Books and reading have played a huge part in shaping my personality and the person I am today, think Matilda minus the dreadful parents and the ability to move objects with just the power of my mind (shame.) I’ve pretty much been steadily moving through one book after another since I was old enough to read so it’s hardly surprising that a fair few stories made an impact. Here are the books that shaped me.
Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson
When I was a little girl this was the first Jacqueline Wilson book I ever read, she went on to become one of my favourite childhood authors so its fair to say that the first book I read would make an impression. Not only that, but this is probably the first book I related to on a personal level. You see, this book is about twins.
Identical in looks but complete opposites in personality, ten year old twins Ruby and Garnet are inseparable, especially since the death of their mother. Loud, bossy, confident Ruby dreams of becoming an actress while clever, quite, sensitive Garnet is a bookworm at heart. As things begin to change and each twin strides to follow their own path, for just how long can the double act last?
I was Garnet, my twin sister Loren was Ruby. We fitted the roles down to a T. Apart from the fact of us not being identical, Jacqueline Wilson could have based this book on my sister and I.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
I remember first reading Anne Frank’s diary while at primary school and learning about the second World War, I was probably around nine. At the time everything about Anne’s story fascinated me, the history behind it, the truth of her words and the fact that this book was a record of a young girls last months on earth.
In the summer of 1942, fleeing the Nazi occupation and persecution of Jews in Germany, Anne Frank and her family went into hiding in an Amsterdam warehouse. Over the next two years Anne recorded her thoughts, feelings and fears inside a diary given to her by her father. Within it’s pages she described in detail the cramped living conditions of her family’s hiding place and her hopes and dreams for the future. In 1944 Anne’s future and her diary entries were cut short when her family was betrayed.
Anne Frank died in 1945 in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was the first true story I ever read and went on to inspire in me a love of biographies and auto-biographies and a genuine interest in the real life stories of others.
Flowers In The Attic by Virginia Andrews
I was a teenager when I discovered Virginia Andrews books. It was while moaning to my mum that I had nothing new to read that she told me about a series of books she had read in her younger days about children being locked in an attic and having to find a way to survive on their own. That was how Flowers In The Attic came to be my first VA discovery.
The Dollanganger children live idyllic lives with loving parents until their father suddenly dies in a tragic accident. Their mother, once disinherited of her own parents riches due to a dark family secret, struggles to keep her family afloat. Swallowing her pride she returns to her childhood home, promising her own children they will only stay long enough to inherit their grandparents fortune. On arrival the four Dollanganger children are spirited away into the vast, chilly attic by their cruel grandmother where they must learn to fend for themselves. As the days turn into weeks and the months into years four flowers in the attic become three and the children come to realise that their once loving mother no longer loves them at all.
I moved through the Virginia Andrews stories at a swift pace and now over 50 of her books are housed on my shelves.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
I came across The Lovely Bones in my first year of university and it has become synonymous with my time as a student. It is a story I stumbled upon by chance which turned into a book that I couldn’t put down. Surely the best kind of reading experience.
Susie Salmon lives in a perfect world, that is of course until she is murdered, at the age of fourteen, on her way home from school in the December of 1973. But that isn’t the end of Susie Salmon. Narrating from heaven Susie tells her story, she watches her family and she watches her killer. And just as her family must move on from their loss, justice must catch her killer.
They say you should never judge a book by it’s cover and I believe that’s true, but I discovered this one from a list of titles given to me by a tutor as part of an assignment. From this list we had to pick a book to review. No information was given alongside the titles, and I had never heard of any of the books on the list. I picked The Lovely Bones simply because I liked the title. So maybe, just sometimes, its ok to judge a book by it’s name.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
One of the strangest, most touching books I have ever read, and on first reading I nearly gave it up as a bad job. When I first picked this up to read I only got a few pages in before I put it back on my bookshelf because I couldn’t quite get my head around the narration. A few weeks later I decided to give it another go, I pressed on through the first couple of chapters and voila! A new favourite book was born!
Death is busy what with collecting souls, keeping a watchful eye on the book thief and finding the time to narrate this story, but then again this is Nazi Germany in the midst of World War 2. Given the circumstances Death is busier than ever and really doesn’t have the time to waste but throughout the course of his work he finds himself continually distracted by a nine-year-old girl.
The girl in question, Liesel Merminger, is also keeping herself busy; while Hitler is burning books, Liesel is stealing them.
And then there is the small matter of her hiding a Jew in her basement…
This book taught me the valuable lesson, if at first you don’t succeed…
I‘m going to be cheeky and sneak all seven books into one under the Harry Potter title. I am ashamed to say I was a little late to the HP party. When the books were first released I refused them on the grounds that I had better things to read, I was happy to leave the fantasy stories to my sister. In the end I caved in my late teens and began my Harry Potter journey.
Do these books really need a synopsis?
If the answer to that question was yes all I have to say is; Greetings! Welcome to Earth. Happy reading.
My fave Potters are The Prisoner of Azkaban, The Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows. Yours?
And so concludes the book tour of the stories that shaped me.
Which reading experiences have shaped you?