5th March 2015

You Are What You Read – My Nod to World Book Day 2015

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

Oscar Wilde

As today is World Book Day, I couldn’t help pontificating on my love of books and how they’ve affected my life and career.

The first book I remember reading was C S Lewis’ wonderful ‘The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe’. I must have been about eight years old, suffering terribly with gruesome Chicken Pox, and my Mum (herself a veracious reader) gave me a very scruffy, well-thumbed copy.  I was instantly transported from my itchy, spotty, calamine lotion-soaked body into a world of fantasy, where anything is possible. And I was hooked.

I have no idea how many books I’ve read (and re-read) since then, but I do know they have been a fundamental part of my life, often steering me in different directions and they’ve absolutely helped form and change my personality.

From the early years of Mallory Towers (I so wanted to go to boarding school and be friends with ‘Herm-eye-oh-nee’ – which is how I pronounced it in pre-enlightened Harry Potter times!), Secret Seven, Famous Five – yes, there’s a theme there.

I then grew into (and read countless times) anything by Tolkien, Dickens, Carroll and Kipling. It was pure escapism through the teen years of trauma and hopelessness (oh how I suffered! Ha!)

Through the ‘wilderness’ late teen years of Jilly Cooper (yes yes I know!) and Jackie Collins (come on – we all did it!) and then into adulthood, where my staple diet – once I decided I wanted a career – expanded to include ‘self development’ and business books. For instance, anything by the still incredibly relevant Dale Carnegie and pretty much anything that promised to ‘transform the way you think/act/eat/work’ (I’m still a sucker for these!)

There are many books which literally changed my life, at the various times I’ve needed this. These include Dale Carnegie’s prosaically titled: ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’ – perfect for anyone who (guess what?) worries.  And, most recently, the amazing Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters, who’s credited with much of the success of the British Cycling team – what a book!

I also have always loved biographies – what’s not to love? Not only do you get a sneaky glimpse into the lives of people you admire from afar, but you generally learn loads too.

And, of course, no summary of books in my life would be complete without the immeasurably brilliant JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. Yes, I know, people always seem surprised at this but they are simply superb, beautifully written glimpses into yet another fantasy world. If you’ve not tried them, trust, me, give them a go – you’ll love them! And we have to credit JK with bringing literally millions of children back to books so I’ll always have a special place in my heart for her (even if none of her ‘for adult’ books have struck a chord with me as yet.)

And, another life-transforming, book-related, decision: about five years ago I started a book club and, yes, while I know we’re ‘known’ mostly for frequenting private dining rooms around Manchester, while ‘discussing’ our books, this group of women has become as fundamental to me as any of my books. How lucky I am to have them and their support.

I recently had a spate of re-reading books that were force-fed to us at school, including Brave New World and 1984, and found, to my delight that not only do they stand the test of time but they’re absolutely superb books that I enjoyed so much more the second time around. This led me to explore more and more of the classics and I found there’s a reason why they are classics – Jane Eyre, for instance, literally wiped me out for days as it was impossible to put down.

What never ceases to impress and amaze me is how authors continue to create these works of art, these little chunks of escapism, which give us bookworms so much pleasure.

So, on this special day I wanted to tip a hat to just some of the best books/authors I’ve read this last year…

  • The Fair Fight, Anna Freeman
  • The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
  • Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
  • The Notable Brain of Maximillian Ponder, John Ironmonger
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley / 1984, George Orwell (read them back to back – they’ll blow your mind!)

(and I’m sure I’ve missed many other brilliant ones – sorry!)

Enjoy and have a very happy World Book Day!

by Tangerine chair, Sandy Lindsay