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My Life in Books – Part One

11 Mar

9780140325232As 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 1900695too.

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, calvino1The 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.

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38 Comments

Posted by on 11/03/2014 in Life, My Writings

 

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38 responses to “My Life in Books – Part One

  1. colemining

    11/03/2014 at 19:17

    Love this list- although I’m a little exhausted after reading it all and recalling my own fond memories of many of the books you mention. And you know I love the James lyric!

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    • Ste J

      11/03/2014 at 19:22

      I probably should name check good bands a bit more. Do you think all my listing made the post to diffuse, it did show the landslide that I had towards reading but I don’t wish to make the next ones overwhelming with names. That and I hope people wouldn’t think I was ‘showing off’ or anything.

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  2. colemining

    11/03/2014 at 19:29

    There’s always room for great music citations, I always say (not that you wouldn’t know that, by now).

    I exaggerated- the post is in no way diffuse or ‘showing off”. It’s an impressive overview of the diversity of genres/authors/subjects that helped fuel your love- and this is ALWAYS a great thing.

    I tend to read by landslide, myself. Will neglect to take the time to do enough reading for a bit and then whoooooosh. Booksbooksbooks.

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    • Ste J

      11/03/2014 at 19:34

      I’m glad you thought it within the realms of good as I have been wondering myself if it was balanced enough, perhaps there was not enough musing but next week will see me sorting that one out hopefully.

      Recently all my reading has been on a laptop as that is the way authors are sending me their books, it’s led to some bad headaches but I am trying to read some print books as well and keeping myself sane…well for a given value of sane!

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  3. Seyi sandra

    11/03/2014 at 20:09

    I read through your post; and I came to a sudden realisation. I’m reading from a genius or better still, a Professor emeritus from Cambridge University. Believe me Ste J, I’m not patronising you, I know you read a lot, I just didn’t realise how varied it is. I’ll be waiting for the next series of your post. Do rest a while to reduce the headaches. Take care my friend!
    🙂

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    • Ste J

      11/03/2014 at 20:15

      I did cut a lot of the books out, I originally had this massive post for part one but I cut two thirds of them and tried to get to the ones that have had the most effect on me for whatever reason. Looking at the books I’ve reviewed, it isn’t even a quarter of what I have read so I have plenty to keep me going. I try to always push my reading boundaries, it keeps me a good critic and helps me appreciate new ideas and views. Perhaps one day I can attain the level of genius but at the moment I’m just an obsessive reader and long may it last. Resting shall begin in precisely 45 minutes!

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  4. Al

    11/03/2014 at 20:56

    Hope you manage to clear your headaches soon.

    My childhood was brought up with Famous Five, Secret Seven and Hardy Boys mysteries, and then onto Dick Francis, Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books before years of only reading Star Wars books. Then last year I took the tentative step and tried something different. I haven’t gone back to the Star Wars saga for nearly a year, but have read more books than I normally would

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    • Ste J

      13/03/2014 at 18:57

      Cheers mate it is on the wane now I think!

      I love reading about people’s book history, I blame the voyeur in me…it is compelling. I’ve only come across the famous Five in my travels but am always open to reading more widely. It’s refreshing to try different things and it boosts the confidence…I couldn’t ever go back to just reading one genre any more I would feel like I was missing to many great works.

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      • Al

        13/03/2014 at 19:01

        No, I couldn’t now. It’s too much of the same. Although you get to know and love the characters, it’s nice to be able to know others as well. Just because someone wields a sword instead of a lightsaber, or uses words instead of a blaster doesn’t make it any worse. The first non star wars book I read was Pride & Prejudice (I think) Going from the far future to 200 years ago.

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        • Ste J

          13/03/2014 at 19:22

          If time travel is good enough for the Doctor! That’s a good book to start with and Christina’s second favourite of course. It’ll be great for you to go to beak to the established Star Wars world for holidays as well. Who knows where books will take you next?

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          • Al

            13/03/2014 at 19:27

            At the moment, in the world of magic and dragons and intrigue, plot and counter-plot.

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            • Ste J

              13/03/2014 at 19:41

              Me too, except I’m playing Skyrim, not Games of Thrones.

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              • Al

                13/03/2014 at 20:02

                Good game. I have a video of taking my sidekick to the top of a mountain, using a thu’um and blasting her off teehee

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                • Ste J

                  13/03/2014 at 20:52

                  Hah, sweet, I have so much to explore, I’ve only clocked eight hours so far but more to come…a lot more.

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                  • Al

                    13/03/2014 at 20:54

                    It’s just a pity it is not available on my XBOX One 😦

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  5. gargoylebruce

    11/03/2014 at 21:31

    For some reason I can’t get into Terry Pratchett. I read one Discworld novel about Death many years ago that I remember quite enjoying, but have not been able to really enjoy any since. Inexplicable really, as he has all the elements that I would normally love.

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    • Ste J

      13/03/2014 at 19:13

      The latter half of the Discworld series has seen a maturing of the comedy to more observational type stuff…I miss the wacky humour of the earliest stuff. I would be intrigued to know if one or both parts of the series are not to your taste.

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  6. Letizia

    11/03/2014 at 21:48

    What a great post. It’s fascinating when a book can build our confidence as readers or challenge us or just make us want to read more out of sheer enjoyment. You covered so many of the reasons I love to read here – what a beautiful ode to reading!

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    • Ste J

      13/03/2014 at 18:44

      I am glad I could do as I wished…I wanted it to be personal but also something for everybody to appreciate and agree with some of the reasons at least. it is ironic that I am in the time in my life when I am reading less than ever yet writing more about it…next stop picking up Spinoza’s Ethics…or maybe not yet.

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  7. Lyn

    12/03/2014 at 01:45

    LOL I still have some of my Famous Five and the Adventure Series with Jack, Lucy-Ann, Dinah, Philip and of course, KiKi the parrot.

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    • Ste J

      13/03/2014 at 18:54

      I have been on an Enid Blyton binge myself collecting all the Adventure series, the complete Famous Five and the Five Find-Outers…those stories are timeless…I want adventures and islands and slightly thick smugglers to contend with my talking parrot!

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  8. VicciScrunchie

    12/03/2014 at 17:22

    I remember buying a couple of famous five books brand new and sniffing them for hours. LOL! x

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    • Ste J

      13/03/2014 at 18:47

      Sniffing really is a lost art these days…we should campaign to get it onto the national curriculum or something.

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  9. Christina ~

    12/03/2014 at 18:19

    This is a fascinating peek at the inception of your love of reading. Reading your experiences that varied and plentiful reading changes not only us and our perspectives, our interactions but also gives us an education that we wouldn’t otherwise obtain.

    It makes me so sad when kids are bombarded and forced to ‘dissect’ great books instead of just letting them ‘feel’ the books. I think it actually robs them of any love of reading they may have had otherwise. It makes me most exceedingly happy that you have begun this series of your ‘life through books’….if only to tell the world that there is no book to difficult and that reading can indeed be an education in and of itself…along with all the other amazing aspects of books…like their magical redolence!

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    • Ste J

      13/03/2014 at 19:07

      It is very true, I didn’t that many exciting things in school, which in all fairness wasn’t down to the teachers but the system. Now I am free to read what I wish, the concepts, ideas and thoughts that mix in new and magical ways is just thoroughly thrilling and is like the cheapest drug there is (Dewey).

      I think to a certain extent dissecting a book is good but not to the extent that it becomes a chore. Critical thinking to early and to much makes it feel like work and turns kids off using it. It is amazing that books that seem difficult are found not to be whe you actually tackle them…it really is an eye opener to know that you don’t have to shy away from books and if one can tackle books then anything is possible. I hope to encourage more people to up their reading game with this series. xxxxxx

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  10. RoSy

    13/03/2014 at 16:41

    Buuu…on the headache. Hope you’re feeling better by now.

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    • Ste J

      13/03/2014 at 18:41

      It’s getting there slowly my friend…I am eager to visit everybody once again without suffering to much…plans for that commence tomorrow.

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  11. tomrobinsonz

    15/03/2014 at 12:25

    That was a lovely post my man, it felt like one of your most personal. It’s fascinating charting the journey into ones cultural conciousness, realisations of thing that you thought you had outgrown but actually were truly terrific (The Famous Five books) it’s wonderful to push ones intellectual and creative boundaries and I hope we never stop doing it.

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    • Ste J

      16/03/2014 at 14:58

      Mate, we will always be pushing each other with films, books, music and whatever other medium comes to mind because we are just that awesome (and I know where you live). The path to enlightenment is an eclectic and whimsically shaped one at best, it’s nice to see that this series is engaging people and hopefully there will be a few more people remembering and writing about their experiences.

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  12. The Book Haven

    18/03/2014 at 19:28

    Nineteen Eighty-Four is an absolute knockout, and I liked it even more than Animal farm. Even in my case, Orwell’s book played an instrumental role in pushing me towards serious and mature literature. George Orwell is guilty of genius. Nothing less, nothing more.

    You have a very interesting reading history. Keep going.

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    • Ste J

      25/03/2014 at 20:27

      Animal Farm seemed a little to simplistic after 1984, I enjoyed it but not to anywhere near the same extent. I think Orwell and probably The Aenied were the two books that convinced me I could tackle most books out there. Cue avalanche of many epic books, many of which I need to make time to read.

      Part three shall be up later this week, glad you like it.

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  13. vsvevg

    12/01/2015 at 22:34

    Really interesting post Ste J, feel like I know you better 🙂 I will contemplate my life in books, never really thought about it before. Will type at in a while, back to the campo…Hasta Luego.

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    • Ste J

      15/01/2015 at 21:14

      it is good to think about how books have changed us, poems and novels especially. I am so far behind on blogs but will be over at yours tomorrow for a good catch up and cup of tea if you happen to have the kettle on.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • vsvevg

        24/01/2015 at 23:34

        Sorry, only coffee, I’m a bit behind myself.

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  14. vsvevg

    12/01/2015 at 22:35

    !984 was a turning point for me, made me feel like I had a brain. Think I was 12. All I though about before that was horses and boys 🙂

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    • Ste J

      15/01/2015 at 21:16

      I am glad I didn’t read 1984 at school as that would have ruined it, I’m not sure I could have appreciated it at 12. It is such a wonderful book so prescient and should be required reading for everybody.

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      • vsvevg

        24/01/2015 at 23:32

        Yes siree, that’s why I’ve read it four or five times. I like to visit books at different ages. 1984 never disappoints.

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