Saturday, 2 November 2013

Books Books Books......part 2

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?


  1. Don`t have favourite books as such. Like all kinds of old cookery books, though. In my youth would have read a lot of Enid Blyton books, like Famous Five and such. I don`t find a lot of time now for reading, but have recently read A Street Cat called Bob which was lovely.

  2. Can't say I have a favourite books as such but do have a favourite few video's. Pride and Prejudice, anything of a gardening nature with the late, great Geoff Hamilton. As I loved Agatha Christie I also read Ngaio Marsh, similar but a very different type of detective. I rarely had access to books as a child or teenager so reading wasn't my thing. Have a very active imagination though!

  3. I couldn't possibly choose just one favourite :-) Magic Cottage is my favourite James Herbert too. Last week I re-read the Hobbit and as I did, I could visualise myself sat in bed reading it at the age of 10 as if it were yesterday. This week it's Lord of the Rings....would be rude not to follow on :-) Next week..who knows? I might have a browse around the charity shops and see what takes my eye. It's a guarantee that chores will be left to one side whilst my nose is in a book as usual though :)

  4. I don't re-read novels and I have no favourite author. My mind is open to all. When I start a book I have to finish it, even if I'm not enjoying it, very odd. Enid Blyton's books were the only books I enjoyed as a child, starting with Noddy then graduating to the Secret Seven and the Famous Five. I actually think they helped children to read because of the simple sentences and words and plenty of action and, of course - eating! Children need their nourishment.
    Love from Mum

  5. The Stand by King is one of my favorites especially since I can see t occurring here in the US in just a few years. And The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. It is so beautifully written. I cry every time I read it but at different parts of the book. If you have not must.

  6. You've inspired to me to find a copy of The Magic Cottage I used to absolutely LOVEthat book and have read it a couple of times,now I really feel a need to revisit it.

    My favourite book of all timewas discovered during my first marriagewhen my boys were small and times were very hard. It was Hovel in the Hills by Elizabeth West. Now rather amazingly I am about to live Welsh hillside not far away from where she lived and wil be shopping in the same local town that she talked about frequently :-)

    I love to lose myself in a book, to be inspired by one and to love it enough to treasure it forever. Hence the rather large number of boxes of books we are currently shifting from one house to another :-/

  7. It's always very hard to choose just one. I started a top 100 list of books a few years ago, thinking I'd have no problem getting to 100 but only got to about 35, I think. I started to get choosy about whether or not I really wanted to add it to my top 100 so there are lots of books I like that didn't make it (no point in adding them just for the sake of it). If I have to choose just one, though, I'd have to say The Count of Monte Cristo. I didn't read it until my mid-twenties and I have to admit I found the first hundred pages or so boring and only kept going because I'd bought it in the Shakespeare Book Company in Paris (which I "discovered" while wandering, not knowing how famous it was) and it seemed like part of the adventure to make sure to actually read it. Once he gets to the prison and meets the priest, though, it quickly became the book I couldn't put down and led to a couple of late, late nights. I re-read it every few years and get sucked in all over again every time.
    Magic Cottage sounds good, I don't think I've ever read any James Herbert, must keep an eye out for it.

  8. Never read any James Herbert books, even so his family still visit the dry cleaners I work in. They have a house just over the back of the South Downs. His wife still pops in every two weeks and I occasionally see one of his daughters, too. Your description of the Magic Cottage sounds interesting. I really should try to read at least one of his books, don`t you think?

  9. THE CRABS always frightened me as a kid

    No double entendre intended

  10. Going to uni blighted my love of reading. It wasn't just the ' having to read' part of it, but the fact that I cannot now read a book now without dissecting and analysing it as I go. I also find it difficult to suspend disbelief, something which is necessary with so many books. Jane Eyre is one of the books that I grew to hate when I read it,and my daughter who is studying English Lit at uni feels the same way, but the world would be a very boring place if we all liked the same thing wouldn't it?

  11. It is indeed difficult to select some favorites as there are many we forget and remember only when the list is completed. I certainly would include E M Forster's Howards End (one rare example of the film made after the novel being just as good as the novel). I would also have all of Jane Austen (the films do not capture at all the atmosphere of the novels). The late novels of Dickens. I would also throw in Vanity Fair which I reread this last winter and really enjoyed. In science fiction, I would put first and foremost The Way Station by Simak. I am afraid the Bronte sisters would not be included. I have gone beyond 10 but would squeeze in The Wind and the Willows. The Magic Cottage I have never heard of but you give it such a high recommendation I might try it.

    1. You are absolutely right, I should have put a Jane Austen in - that was an oversight! Northanger Abbey or Persuasion for me.
      The Magic Cottage is no novel of great literary value, believe me, It is a wholly sentimental choice for me. I would however recommend Katherine Mansfield if you don't already know her writing.

    2. I like Katherine Mansfield quite a lot. I suppose my own Magic Cottage is The Way Station by Simak. Not great literature either but I have read it many times and enjoyed it every time. As for Jane Austenès novels, I think I love them all.

  12. I have never known anyone else who liked James Herbert's "The Magic Cottage" !!! It is one of my favourite books and I am always glad that it is there to be read again !!! Hugs from Jeanie in Canada !!!

  13. Hello I've just discovered your blog from Ilona's and had to comment on this post. I love The Magic Cottage too , I've had several copies,they have got lost during house moves or simply fallen to bits. Whenever I read it,it's like returning to an old friend!