I am very excited to get involved in The Estella Society’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week this year – it’s good to take a pause from blogging and discuss a little bit of why we all do it. I love how friendly the book blogging community is and have been making an effort to get involved more actively over the past few years and this seemed like an excellent opportunity.
Day 1 Introduce yourself by telling us about five books that represent you as a person or your interests/lifestyle.
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears
This was the very first story I ever loved. It wasn’t even just the specific Goldilocks version – I liked any story that featured bears so Winnie-the-Pooh and Paddington Bear were also early favourites. But what I loved most was pretending to be one of the Three Bears. I remember reading Allan Ahlberg’s Ten in a Bed where Dinah Price comes home every day to a different character from fairytale stories in her bed and my favourite chapter was the one where the Three Bears turned up. What interests me though is that this is only the first of many, many family sagas which I have read and loved over the years. The Mennyms, The Bagthorpes, Ballet Shoes, Ursula Under, so many of the books that I love best are those which have a strong family dynamic at their core. Looking through the books which I have reviewed over the years, it is surprising how many of them I can tag as ‘family story’. From very, very early on – and definitely from before I could read – I have enjoyed stories about families facing a drama together (in this case burglary-by-Goldilocks).
- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
The story of how Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy found true love is one of most truly perfect novels in English literature. I first read it aged roughly nine – I may have been just turning ten, it was certainly a while ago. This began what I feel will be a lifetime of being a crazy Austen fan-girl. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to go out and watch Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, nor am I likely to ever read Austenland, but when my boyfriend suggested a weekend away in Bath, my first reaction was to ask rather breathlessly if we could go and visit the Jane Austen Centre while we are there. I am a rather old-fashioned reader in many ways – I like a lot of 1940s fiction, Victorian (e.g. Brontes) literature and have adored The Little House on the Prairie series since childhood – and one of the great things about book blogging is the opportunity to share opinions on even the most obscure books.
- The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Alison Weir
One thing that does seem to be far less popular in the book blogosphere is non-fiction. I feel that this is hugely sad because I can easily get as enthusiastic over my non-fiction reads as I do over the novels. This was the first ‘grown-up’ non-fiction book that I read, aged about eight (I took it in dribs and drabs and completed it aged about ten). I do feel that there is under-representation in book blogging – I admit that they are harder to review since you run the risk of ‘summarising’ the facts, and I have no doubt been guilty of so doing in the past but so often the quality of the writing is still just as highly skilled and yet there is far less recognition for beautifully constructed sentences in the non-fiction section compared to their literary colleagues. There are very few sections on history in which I am not interested and while I am perhaps a particular Alison Weir fan in particular, there are so many wonderful reads outside of this too. Strangely, despite being an avid reader of historical fiction, aside from Hilary Mantel’s glorious Wolf Hall, it tends to be historical biography that gives me the keenest sense of the real people – it makes them seem so much more accessible.
- Possession, A S Byatt
This is one of those wonderful and rare books that feels as though it was specifically written for me – I love reading and I love mysteries and I love sagas that go back over time. Possession is a book for people who love books – for everyone who has ever actually gotten excited by textual analysis (this may be a slender demographic but a sincere one nonetheless). It is a similar way though to how I enjoy the Thursday Next Adventures – both are well-written but there is also a great deal of added value for the long-term bookworm, with copious in-jokes in the latter that would pass the more general reader by. Possession is one of those books that I truly revere – more so than any of Byatt’s subsequent work, this one feels like a feat of genius.
- How to be a Heroine, Samantha Ellis
This is another book which feels designed especially for me – or else perhaps as if I really ought to get out and try to get to know Samantha Ellis. This one is all about how our own reading can affect our outlook – this is incredibly true for me. This is also part of why I loved Hadley Freeman’s Be Awesome too, which analysed how we can find ourselves mirroring fictional characters. What I loved in particular about How to be a Heroine though was just how many of the characters loved by Ellis were characters which I had loved too. This was a literary journey that I was all too happy to join in and which helped me to look back on my bookish past as a journey which has made me who I am.
So these are the books that I feel best represent me – can’t wait to see what everyone else has picked!