Today is one of my favourite days of the year – World Book Day. This is the day I wish I had trained to become a primary school teacher because they get to dress up along with the children. I think I would probably don a Hermione costume. Not a particularly original idea, I must admit, but any excuse to indulge my love of Harry Potter. I also don’t think I would get away with dressing up as Daenerys Targaryen.
Some people might see World Book Day as another excuse for children to dress up, but I think it’s hugely important. It is a fact that today’s children are not reading as much as previous generations. With the invention of tablets and smartphones, they now have access to online games and video streaming services which they tend to favour over the written word. I find this incredibly sad, particularly when I think of the hours of escapism books afforded me in my childhood. It was through reading that my imagination took flight and I discovered a passion for writing my own stories.
If anything can encourage children to read more, then I am all for it. In keeping with this, I am going to share with you some of the books that have had a lasting impact on me.
Serendipity Series – Stephen Cosgrove
These are the first books I remember. My aunt bought them when I was born and my parents would read one to me every night before bed. There were quite a few in the series, but my favourites were the Morgan the unicorn ones. Every time the part where Morgan becomes a unicorn was read to me, I would cry. What can I say? I was a sensitive child. Joking aside, these books really gripped my imagination and I like to think I took the morals on board.
Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
This is the book which really alerted me to animal cruelty. I have always loved animals, but reading Black Beauty opened my eyes to the suffering some humans inflict upon them. Ginger was my favourite character and her fate both shocked and appalled me. To this day, I find the book an emotional read but I admire Sewell for bringing to attention such an important issue.
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
I was nine years old when I first read Great Expectations. To be honest, I don’t think I understood most of it back then, but I did enjoy it and it prompted me to start reading more classics. Over the years the book has continued to be a favourite. As I’ve grown older, I have come to love the character of Miss Havisham more and more. She has to be one of the most fascinating characters in literature. She is bitter and cruel and probably mad, and yet I do always end up sympathising with her. Great Expectations also inspired one of my favourite poems, Havisham by Carol Ann Duffy.
Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
When I was a teenager, I adored Austen. Her books were so charming. They were funny, romantic and also moving. Regency Britain has always interested me and nobody manages to carry off social satire in quite the same way as Austen. She is simply brilliant. I love all her books, but the one that has had the greatest impact on me is Mansfield Park. As a frumpy, unpopular teenager, the heroine of Mansfield Park, Fanny Price, struck a chord with me. I could relate to her situation – plain, overlooked by everyone and suffering from unrequited love. Fanny made me believe that there was hope, that I too could have a happy ending and marry the man of my dreams. Now I’m older, I appreciate the book for its stark portrayal of poverty in Regency England. Austen is often dismissed as ‘early chick lit’, but Mansfield Park shows that she is concerned with serious social commentary.
The Cassie Palmer Series – Karen Chance
Yes, I always mention the Cassie Palmer series. The reason is because these are the best freaking books to ever have been published. If you haven’t read them yet then go and get your hands on them! Karen Chance is a brilliant writer. In the space of 400 pages she manages to pack in enough action to make you dizzy, copious amounts of humour, a heroine who is relatable, a world brimming with vampires, mages and gods no less, and lots of romance. These books got me through a low point in my life. They gave me a place to escape to and provided me with something good to focus on. Like with Mansfield Park, I see a lot of myself in Cassie. We are both stumbling through life, never managing to look our best no matter how hard we try and never confident in our abilities. Seeing Cassie muddling through makes me feel better about all the silly things I say and do. She makes me realise that I will get there and I can succeed. Oh, and did I mention John Pritkin?
Those are just some of the books that have a special place in my life. There are countless more. Every book is an adventure and provides me with a new experience. I cannot imagine my life without books. I wouldn’t want to.
Happy World Book Day everyone!