Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Books that made me

Any author who visits schools will know that one of the perennial questions you are sure to be asked (after ‘where do you get your ideas from’) is - what’s your favourite book? I’ve given the same answer every time, it’s The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.

To be fair it’s a trick answer, because it allows me to pick five books in one. It’s impossible for me to say which of the five books in the sequence is my favourite. But at this time of year it’s especially great to reread - or read for the first time -  The Dark is Rising itself. It opens on Midwinter’s Eve (20th December to you and me) and runs chronologically through the Christmas period. Some love to read it day by day, marking time with their own Christmas preparations. I tend to splurge – like a box of Christmas After Eight mints, once opened I find it very hard to stop.

The Dark is Rising wasn’t the first book in the series I encountered. That was Over Sea and Under Stone. A teacher called Mrs Crow read it to the class one year when I was about 8. Something in the text resonated with me far more than all of the other books that I must have read or had read to me at that time. I found the rest of the books and painstakingly read them to myself over the following years.

I have very few books that I return to again and again, and the five in The Dark is Rising Sequence are the ones that mean the most.  It’s not sentimental either, I genuinely love the stories and find something comforting and surprising every time I return to them. If ever I see one of the books in a charity shop or second hand book shop I have to buy it. I give it to children - usually those who ask that question – when I go to author events, hopeful that it might give them as much joy as it continues to give me.

They are books I have numerous copies of. I have my ‘reading copy’ which I take with me in all its battered glory. Then I have the hard back versions, which are the same editions as the one Mrs Crow read to me all those years ago, and I have the folio versions for ‘best’. It may sound weird, but these books have been with me all my life, and I treasure them.

First I treasure them for their quality. In a time where everything has to be new, fresh and now, it’s a handy reminder for an author that a book of quality will transcend all that. We should be aspiring to that and nothing else. Second, I treasure them because they take me back to a time when my world was young and full of potential.

But lastly, and most importantly I treasure them because they were the first books I ever truly loved. They were the first books that gave me a passion for writing and an appreciation of the power of the written word.  It’s wasn’t my books that bought me to where I am and allowed me to call myself an author – it was these.  Without them I would never be doing what I do now.

So do yourself a favour and read them if you haven’t read them, reread them if you have, and if you don’t have a copy, next time you see me at an author event ask for one, I usually have one on me somewhere!


Steve Gladwin said...

Wouldn't want to be without them, Ciaran, but have to say I'm impressed with your multiple copies.It's just a shame the film of TDIS was such a missed opportunity.

Sue Bursztynski said...

A wonderful series and this is the best. Think I’ll go to bed now and start rereading it! Steve- agreed. A dreadful film! I suspect it’s what the Harry Potter films might have been if J.K Rowling hadn’t put her foot down!

And I, too, tend to keep multiple copies of much-loved books. I have six or seven copies of The Hobbit!

Anne Booth said...

I love this! I must re-read the books.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Yes me too! And will now also be scouring second hand bookshops. What a great idea to put them in the hands of a new generation.