How can you be transported into the past or the future without a time machine? How can you live someone else’s life without ever having met them? How can you travel all over the world without using a single mode of transport? How can you undertake an amazing adventure without ever leaving the seat that you are sitting in? How do you let your imagination roam free while your body is stationary? The answer to all of those questions is pretty simple. Read a book.
“People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.”-Logan Pearsall Smith.
This is quite true. I love to read. Just call me Matilda. In fact I think that Roald Dahl must have based this famous character on me, even if he didn’t know it at the time. I’m a book worm and proud. Growing up I realized that being a self confessed book geek wasn’t the coolest of things among my peers. But why not? I never understood how the majority of my friends thought reading was boring. I mean why read a book when you could play outside or watch cartoons right? My love for books did not diminish over the years and to this day I am still horrified when people tell me they have never read a book from start to finish. How is this possible? Reading a book is neither boring nor a waste of time. Reading a book is magical. And it’s cool. I’m about to tell you why.
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” -Charles W. Eliot.
My love of books started as a child at a very early age. My mum was reading to me long before I knew how to read myself. So I suppose I have to accredit my enthusiasm for reading, and all the things that this has lead to, to my mum. Her helping me to learn my words and with school reading work are vivid memories, but the memories most ready to spring to mind are those of bedtime stories. I used to hate going to bed as a child, not because I was afraid of the dark or anything like that. Mainly it was just to be a pain in my parents’ arse. I would kick up the most god almighty fuss, looking back I think my mum was being a bit crafty as she knew I’d always get in bed for a story. Like yesterday I remember her reading stories such as ‘The little grey men‘, ‘Wind in The Willows‘ and ‘The BFG.’ Other favourites were ‘The Railway Children‘ and ‘The Secret Garden.’ I never wanted anyone else to read the bedtime stories as no-one else could do it like my mum and no-one else would read me that extra chapter even when my eyes were closing.
Even now, just like when I was a child, you’re likely to find me carrying a book around. I was always taught to respect books, to never write in them, rip them or damage them. This is probably why books have always held a life like quality to me. They are more than just objects. Inside the covers are places and people and you have to look after them. I can’t even fold down the corner of a page to mark my place. Buy a bookmark!
As a young child I loved fairy-tales. ‘Cinderella’ being my favourite. Mum would read the words while I looked at the illustrations. When I stared to read for myself I loved Roald Dahl. ‘Matilda‘, ‘The Twits‘, ‘James and the Giant Peach‘ and ‘The Witches‘ were all such fabulous stories and prove why, in my opinion, Dahl is one of the best children’s writers.
Jacqueline Wilson was another my favourite childhood authors. Books such as ‘Tracy Beaker‘ and ‘The Illustrated Mum‘ captured my imagination. But the book of my childhood has to be Wilson’s ‘Double Act.‘ For those that don’t know the book is about the relationship between identical twins Ruby and Garnet and their various shenanigans. What struck me about this book was how closely the personalities of each twin resembled me and my own twin sister. I was like Garnet, the shy, quiet, tidy one. The one who followed and constantly struggled to get a word in edgeways. Loren (my twin) was like Ruby. Gobby, loud and messy. The leader who always had something to say. Perhaps the reason I loved the story so much was because I could easily identify with the situation and put myself in Garnet’s shoes. To me and my sister the story simply made sense. Unless your a twin no-one can understand what it is like, but Ruby and Garnet did. I still have the book on my bookshelf. I can’t quite bring myself to pack it away.
‘The Chronicles of Narnia‘ were another set of books I adored. In particular ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.‘ When reading it I felt utter amazement that Lucy was able to find a whole different world just by opening a wardrobe. But to be honest it’s not all that different from being able to find a whole different world from opening a book.
One of the things I really enjoyed and can picture quite accurately was our trips to the library. Mum would take us to choose a new book but I could be in there for hours. Mostly because I could never decide which book I wanted and frankly I wanted them all. Never quite the book lover that I was my sister would want to be in and out in a matter of minutes while I would happily settle myself down for the long haul. Another thing I can remember about the library trips was the smell. The smell of pages and plastic covers.
My love for reading set me up well in school. Throughout my school career, in most subjects I would say I was pretty average. Never amazingly clever enough to be a genius but never bad enough to be stupid. What I’m trying to say is I wasn’t a natural brainbox. I had to work hard to achieve good marks. However the one subject where I excelled was English. My favourite subject by far. English was the one subject where I felt confident, I knew I was good. I could go into an English lesson and relax. What I have always loved about it is that there is no right or wrong answer. English is about being creative and expressing yourself. I fully believe that my aptitude for the subject came, in part, from my love of reading.
It was at school that I discovered a different genre to read. ‘The diary of Anne Frank‘ combined my love of reading and my interest in history, another subject I enjoyed. I can say that with this book started my fascination with biographies. Of accounts of things that actually happened to real people. I was pulled into Anne’s world and the story of the Jews suffering. I was there. I have had a penchant for biographies ever since.
While I am not as well read in the classics as I would like to be I have to mention Alcotts ‘Little Women‘, Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice‘, Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights‘, Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland‘ and Capote’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s‘ These are all classic tales for a reason. My all time favourite classic has to be Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol.’ On my bookcase I have a copy of this book with an inscription from 1894. The book is 116 years old and one of my most treasured possessions. In my opinion this is one of the best stories ever told and a testament to Dickens that almost 170 years later the story of Ebenezer Scrooge is still being told.
One of the biggest book phenomena’s of my time has been J.K.Rowing’s Harry Potter series. As a book lover I am ashamed to admit to being late to jumping aboard the Hogwarts Express. It wasn’t until I was about 19/20 that I read the books and saw the light and now they are my trusty go to when I need something to read. Such is Rowling’s magic (no pun intended!) that you can read the books again and again, it makes no difference that you know what happens, the books have a timeless quality.
So to the point of this post, why is reading special? It’s special because it can make you laugh and it can make you cry. It can make you question and it can make you accept. It can take you to places you never dreamed you’d go and put you in situations you never anticipated. Holding a book is like holding a little world in your hands. It is up to you to explore it. Reading is the prefect form of escapism, it can take you wherever you want to go. While being enjoyable its educational. Unbeknownst to you you are soaking up every word and learning new things all the time.
I absolutely detest the new technologies surrounding books such as E-Readers and the like. What is the point to them? If you want to read buy a book. Simple. Downloading a book onto an E-Reader, laptop or iPhone just isn’t the same as holding a book in your hands and turning the pages. I’m not at all worried that these ‘advances’ might one day replace books. It will never happen.
In this post I have already mentioned some of my all time favourite books but there are so many more that I could talk about. But unless I want this post to turn into a book I better not. Another reason why reading is so important is the potential it holds for you to be constantly discovering something new. For the rest of my life, every new book I read will be a new discovery, and these discovery’s often happen when you least expect it.
One such discovery happened to me at university. We were given a list of titles and set the task of writing a book review. This list contained no description of the books, no pictures, just the titles and one in-particular stood out to me. I liked how it sounded. ‘The Lovely Bones.’
Once I had started reading I just couldn’t stop which made writing the review a breeze. I thoroughly enjoyed the activity and it must have shown because it was the first 1st I scored. The review went something like this:
‘”Inside the snow globe on my father’s desk, there was a penguin wearing a red-and-white striped scarf. The penguin was alone in there and I worried for him. When I told my father this he said, “Don’t worry, Susie; he has a nice life. He’s trapped in a perfect world.” ’
Susie Salmon was ‘trapped in a perfect world’; until of course she was murdered by a neighbour on her way home from school in December 1973. Narrating from heaven fourteen year old Susie tells the reader “we had been given in our heavens our simplest dreams.” Her heaven looks like a high school, somewhere she never got the chance to go.
From her place in heaven Susie watches over her family and friends as they each retreat into themselves and try to come to terms with the devastating news of her murder and the fact that she is never coming home. She also keeps a close eye on the murder investigation and even tries to help Detective Len Fenerman catch her killer.
The heart of The Lovely Bones lies in the healing of her family. After her death Susie observes her family slowly falling apart. Her father goes on a one man mission to catch her killer, her mother has an affair with the police detective and leaves her family seeking a simpler life, her brother Buckley reverts into himself and perhaps most upsetting for Susie is watching her sister Lindsey as Lindsey starts to realise that by losing Susie she is slowly losing herself. The saviour of her family comes in the unlikely form of her grandmother, a drunk, who despite her failures steps up to the mark and acts as a glue, binding the family together at the point when they are most likely to fall apart.
The novel is rather bittersweet as Susie watches happily as her family grow back together knowing she is no longer a part of that world. Susie’s murder and the fact that she is in heaven acts as a backdrop to the story, the centrepiece is of a tragedy leading a family full circle back together again.
Sebold takes complicated issues such as death, life after death, murder, grief, and love and manages to put them so simply, perhaps because they are being told through the eyes of a child. “The dead truly do talk to us. In the air between the living, spirits bob and weave and laugh with us. They are the oxygen we breathe.”
What is truly clever about this story is that Alice Sebold gets the readers to question their own beliefs. Do you believe in life after death? What would your heaven look like? Who would you spy on given the chance? And, are we ever really alone?
The Lovely Bones is brilliantly written, both moving and compelling. The fact that it is written through the eyes of a young girl in heaven makes it more believable not less. Given what the narrator of the story has been through at such a young age readers might expect the tone of the book to be angry, bitter even and somewhat sad. However the story is told in a light-hearted often-humorous way with Susie being almost excepting of her fate “I wasn’t killed by Mr Botte, by the way. Don’t think everyone your going to meet in here is suspect.”
It is hard to be critical of a book that pulls so many heartstrings, however while the twist towards the end of the story is a clever idea I feel that the book would have worked just as well without it.
Readers of The Lovely Bones can expect to laugh and cry in equal measure as they move through a story of healing and hope. The story has the power to give the comforting feeling that no one is ever quite alone “The dead are never exactly seen by the living but many people seem acutely aware of something changed around them. They speak of a chill in the air. I watched my family and knew they knew.”
Another book that I am thankful to have discovered is ‘The Book Thief.‘ Such a fantastic story narrated by Death himself, but I wouldn’t let that put you off. What with World War 2 Death is busier than ever and really doesn’t have the time to waste but he finds himself continually distracted by a nine-year-old girl. The girl in question, Liesel Merminger, is also keeping herself busy with starting a new life with her foster family, making friends with a boy with lemon coloured hair, learning to read and embarking on a career as a book thief. While Hitler is burning books, Liesel is stealing them. And there is also the small matter of her hiding a Jew in her basement. As witty as it is haunting, this is a tale of love, loss and of finding friends in the most unlikely of places. Cleverly told through Death’s perspective it illustrates the horrors of war, the innocence of children and the beauty of friendships. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. As I came to the end I wished I could keep reading.
“You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.” -Paul Sweeney
I’m not going to get into the debate about films vs. books as this post is way too long already. All I will say is: Don’t be lazy, read the book.
Sometimes I think I love books more than I love people. And what’s wrong with that? Books ARE cool. I call upon all the bookworms the world over to join me in declaring this fact. Say it loud and say it proud! Love what you love without hesitation bookworms!
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” -Groucho Marx
P.S. This post is totes longer than my Cheryl one. Does this mean I love books more than Cheryl?