Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we all talk about a bookish topic and have fun making lists. And this week we’re talking about ourselves – so here go my top ten bookish memories on my road to becoming a bookdragon.
Many of my early memories are of (re)reading the books on the shelf in ‘my’ bedroom at my Grandma’s house. These were a crazy range: classic editions of The Water Babies and What Katy Did; horse books like A Star for Starlight; Peter and Jane; Bod(!) and Brambly Hedge. But one of my favourites was Anna and the Rainbow. This was probably the first time I ever saw my name in print, and it came with gorgeously coloured illustrations.
My love of fairy stories and legends dates back to my early childhood too – I had Terry Jones and a collection of stories about King Arthur on my shelf, but there were fascinating collections of ‘world’ myths on the bookshelf on the landing. This is where I first encountered two of my favourites: The Wild Swans and East of the Sun, West of the Moon.
I first read one of my all-time favourite books when I was about 7: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was on the school bookshelf. I remember sitting in the library corner finishing it, trying to believe that Durathror had flown away. I reread it so often I was given a copy; it was on a teenage reread that I acquired a mild fear of enclosed spaces in the Earldelving.
I first read another classic about the same time: The Hobbit. It went down so easily that Mum cheerfully pointed me at The Lord of the Rings on the shelf next to it. I’d been admiring the threatening eye of Sauron on the spine for years by then; I was ready to find out what it meant. She thought it would keep me quiet for a bit (it did – as soon as I finished The Return of the King I went back to the beginning and started again).
I was a regular at the local library, just a few hundred yards up the road. The librarians quickly decided that I was more good than harm as I was happy to re-shelve books for them, and didn’t evict me if I went in without Mum in tow. This is where I first met Alanna, in the shape of the gorgeous original edition hardback that spent more time out on loan to me than sat on the shelves.
I acquired my own paperback copy of Alanna, as well as the sequel when it came out. But I had no idea there were more than two books until a trip to the US when I was about 11. There, my second cousin introduced me to Shannara, and I went from bookshop to bookshop asking hopefully if anybody had any books by Katharine Kerr. No, not Kurtz. Kerr. Nobody did. But I did find out about The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, although it was several more years before I was able to get hold of a copy.
Living in Holland narrowed my reading choices. I read and reread all my books (even the ones that scared me silly). I read all the books in each classroom, and most of the (English) books in the library. I would buy up the reading list secondhand at the start of each year, even knowing we’d never read half of them in class. Eventually, I started reading in German and in Dutch to have more choices.
Financial constraints and lack of access made me incredibly patient. I would be dying of excitement to read a book, but I’d spend a year staring at the hardback in the bookshop, waiting for a paperback edition to match the ones already on my shelf… and sometimes I’d sneakily read the hardbacks, perched in a corner of one bookshop after another, a chapter here, a chapter there.
The Deverry saga introduced me to the idea of trade editions, and I fell in love with them. Yes, they’re expensive, and yes, they’re unwieldy, but you get all the beautiful cover art. They’re also becoming incredibly rare: it looks like I’ll never be able to own a complete set of Locke Lamora in trade, as The Republic of Thieves was never made available.
I resisted buying a Kindle for years. I liked books. Real books. I didn’t want to re-purchase all my library in electronic format. But then we planned a 3 week trip to Australia, including 10 days in the Pilbara (it’s remote, okay?) and I worked out that I didn’t have enough luggage allowance to pack enough books. So I got a Kindle.
…and now I’ve got 100s of unread e-books on my To Read pile. It’s a dangerous thing, being a bookworm. But at least this To Read pile can’t topple on my head.