As it's World Book Day 2016, I thought this would be an ideal opportunity for me to just blether on for a bit about how much I love books.
For as long as I can remember, reading, words, stories, and books have been the things from which I have derived the most pleasure. Growing up, I was surrounded by voracious readers. My grandparents, on my Mum's side, visited the library almost weekly and made their way through absolute stacks of books. Grandpops preferred crime fiction, or anything that involved horses, while Grandma liked mysteries with a hint of romance, or books that had a historical feel to them. They often took me with them to the library, or to the mobile library van that visited the close where they lived. My Dad's parents didn't read quite as much, but still had lots of books in their house. My Granddad in particular was a big fan of local history and UFOs!
My Mum definitely inherited her Dad's passion for books and read me bedtime stories from the second I was born until I was probably about 11 years old – after which I still sneaked in and listened to my little sister's stories! We read an eclectic mix, from Enid Blyton and Road Dahl to C. S. Lewis and Tolkein, and we also had a vast collection of books on tape that I would listen to most nights.
So, it would come as no surprise when English turned out to be my favourite subject at school – and the one in which I achieved the most. A while ago, Mum found a piece of work I did in Primary school in which I said that when I grew up I wanted to make books, write books, or draw cartoons for Disney. Unfortunately, I don't think the Disney dream will ever come to fruition but I would be happy to report to ten-year-old me that my first two life goals are well under way to being complete!
Naturally, I studied English at University and then, after a year out, when on to study for an MA in Publishing. Probably my favourite part of the entire course was the History and Culture of Publishing module, which was endlessly fascinating and almost tempted me into a PhD! And now I work for a small publishing house near Cambridge where I spend every day researching, designing, and editing books for secondary schools. I used to feel a little disappointed that I didn't end up working in fiction publishing for Penguin or Bloomsbury, but now I have learned to embrace educational publishing and am actually very fond of the variety it offers. On top of that, now i'm taking myself seriously as an author I feel like my life is exactly where I always hoped it would be.
And still, as always, I am surrounded by people who love books and reading. My husband is an English teacher and I'll admit that one of the things which attracted me to him is that in one breath he can be a proper 'man's man' banging on about football and in the next he can quote me an entire passage of Shakespeare. When we moved in together we consolidated our book collections and now have five bookcases that are almost overflowing! My friends love reading, my sister loves reading, and my in-laws bought me the entire collection of Game of Thrones books for Christmas and are waiting for me to make a start so we can talk about them... it is truly wonderful to have this one thing in common with so many people. And when Mr T and I have children, one of the things we are looking forward to the most is passing on our love of reading. In fact we will probably need a bigger house just for all the extra books we will purchase!
For me, there is one quote which summarises why books are important and why we are drawn into them again and again. Apart from the utter escapism from daily life, it's this:
“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”
Alan Bennett, The History Boys