When Sarah was looking for contributors for her Books are Amazing series, I jumped at the chance! After all, any excuse to chat books makes me happy, but cue my slot deadline and I had no idea where to start! There have been so many great contributors, so many great book choices, and so many great books I’ve read myself, that I was a little stuck.
So I decided to take you on a little bit of a literary journey through my life, through the books or series that stand out for me, or ones that show how my reading tastes have altered or matured through my reading career! Most of them you will have heard of and know something about so I’ve not talked so much about the book itself, more about why I selected it for this list.
The Secret Seven Series – Enid Blyton
This is probably the first series of books I can remembered devouring on my own. I suspect a fair few avid readers of around my age probably started with Enid Blyton in some shape or form. The Secret Seven was the younger version of the Famous Five. The mysteries were slightly tamer and focused more on the group being part of a ‘club’, although with similar themes of being very middle class and doing as Mummy and the Policeman said. I even remember setting up various secret clubs with my friends with our own badges and passwords, just like The Secret Seven. As I grew slightly older I moved on to reading The Famous Five and various other mystery/adventure books by Blyton, as well as her many school stories. The first Famous Five book I ever read had actually been my grandad’s as a child, which had been passed to my mum, so this probably goes a long way to explaining my ongoing love for a good mystery story!
The Babysitters Club – Ann M Martin
During my pre-teens I moved away from the safe world of Enid Blyton and moved into what (at the time) seemed a slightly more ‘maturer’ series of books. I think I read nearly every single book that Ann M Martin wrote (at least I read all the ‘main’ ones, maybe not all the spin offs) and the series as a whole has a certain nostalgia associated to it for me. Although babysitting in the UK at the time, didn’t happen in such a business-like manner as it did in these books, I think it paved the way a little bit for me and my friends to get small paid babysitting jobs. Shame we didn’t have a phone in our room like the girls in these books did though!
Sweet Valley High – Francine Pascal and Nancy Drew – Carolyn Keene
Reaching 13-14 years old, reading wasn’t particularly ‘cool’, so I probably spent a large amount of time reading various teen magazines, but it was also around now that I started reading (and watching) The Sweet Valley High series. Again there were hundreds of these, which, a bit like The Babysitters Club, got darker, as the series went on, and the characters, along with its readers, aged. Sweet Valley High’s were perhaps seen as more acceptable as their focus was on boys and relationships, which was typical of the ‘life stage’ most of us go through at the age I was.
Around a similar time I re-discovered my love of mysteries in the shape of The Nancy Drew files. Again, these were aimed at a slightly older audience than the original Nancy Drew books, but featured most of the same characters. The mysteries were slightly more complex, and a little bit more violent, and there was additional focus on the character relationships.
The Night She Died by Dorothy Simpson
I recall that around 14-15 I felt as though I wanted to read something a little bit more grown up. My Mum is a big mystery lover like myself and she suggested that I try an Inspector Thanet novel. Although it was grizzly in comparison to what I had previously read, it wasn’t particularly graphic in its descriptions and the mystery and storyline was reasonably easy to follow. I then started to move on to reading things such as Morse, Wexford, Wycliffe and Agatha Christie novels.
The Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling
I’m pretty sure someone in the history of this post series will have mentioned a Harry Potter book at some point, and I know Sarah suggests trying not to repeat books, but this book came at me almost out of nowhere and sparked an ongoing obsession.
I hadn’t actually heard of Harry Potter at all, and I had been staying with my Auntie just outside London for a few days when I was about 16. I was due to go home on the coach and needed something to read on the four hour journey. My uncle pointed The Chamber of Secrets out in the bookshop, as he had heard something about it on the radio, and that it was supposed to be quite good. The blurb about a young boy wizard going to a wizarding school sounded interesting, and reminded me of a previous love for school stories, so I gave it a go. I think I read the entire book during that journey and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the first novel (once I realised there was one) and from then on I eagerly anticipated every film and every book release since. J K Rowling and Harry, have gone on quite a journey with me over the years!
Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging – Louise Rennison
There are very few books that have made me physically laugh out loud whilst reading them to the point of almost embarrassment. Louise Rennison has managed to achieve that with every book of hers that I have read. I absolutely love the Georgia Nicholson series, even though I probably got into it when I was slightly too old for the target audience. I’d never really enjoyed reading ‘diary’ novels before this one, but I think I just enjoyed how funny and slightly cringe-worthy, this was. (I think some of the cringing came from thinking about some of the daft things I did in pursuit of boys in the past, although maybe not the extent Georgia does!)
The Unseen – Katherine Webb
This is actually a massive jump forwards, as between about 20-27 I more or less stuck with the same things. Slowly working my way through the two series above, and trying out various crime and mysteries writers such as James Patterson, Kathy Reichs and Lynda La Plante among some of my most read, with the occasional chick lit thrown in for some light heartedness.
The next significant change within my chosen reading genres came when I signed up for a book swap being organised by Jenny (Sunny Sweet Pea) and my ‘swapee’ sent me The Unseen. Although it had a slight mystery element to it, it was not my usual grizzly murder-type mystery, and was more of family saga mystery. What really hooked me, was the regular timeline changes throughout the novel, which wasn’t something I had ever come across in anything I had previously read. I loved it far more than I had expected I would, and I now spend many an hour on Goodreads to find similar authors and story styles. Kate Morton has since become another one of my favourite authors now as a result.
So that’s a bit of a ramble through my life in books really. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through my choices and that you’ve maybe even felt a little nostalgic, or inspired to re-discovered some of you misread youth!