Day Two – we’re barely getting started! Plenty more to come this week, including at least one more blogger who correctly identified their mystery partner…
Colin and I first met sometime before we were born… yes, he is my twin brother. Younger twin brother. He is also a blogger, although books are not the main focus of his blog (which long predates mine, having been going since 2003!) Colin’s Only Diary. You’re more likely to hear about football, politics, or sitcoms – but books get an occasional look-in. Get ready to see how different twins can be…
Even though my parents did very little reading on their own, reading before bed was an important family ritual. My mother took charge of fairy tales, which she loved even more than I did, and my father covered everything else. He introduced me to Tolkien, to Enid Blyton, and to Roald Dahl. But before all that, he introduced me to A.A. Milne. I had received The World of Christopher Robin (which unites When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six in a single volume) as a christening gift and for years it was the most important book in my life (I showed my sincere affection by scribbling in it with crayons). My strongest memories of childhood bedtimes are of chanting “Disobedience” alongside my father and tearing up when he read “The Dormouse and the Doctor”. That poor dormouse!
Colin: I remember a questionnaire in a school English class that asked how many books we had in our house, and the maximum answer was “Lots (20 or more)”. Even as a schoolchild I was astounded by the idea that 20 books was a lot – or even that any household could hold fewer than that – because our house had walls full of books. The ones in Dad’s study were somewhat beyond my ken (commentaries on Nahum were not my standard fare as a child; nor are they now) but there were plenty to suit my tastes, including bundles of Famous Five books and sundry other Enid Blytons. The first ‘proper’ book I read was a Famous Five (Five On a Secret Trail, I think) and – if you don’t count the Mr Men – that series was probably my favourite when I was about 7 or 8, although a couple of years later I would have chosen The Silver Sword or Cue for Treason. And yes, my parents did read to me – I particularly remember Mum reading me and my brother The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Claire: Growing up, I was remarkably unaware of the distinction between children’s and adult’s books. At home, I could try anything and there really didn’t seem that much of a difference between children’s authors Hans Christian Anderson and Robert Louis Stevenson and ‘grown-up’ authors Mary Stewart and Daphne du Maurier (all grouped together at one point in our distinctly unorganized bookshelves). They were annoyingly shelved in different sections of the public library but, as far as I was concerned, a book was a book. If it sounded interesting, I wanted to read it. What did my age have to do with it? Sadly, the librarians disagreed and continually denied me access to what I wanted most. When I was ten, there was a battle to check out volume one of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery. By that point, I had read all of her novels and short stories, had visited Prince Edward Island, and was completely obsessed with Montgomery. I wanted to know everything about her and the juvenile biographies were not cutting it. I needed the journals. I forced some adult family member (most likely my grandmother) to convince the librarians to let me take out it for ‘work on a school project’ (a blatant lie) and rushed home with my prize. And then I started reading. This was even better than her novels! This was Montgomery herself! She was vivid and conflicted, always interesting even though I didn’t have much sympathy for some of her dramatics. Getting to read her thoughts, to see her speak for and about herself, was an amazing revelation. I discovered a passion for diaries and, perhaps more importantly, learned that an author could be completely fascinating without being someone I would necessarily like if we met in real life.
Colin:Between the ages of about 12 and 15 I read little other than Agatha Christie, having been introduced to her through Murder On The Orient Express. I don’t remember being so captivated by a book before, and even now I am reminded of it if I hear snatches of the Spice Girls’ debut album (which my brother was listening to on the other side of the bedroom wall while I was reading). I followed it up with Murder On The Links, and over the next few years read and re-read another 70 or so of her novels – I’ve always been very happy to re-read, even when I can remember exactly how the plot-line will pan out; and, to be honest, I often can’t remember.
Colin: Early adulthood? I’m not sure when that is, but it must be around the time that I read Are You Dave Gorman?, a hilarious book about a chap called Dave Gorman trying to find other people called Dave Gorman. I hadn’t read a great deal of non-fiction up until that point, but this paved the way into other travel/humour type books, including Round Ireland With A Fridge, Yes Man, Googlewhack Adventure etc. Whilst the books cannot be described as great literature (or, indeed, literature) I have rarely read anything so amusing in fiction (Wodehouse is, of course, the most notable exception) and this not only opened up one genre to me, but persuaded me of the merits of non-fiction. Up to that point I had read one or two autobiographies – including Agatha Christie’s, which is excellent – but rather more since.
Colin: The Wheel of Time is a superlative fantasy series written by the late Robert Jordan, with the final volume due this year (writing duties having been taken over by Brandon Sanderson) and whenever a new volume comes out I am very eager to read it. However, given that it is a series that I started about ten years ago, it’s probably cheating to include it in this question. Instead, I’d have to say that the most interesting books I’ve read have been the autobiographies of Barack Obama, Tony Blair and Michael Palin. It’s been a sadly long time since I’ve read a novel that I really loved: probably not since Northanger Abbey, which I read about three and a half years ago.
Blogging has not changed my reading habits at all! My own blog touches only lightly on books, and the only book-related blog I read is this one… despite your best efforts to persuade me of the wonders of Miss Hargreaves, The Diary of a Provincial Lady and Orlando, I have not especially enjoyed any of them and would be as wary of taking your literary advice as you would be about taking mine!