As a child, I loved books. My parents could leave me on the sofa for most of a day and I’d only peep for food, water and the odd loo break, engrossed as I was in the wonderful world of fiction; remember Alex Rider, CHERUB (my god, CHERUB was good), Swallows and Amazons? If it was on a children’s bookshelf, I’d probably read it.
During my young teens, I lost interest. Coming from a bookwormish family, my lack of reading drove my parents to distraction. I started reading chapter by chapter, doing the minimum to placate my mother and sticking to the books I had to read for school – despite the fact that English was my favourite subject. I fell in love with Jane Austen, but found Shakespeare and Bronte trying. I felt that, having worked with words all day, adult literature was too much like school, while children’s books bored me to tears.
My breakthrough came when I realised that I was being put off by the physical challenge of turning pages with my CP-hands. Losing one’s place countless times is frustrating and so I subconsciously avoided it. The solution? A kindle for my 17th birthday. And with the page-turning ease it afforded me, back came my love of books.
Recently, I’ve read some fantastic stuff; The Kite Runner and Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini have stood out for their moving portrayal of life in Afghanistan. They are the essence of un-put-downable fiction. Other highlights have been the gorgeous classic that is Gone with the Wind – read for a second time and enjoyed much more than when I was 14. Now I understand why Scarlett loves Rhett, and the problems of ‘men like Ashley’. And I have discovered the joy of 20th century American literature, falling in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck. vowing to read their entire works. I was left breathless by The Great Gatsby and – hey, I’ll go out on a limb and admit it – I really enjoyed the film too.
Reading takes you away, whether you’re bored or miserable or lonely, and lets you live a thousand lives in the space of your short one. So much skill can be found in a stunning book – excellent craftwork makes a story even more engulfing, whether its Steinbeck’s descriptions or Mitchell’s narrative. Sometimes, these stories stay with you forever – I still remember many of those childhood reads. That’s a sign of something fantastic, and everyone should digest as many of these as possible. What are your favourite books, and what should I read next?