As an avid reader, I’ve always been surrounded by books. Whether I’ve been transported to another world by Neil Gaiman, learning about the economy à la Freakanomics or finding about e-personalities, I always have a book on the go. A few weeks ago, I asked myself what three books have influenced me – a question that I’ve never asked myself. I posed the same question to a few friends of mine who’ve agreed to guest blog on teacaup and cake. This week, Tea With Me writes about going on a big adventure with Bilbo, the Bible that is Rachel’s Holiday and the talent of Gaiman.
When the lovely teacup and cake asked me to guest blog on the three books that define my life my immediate thought was: No chance, there is no way I could limit it to three books when so many have given me nourishment over the years.
However, the more I mulled over books in my head, the more the same few kept bobbing up in my thoughts, and I realised that there are certain books which I have filed in the ‘important period in life’ section and it’s those that deserve attention for this blog.
The first is The Hobbit; a book I first read when I was ten and which I have read countless times since. Tolkein’s pre-cursor to the epic Lord of The Rings became my default book to read when I’d exhausted my hoard from the local library and was waiting patiently for the next trip. I’ve never looked at why this book had such a profound impact on my early years, but writing this blog has made me realise the truth.
In the book, the main character Bilbo goes on an awfully big adventure. He leaves the security and safety of his home and wanders off with what is essentially a random band of strangers into a completely unknown world. It’s this first part that I latched on to because I was rarely allowed out to play, not allowed to go out and have the same freedoms as my friends and most of my time was spent in my bedroom alone. Tolkein’s fantastical tale was my emergency fire escape. I could go with Bilbo and walk through magical woods, speak to dwarves, elves and shape-shifting men, it lifted me out of the four walls of my bedroom without physically placing so much as a toe over the door and planted the seed of one day escaping my home town firmly in my head. A dream that I came to fulfil when I was 19.
My second choice could not be further from my first in every way. Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes became the cult book to read in my circle of friends. One copy was passed from girl to girl, treated like a bible, read and subsequently raved about. For those unfamiliar with Keyes’ early novel, Rachel’s Holiday is about alcoholism; both the effect on the person (in this case Rachel), the struggle to both face and overcome the addiction, and the effect alcoholism has on others.
The book was a common link between us all its impact on me really kicked in when the usual angst of teenage girls became serious issues of self-harm, eating disorders and sadly, in our latter teens, the death of someone who had been the centre point of our group. Although the subject matter in Rachel’s Holiday differed from the issues I was experiencing, the themes of helplessness and of fear resonated with my sixteen year old self and when I think of those years, I also think of that book and its bright cover and wrinkled spine. It still sits on my bookcase, my memories of that time as ingrained as the ink that graces the pages.
And so we move on to my final choice, yet another very different selection from the two detailed above. I’ve used words to earn a living for several years now, but in the last 18 months the urge to write a tome of my own has been growing daily and my third selection is a novel that drives me onwards towards one day achieving this goal. American Gods by Neil Gaiman is, for me, an inspiring novel. Not because of the story (which I admit is astounding on its own), but because of the quality of the writing; it motivates me to be better, feeds my ambition and pushes me to write as often as I can. In my opinion it’s a wonderful example of skill and talent; a tale to look up to and admire and why it had to be included as one of the three books that have influenced my life.