As a child I loved books, I collected nearly all the Famous Five books from second-hand shops at the sea-side and accumulated various classic children’s books but at around 13 I decided – as most kids do – that the books were for children (which I clearly wasn’t any longer) and that I didn’t want them any more. Proof if ever it was needed that young persons are stupid…Its sad that it happened (especially to the bank balance in later life), but at the time, I didn’t realise what I was giving up. After that I only read books and magazines on Football. Exclusively in fact. Then coming into sixth form….nothing, perhaps the odd magazine but that was it.
I’ve glossed over a lot of detail there but then came the start, the real start of my obsession. Finishing school, with no job in the offing and time on my hands, I realised I missed the reading that I had done in sixth form English Literature classes. After picking up the Complete Works of Shakespeare and Complete Sherlock Holmes box sets of books, I started to read like a mad ‘un. The Holmes was set out like the original Strand newspaper was, small columns and Bible size font was the order of the day. I had headaches for ages but I persevered and finished volume one before I was taken with a book called Heaven’s Mirror, a jaunt through pseudo history detailing theories of how ancient civilisations were connected. I loved it, it was the first history book I had ever read and it taught me about the Precession of the stars and a lot about old cultures, it was excellent. From there I found about German classic Parzival, as well as Plato’s Timaeus and Critias, both of which were added as well to my first ever-growing A4 page of ‘book needs’ list.
For Christmas of that long ago year (2000) I was given The Hobbit and A Test of Time, another history book, comparing a revised Egyptian chronology of kings with Biblical archaeology. Absolutely fascinating, a challenge too, there were many names, dates and archaeological strata to get to grips with. Funnily enough, out of the four books in the series, I have stopped circa page 180 with information overload for three of them. Oddly after reading an easier book, the information has subconsciously settled and I was able to finish the each book with no trouble.
The Hobbit, was the last stone in my reading foundation, I had read it as a kid and wanted to reread it when I was thinking of books that I wanted for Christmas. I then waited five months before going to get The Lord of the Rings. I remember the day well. Some friends and I went into town and I picked the omnibus up as purchasing each separate book would have made the cost a pound more expensive. Clever eh? It was an overcast day too.
So the biggest book I had ever owned, a good 1000 pages was in my possession and I read it in three weeks and gained a new-found respect for nature and observing the world around me after that. It was immense, walking was great, the vivid world and every word was just brilliant. I needed to get more fantasy after that. Fantasy and history were the only two genres I would touch at the time. There was a summer spent buying Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, The Wheel of Time books as well as myriad of history books, including Conquistadors, anything that may help me regain the high that I felt from LotR.I have been chasing that ever since as my high of choice.
Nineteen Eighty Four was the book that raised my confidence, hearing that it was of a political nature but a book people raved over, I thought I would have a go but it would be beyond me, how wrong I was. It was just a great story, this gave me the confidence to face down any book and think I was equal to it, which I am, we all are. We just need to remember that. Of course I hoarded books after that, I was a lot worse than I am now…I found the high again in books as diverse as Peter Pan, The Aeneid and Catch 22(which I maintain is the best paced novel I have ever read), the world opened up to me magically, with each new history book, more myths and classical literature were suggested and coveted. Which in turn brought up more, exponentially until I had 1000 books on the ‘need list’ (now on Amazon courtesy of dial-up internet) and I would have brought them all if I could.
It didn’t stop there, friends lent me books, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Castle of Crossed Destinies, The Stranger and Sleepers all furthered my excitement and my reading education. This connection with people and books is a wonderful thing, it is for me an intimate gift, that of sharing a book, or to buy one for someone. A cherished book of your own you desperately hope that they will love as much or more than yourself and being disappointed for days if they don’t.
Books about the love of books encouraged me even more… like A Pound of Paper, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common reader and Meditations on Middle Earth, they encouraged my book love and I needed to read mor., Then came graphic novels/comic books (Watchmen, Sandman, Charley’s War, Logicomix, old magazines, football programmes, dictionaries of saints, leaflets from historical sites…anything that looked interesting until I was inundated with paper awesomeness. I learned how to think, how to question and how to analyse and understand so many things.
Like that line in the James song Sit Down goes, “if I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor”. It is exactly like that. I cannot now stop thinking and learning, it is like a drug and it is getting addictive and it was only the formative years of my own education…
*Apologies for not being around much, headaches from to much computer use is limiting me to posting, replying and feeling sorry for myself. Normal service shall be resumed shortly.