I love to read and I’m not particularly fussy about what I take to bed with me, in the book department that is. I read every night without fail, whether I’m crawling into my bed at 5am or having an early night, a book is always involved. Fiction, biography, travel, lifestyle or a combination of the lot – I’m not too fussy.
We had a bit more time than Hannah had originally expected for the interview so started off with some general book related chit chat which caused me to remember lots of things I’d forgotten! Visiting the Bayston Hill library and then later on the mobile Lorry Library in Meole Brace; getting lost in Sweet Valley High, Judy Blume or Malory Towers sat in the corner of my Mum’s office – at least I didn’t confess on air to having read Sidney Sheldon’s If Tomorrow Comes while on holiday with my grandfather at the grand old age of not very old!
So what were my top five books of all time? Well, they all had a story…
Harry Potter Series
As Hannah quite rightly pointed out, this is actually seven books rather than one. If pushed, I would have to say the first one was my favourite. While J.K. Rowling’s amazing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was fast becoming one of the best selling children’s books of all time, I was working for the publishing company which was responsible for the distribution of Bloomsbury books. Thinking it would be a fun read for my nephew who was about eight at the time, I picked up a couple of copies and we read them together. I was hooked (I’ve always loved stories centred around school days) and Thomas was too. Thrilled that the books were dragging him away from computer games, I carried on buying him the new Harry Potter books as they came out each year. If we were in the same country, we’d compare notes (and race each other to the end) and if we were apart then we’d compare notes at a later date.
J.K. Rowling claims not to have had an age range in mind when she wrote the books and Hannah and I were discussing how they crossed over into being popular with young adults and adults too. I think it has a lot to do with escapism, with adults trying to get away from everyday life by immersing themselves in a fantasy land of wizards and broomsticks. For me, it was the draw of the school environment taking me back in time (not that I ever played quidditch or walked around in a cape you understand) but I loved every chapter of each one of the books. The publishers even printed copies with more adult appropriate covers so clearly knew that adults were going to be drawn in too, especially as the later stories intrigued with their much darker story lines.
J.K. Rowling encouraged an entire generation to read with her amazing books. Another of my nephews is reading them now, having already seen most of the films. Again, he’s never been particularly into books, their static entertainment losing out to flight simulators and other wonders from the computing world. He’s really enjoying the Harry Potter stories and his mother’s over the moon that he’s reading! He did seem very focused on racing through the pages to get to the end as quickly as possible but remembered the plot lines, characters and events when quizzed so I guess he takes after me with the fast reading genes (and his Mum!).
In Arabian Nights
In Arabian Nights by Tahir Shah was my second choice of book. Regular readers of this blog may have read my review of his book The Caliph’s House which I thoroughly enjoyed while we were staying in Casablanca. In Arabian Nights chronicles Shah’s wider journeys through Morocco, seeking out examples of the stories and fables that Moroccans have traditionally related to their children.
The result is a superb journal of some of his travels around the country, being deposited by Grands Taxis in the middle of nowhere en route south and being led down winding medina streets into dark homes alive with storytelling and folklore. Into the journal he has successfully weaved examples of the Moroccans’ magical tales based down from generation to generation in such a way to help the reader understand more about Moroccan culture than any guidebook can teach.
Shah talks about the way strangers may kiss a child on the street, something that would spark outrage in the man on the Clapham Omnibus but meant we were less shocked when the man sitting next to us on the plane to Agadir kissed a random little girl walking up the aisle. Through stories he explained Moroccan generosity so when our taxi driver insisted on gifting us the CD we’d complimented in the car, we knew not to refuse too vehemently and politely accepted (and paid him a tip that more than compensated!). His observations on daily life also gave us confidence that Moroccans didn’t lie during Ramadan (I still think we may have been overcharged for the taxi ride to the airport!) and helped us to recognise gestures welcoming us into hotels and such like.
I’ve already blogged about my third choice, Wimberry Picking by S. Alexander. I love this book and although I did confess on air that I know the author, I can’t stress enough that this has no effect on my judgement. As I mentioned in my blog, I was expecting to have to say nice things about it and instead I fell head over heels in love with the story. It’s completely absorbing, transporting you to another time and place where you can reminisce about growing up, long hot sunny days and adventures in town and country. Charming, engrossing and heart warming.
One Day by David Nicholls is another book that I’ve mentioned on here before. I’m sure most of you have read this quirky novel by now, or at least seen the film. Hannah and I talked about the merits of seeing the film before reading the book and vice versa, as well as films that have been said to have ruined a good book. I enjoyed One Day [DVD]at the cinema and although Anne Hathaway was completely slated for her accent, it was possible to tune out her mispronunciations and just enjoy the film. Some people concentrate on looking for too much to criticise! If you want to know more about this great novel, click here to read my earlier review.
A Christmas Carol
Finally, I chose A Christmas Carol (Puffin Classics) by Charles Dickens. Recently I’ve been thinking more and more that I should rewind and read some of the classics that have passed me by. I keep thinking about it; doing it is another matter although some have now been downloaded on to my kindle at least. I have managed to read a few of Dickens’ masterpieces over the years including Bleak House and Oliver Twist but A Christmas Carol (Puffin Classics) has always held a special place in my heart.
Charles Dickens performed his first ever public reading of A Christmas Carol in Shrewsbury, where I grew up so it was not surprising that one day the town would become the setting for a film adaptation of A Christmas Carol [DVD] . George C. Scott, Susannah York, Edward Woodward and Frank Finlay were just some of the stars that descended on our beautiful market town when filming took place in the summer of 1984.
Despite the time of year, the town was covered in artificial snow and Christmas cheer. Many people gave up their commercial and residential properties for filming and saw them transformed into typical Victorian London locations. It was a magical time for Shrewsbury and I particularly remember eating dinner with my parents at The Prince Rupert Hotel one evening and being in awe that George C. Scott was propping up the bar.
Dickens fever sustained Shrewsbury for many years. I was only ten when the film was made but at 18 I could be found pulling pints and collecting glasses in the Ebeneezer Pub on the town’s High Street. Those interested in Dickens trivia may also like to know that Ebeneezer Scrooge’s tombstone is still located in the cemetery behind St Chad’s Church!
We’d love to hear about your Top 5 Books of All Time so leave a comment below to let us know your favourites. Happy reading!