Hi I’m Anna from Sum of Her Parts.
Jane has very kindly welcomed me to her blog for the day and it’s great to be here.
I’ve noticed that Jane is a big reader, like myself so I thought I’d talk about some of the books I love.
Growing up, I was an only child. I wasn’t particularly close to my Mother and when it came to school, I was a bit of a loner. So it’s hardly a surprise that I learnt most of my life lessons from books. I’ve always been a big reader. I can remember reading and re-reading a silly little book by Jill Murphy called ‘Five Minutes Peace’ when I was about four years old (I still have that book actually). I think that story of Mrs Large’s failed attempts at getting a bath in private might just be the origin of my bibliophilia..
Obviously, I grew out of that book, although I will admit I still flip through it occasionally (Purely for the nostalgia you understand) and it never fails to put a smile on my face.
Over the years my love of reading grew and grew and pretty soon I was classed as an “advanced” reader by my teachers. At nine years old I had the reading age of a 15+ year old and had outgrown the books my friends were reading. That’s when I moved on to teen fiction and my whole world changed.
Nowadays you can walk into any book store and be confronted by a whole plethora of Young Adult novels in a whole range of genres. Back in the day (jeez I feel old), I don’t think Young Adult even existed. I can remember in WHSmiths they had the books arranged in age groups, the oldest being 13+. And that’s the section I was reading from when I was 9. While today’s teens can be found reading the likes of John Green, us 90s girls were obsessed with Judy Bloom and Paula Danziger (note I’m assuming here that because I was reading them so was everyone else. I really am that shallow!) And so, when I was nine years old and my friends were reading whatever books the school librarian was pushing on them, I was obsessively devouring books like ‘Blubber’, ‘Deenie’, ‘Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret’ and my personal favourite, ‘The Cat Ate My Gymsuit’.
I swear that book changed my life, shaped who I am today. The book is about Marcy Lewis, a chubby thirteen year old who isn’t exactly at peace with her life. She hates the way she looks, her dad is a bit of an arsehole and she’s fairly lacking on the friend front. I didn’t know it at that point but Marcy would turn out to be pretty representative of my own life at that age. But even still, at nine years old I was still identifying pretty hard with Marcy. I wasn’t exactly fat but I was heavier than my peers and I was so socially awkward you wouldn’t believe. So yeah, this book spoke to me even then. But it wasn’t just that that makes it so memorable for me. It’s the things it taught me about the world. One of the main plot points of the novel involves Ms Finney, Marcy’s new English teacher. She’s different to all the other teachers at school, she actually cares about her students and what is going on in their lives. But (and there’s always a but isn’t there?) she has some unorthodox teaching methods, which the Principal uses as an excuse to fire her. The main reason that I can remember vividly is her not insisting on taking part in the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the class. I think it’s so memorable for me because I’d never even thought about that kind of freedom of individuality before. I didn’t know at that point just how judgemental the world could be.
Anyway, I’m not gonna go on and on about the plot of this book, I just want to say that this is probably the first book I read that really taught me something about real life. And I’m thankful for that. I like to think that if this book hadn’t been in my life then I wouldn’t be on the journey I am today, I wouldn’t have had that interest in American politics sparked in me that led me to do a degree in American Studies.
There are other books that have shaped my life since then. The main one being ‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder which I first read when I was 12 and have re-read several times since (resulting in me going through three copies of this book). ‘Sophie’s World’ introduced me to the world of Philosophy and really got me thinking about my life, who I am and what it means to be alive. It definitely shaped me as a person and really helped me to make sense of my crazy life.
Now that I’m an adult, I look back on books like these that have somehow become a part of my identity and I’m amazed by how big an affect books can have on a person. When you think that all books really are is a collection of words formed to tell a story, it’s pretty amazing don’t you think?
Anyway, I think I’ll leave it there before I take you on a journey of all the books that have ever changed me as a person. We could be here all year if I did that!
Thanks for having me and feel free to swing by and visit me over at Sum of Her Parts.
Thanks so much to Anna for this guest post; it’s always lovely to read about other people’s favourite books!