I came to reading relatively late having not being able to read or write until I was about seven when my father sat me down with a Rupert book and suddenly something clicked in my head and all the words and letters seemed to magically make sense. From that point on a read voraciously, devouring book after book and losing myself in Narnia, or in the adventures of Enid Blyton, or Nutwood, Rupert’s world, or giggling at the antics of Jennings and Derbyshire, the two boarding school boys whose harmless antics seemed to epitomise the innocence world of sixties Britain. Later I joined the Puffin club and got my ‘Good Readers’ badge having read and answered questions on Stig of the Dump and the less well-known, but marvellous, Borrobil by William Croft Dickinson.
By the time I was in my teens I had progressed to Science Fiction and horror having been awed after reading The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham and all of Sphere’s paperback Hammer tie-ins as well as just about anything else that was vaguely witchy, vampiric or satanic, by which I mean written by Dennis Wheatley. But my favourites in those teenage years was pretty much anything published by the New English Library or NEL whose catalogue was just brimming with youth cults, sex, witchcraft, black magic, drugs and violence. Here, in the pages of NEL’s vast output was everything from Skinheads and Hell Angels, to ‘dolly birds’ and ravers, to covens and Charles Mason cults with the added bonus that a NEL paperback fitted perfectly into a school blazer pocket.
Later at Art School and in my twenties came J.G. Ballard with his amazing books High Rise, Crash and, my favourite, The Atrocity Exhibition, J.K. Huysmans’ truly satanic Là-bas, and the extraordinary À Rebours (Against Nature) , The Story of the Eye, everything by Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Powell, Jean Paul Satre, Susan Hill and on, and on. I read constantly, always. Books, or rather the content of books, are literally the one constant in my messy, chaotic life and I adore them. As I’ve grown older my tastes have widened to include history, politics, philosophy and biographies and most recently, and surprisingly to myself, contemporary poetry, with works like Sunshine by Melissa Lee-Houghton and Witch Hunt by Juliet Escoria now on my shelves.
I am also incredibly eclectic in my tastes and enjoy children’s books like Lauren Child’s very funny and clever Clarice Bean stories and Young Adult novels like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, as well as quirky novels like Hitomi Kanehara’s Auto Fiction or Sara Taylor’s The Shore as much as serious history books or massive biographies. My favourite though and my desert island companion would be Frank Richard’s Magnet stories of Billy Bunter though I am cheating a bit here as there are some 1600 of them. Bunter, the fat owl of the Remove, was one of the first victims of political correctness being removed from public libraries in the seventies on the grounds that the stories were fattest and worse which they may well be to modern readers but they are also very funny and entertaining. I love ’em!
I don’t know how I will present this section or what I’ll put in it. Possibly reviews or comments of my more recent reads if I can get into the habit of writing them, and also possibly snippets or interpretations of certain books as well. We will see.