1. The Sneetches – Dr Suess
As a young child, I was enraptured by the lilting musical language and absurd fantastical pictures that made up every Dr Suess story but my particular favourite was The Sneetches. I’m sure most of you have heard of Dr Suess, and probably read his stories yourself, and those that know this story may well be thinking ‘ah yes – The Sneetches – a powerful allegory on the pointlessness of racism’ hopefully you might also be thinking – ‘what an amazingly enlightened child to have loved this story so much’ but I would have to confess – I was only about 4 or 5 when I first read this story – really I liked it for the big tube they all kept sliding through!
However some of its message must have stuck with me because when I had to start wearing glasses at the age of 7 I didn’t accept that being different made me different, and I was happy to be me with or without a star on my tummy.
2. The ‘Jinny’ books
The next book that changed my life I read when I was 8, I was already a keen reader but this book – or rather books made me obsessive. To a pony mad girl these books were heaven sent.
At this time in my life my father had a shop in Ipswich and every Saturday my sister and I would go to work with him, be given our pocket money, and go straight to the Ancient House bookshop where we would promptly spend almost every penny we had. Then we would spend the rest of the day reading and playing in the massive cellar of his shop, I think this is when I really learned that you need never be alone if you can read, and I also discovered how inspiring it can be as from the play surrounding these books came the first business my sister and I owned … a riding school! Purely imaginary of course but complete with its own very thorough set of accounts!
I was reminded of this how I became a book addict when I watched my daughter do the same through a series of books called The Secret Unicorn.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird
Compulsory reading at school, this book did two things for me, first it taught me (along with my English teacher) that I had a brain, and a good one at that, and that I was perfectly capable of understanding complex issues.
Second it taught me that not all history was ancient, this book was set not long before my father was born so it dealt with issues and prejudices that were relevant to them and I began to really see how the past influences the present.
It starts by asking ‘who knows how to make love stay’ and finishes by reminding us that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood – I will tell you no more but if you choose to read it I recommend you do so under a full moon with a bottle of strong Tequila and if you don’t want to leave home – handcuff yourself to something!
5. The book I threw away
Seems odd doesn’t it that the book I threw away could be life changing? I bet you’re wondering what that book was and possibly what opportunities did I miss because I discarded it? Was it a textbook? Did my chucking it lead to failing an exam and embarking on a life of crime? Sadly No, and I can’t even remember what the book was called, or really what it was about.
What I do remember is reading it on the tube on my way home from work one night, it was shortly after I had read Perfume by Patrick Suskind – a novel so gripping that I stood on the platform after getting off the train and didn’t move till I’d finished it. This other book though – whatever it was, was just so boring and filled with characters that I didn’t like. I was ¾ of the way through it but realised that I really didn’t care what happened. I also realised that I deserved more as a reader. The author was wasting my time.
So as I stepped out of the tube station I chucked it in the bin. You see our brains are muscles too – a little bit of junk isn’t a problem for them to digest but they are far better when nourished with stimulating, provoking, inspiring or even enlightening food for thought.
What about you? Do you have five books that changed your life? Tell us in the comments.