There’s not much that makes me happier than a really good book. I started reading when I was three and never stopped.
We didn’t have the money for new books – we got most of our stock from family, car boot sales and charity shops – so my Mum, who looked after four kids while my Dad was away at work – would troop across town with four under fives and we would take full advantage of everything the libraries in our local vicinity had the offer. Some of my best memories were forged among the bookshelves. (Thank you Mum.)
I can remember finishing all the Puddle Lane books – published by Penguin in the late 80’s – and hungering for something else, something darker. I needed to stand on tip toes to reach for My Babysitter’s A Vampire which it was on the hard-to-reach third shelf up.
The older I got, the more valuable libraries and reading became for me. I was one of those kids who would read while crossing a busy road. One summer school night, my sister and I were in bed and it wasn’t yet dark, so I pulled back the blind so I could read for a bit longer. My sister screamed for our mum and told on me. I was fucking furious. I think I even cried myself to sleep.
One year, some kids burned down our local library, and it broke my heart. It felt like the end of the world. When the library was re-built, there was a huge cardboard advertisement near the front desk featuring my then Eco-warrior mother clutching my wide eyed baby brother. Proud doesn’t even come close.
The same library granted me my teenage card a year early, opening up the rest of the universe to me. One of the first books I took out was The Satanic Bible. It was all gobbledygook to me – and still is – but I felt so fucking cool and made sure everyone could see just what I was carrying when I strode out of there.
I have a vivid memory of my first World Book Day in 1995. We received £1 vouchers at school, and I can remember clutching it like Charlie Bucket clutched his Golden Ticket.
I thought I’d been given the key to the bookstore, which at the time was an independent shop of epic proportions (for an eight year old) in the small market town of Guisbrough in England.
Sadly, the £1 books that had been released especially for World Book Day were so terrible that even at eight years old I knew I’d been had. I left the store with a book I didn’t really want, thinking of all the other things I could have bought with £1 – 100 penny sweets, 10 Chomp bars or at least ten books from a carboot sale.
Disappointment aside, here are some books which have played big roles during my 30 years on earth.