldplay and am just really happy I’m not Chris Martin! She’s the master of irony and her love stories especially got me through many lonely nights when I was single.