The last post was about books and in a round about sort of way, about a new bookcase I built.
But it got me thinking about the power of books in my life as well.
Some books are a diversion, some books are like old friends that you know are always there when you want to see them again, some books are a bit of nonsense, but make you smile all the same and some make you sad, but in a good way. Books are there, often at bad times (and I've had a few of those of late) and can be cathartic, can be enough to take your mind off troubles for a few hours.
Some books conjure up associations and memories with certain people, or certain places, or certain times in our life.
And some just pass through our lives, seemingly unnoticed.
I have memories of certain books. I remember reading Pet Semetary by Stephen King, when I was 14 or 15. I remember I was in my bedroom and listening to some music at the same time as reading the last chapter of the book. There is a chilling final sentence, as his wife, Rachel, recently buried comes back from the dead as something murderous, It reads something like:
'In a gravelly voice, full of dirt, "Darling", it said.'
That isn't wholly accurate but it was something on those lines. I remember as I read them a really weird thing happened. The tape I was listening to get chewed up in the machine (remember how that sometimes happened) and started playing all wrong. It sounded like something from beyond the grave itself had got into the machine. Rather funny now, but at the time it really freaked me out! One of those moments you don't forget when timing is everything.
Other key books that I associate with moments are Jane Eyre, which I read when I was about 16 for the first time. I couldn't believe how fantastic it was and stayed up until about 2 in the morning when I started it, reading and reading - just one more chapter. For anyone who only knows this story from one of the many (in my opinion) very poor TV or film adaptations, I urge you to read it.
The book I have probably read the most times is probably a very strange choice for most people. It is called The Magic Cottage by the recently deceased author, James Herbert. I have probably read this book 15 times over the last 30 years. Why? What a strange choice? you may say. It is something to do with a) the couple moving from the big city of London out into the countryside, in the middle of nowehere (seems this idea might have been in my head for way longer than I thought), their relationship and, of course, the Magic, with a capital M. Even though it all goes wrong, it never has failed to captivate me.
I keep short stories and ghost stories by my bed, for those times when I may wake up in the night. My favourite author of short stories is Katherine Mansfield. Each one is a gem in its own right. Often nothing much happens, it might describe a day out at the beach, but always, there is a real beauty in the way she creates characters, so quickly. I can imagine there is quite an art to scaling a story down to just a few pages, not one that many authors have and I can think of none better at this particular art.
I still have my shelf of Enid Blyton's and occasionally reach for one and read it, can be done in about am hour and a half. Such memories. I will never understand why she is given such a hard time by teachers and parents. She was singly responsible for starting my off on my love of reading and that is worth everything. Maybe her language is limited and so is non-educational, but should reading only be about education when you are a child? Surely not.
If I had a list of only 10 books I could take to a desert island to read over and over for the rest of my life, these would be them:
Katherine Mansfield - collected short stories.
Charlotte Bronte - Jane Eyre
James Herbert - The Magic Cottage
Victoria Clayton - Running Wild
Agatha Christie - Hallowe'en Party
William Thackery - Vanity Fair
Barbara Erskine - Midnight is a Lonely Place
Donna Tartt - The Secret History
Stephen King - The Shining
Charles Dickens - Bleak House
Covers most bases and women authors seem to win, 6 to 4.
Have a go yourself. It is hard. What is your favourite book?