My friend Kate is a super-reader, and she's very much like an English heroine from a favorite novel come to life. She likes to write; takes long walks along windswept landscapes; travels the world on adventures; and is surrounded by adorable animal characters, like "Uncle Bob" the Jack Russell, and "Chippy" the chipmunk. Add to this her dashing husband, and the fact that she is a teacher beloved by children, and, well, it almost seems as if I'm making her up!
Take a look at her beautiful photographs on her blog, It's the Norm, but first, check out her booklist.
OK, here goes...
This has been quite a challenge! Rob and I discussed this late into the night, pondering how one could/should define the important books in one's life. I'm not sure that the list I have eventually settled on is an accurate representation of the books that I generally read, but after much deliberation I think that these are the books that have somehow changed me, be it in my outlook, my opinions or my lifestyle.
'The Twits' by Roald Dahl (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
I'm starting with a book that has been with me for the majority of my life. I must have read it first when I was about 7, and I am reading it at the moment to my current class of 6,7 and 8 year olds. There's something very special about watching the captivated faces and riotous laughter of small children and being able to recall feeling the exact same way about the exact same book 25 years earlier. Timeless comic genius from the Dahl/Blake partnership.
'I Capture the Castle' by Dodie Smith
I consider myself fortunate to come from a family of keen readers, and this is a book that I consider to be almost part of the family. It was a firm favourite of both my Grandmother and my Mother, and I remember the delight I felt when first reading it and realising that I loved it too; it seemed so right that I would. I was probably a similar age to Cassandra, the charming narrator, when I first read it, but I have read it again as an adult and been charmed anew. This book also spawned that rare thing, a film that lived up to the novel.
'Lady Chatterley's Lover' by DH Lawrence
As a teen I went through rather a Lawrence-phase, something I recall my English A-level teacher rolling his eyes over (rather rudely, I now think!), but this novel remained my favourite. I think it is probably a rather sweet way for a teenager to read about relationships and sex nowadays...
'Neither Here nor There' by Bill Bryson
Perhaps it's wrong that this is one of my choices from my University years... I mean, I studied English Literature and Classical Civilisation for heaven's sake! But this is one of the books which holds the strongest memories for me. I am naturally quite a 'home bird' but this book made me want to explore Europe and helped me to view the world with a certain sense of humour. Laugh out loud funny.
The Complete Short Fiction of Oscar Wilde
I wrote my University dissertation on this collection of Wilde's works. Many are little-known, overshadowed by his humorous plays, but these short stories move me every time I read them. Some are ostensibly for children, but are so multi-layered that they can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. I can never read The Selfish Giant without crying just a little at the ending. (Which baffles the children to whom I am reading! One day I hope they'll read it again and understand).
'How to Be a Domestic Goddess' by Nigella Lawson
I have been interested in food for as long as I can remember, but was a bit of a late-starter when it came to cooking. I spent many years feeding myself by cooking through instinct, and I remember when I first met my husband he was quite shocked that I rarely ever used a recipe. I love that I had that intuitive experience of cookery, but it was Nigella that opened my eyes to the joy of a good recipe, and a good recipe book. The rest, as they say, is history!
'Rough Music' by Patrick Gale
This was the first Gale novel that I ever read, and I have been trying - and failing - ever since to find one that lives up to it. I find it amazing that one man can write something that I find so sublime, and some things that I find so crassly awful. He is often labelled simply as a 'gay author', but this novel is such a beautiful weaving together of human relationships, gay and straight, and all set in a beautifully evoked English coastal setting.
'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' by Barbara Kingsolver
This book changed the way I think about food. I remember this book every time I step into a supermarket or a greengrocer, and I think about where that food has come from and what is in season. I don't follow these ideals slavishly, but I think it's important to be aware of it.
'The Post-Birthday World' by Lionel Shriver
Shriver is one of my favourite novelists, a fairly recent discovery for me. This is one of the most perfectly-crafted novels that I have ever read, and kept me pondering for weeks, months, afterwards on the far-reaching consequences of our actions. Brilliant.
That's nine. And I can't do a tenth. In the running were 'By the Shore' by Galaxy Craze, 'The Red Tent' by Anita Diamant, 'The Way I Found Her' by Rose Tremain, 'The Time Traveller's Wife' by Audrey Niffenegger, 'An Equal Music' by Vikram Seth, 'The Odyssey' by Homer, 'The Nation's Favourite Poems' (a BBC publication). All special to me in one way or another, but I find myself utterly paralysed by the choice. But that's what I love about thinking about this kind of question - there's no 'right' answer, and I'm sure my answers will change as I discover more life-changing books!