Tuesday 5 February 2013

Top Ten Tuesdays: Bookish memories.

Another top ten that I simply could not resist writing about. There is more to books than merely the story inside the books. So many of my fondest memories are associated with books. So, without any further ado:

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

1. 1988. Honestly, I don't remember a time when I couldn't read. The first memory on my list is not actually my own, but my mother's. At the age of three, my parents were woken up in the middle of the night, by the sound of me in the next room, reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears aloud. Before I started primary school, I had got myself known as "Katie who can read" (which, incidentally is my twitter nickname if you want to follow!)

2. 1990-ish. My first school's reading scheme books were the Biff, Chip and Kipper series published by Oxford. These are very much of the "This is Biff. Biff has a football. This is Chip. Biff and Chip play football." sort of standard, progressing to more complex sentences and even stories. One day I came into school very apologetic that I couldn't read all of the words. When I pointed to the page, the teachers realised that I had been trying to read the "additional notes for parents" section at the back of the book, and decided that perhaps I ought to move onto more challenging reading. I was devastated. I didn't want to read books that weren't about Biff, Chip and Kipper. Clearly I was very attached to these, erm, characters.

3. 1990-1998-ish. Who else remembers the travelling bookshops that used to visit primary schools? For a week, the school hall or library would be filled with huge metal boxes that would open up to display their ink-and-paper treasures for sale. I discovered so many beloved stories here: my first Famous Five omnibuses came from here, as did Fiona Kelly's Mystery Kids and Ann Bryant's Cafe Club. This was the highlight of my school year.

4. 1993-1996ish. Anne of Green Gables was a birthday present from my parents, and probably I haven't received a more suitable gift until last year's Lego Mines of Moria. One of my family friends has fond memories of me sitting cross-legged rereading Anne while wearing a straw sunhat and my hair in pigtails. For Book Week, we used to dress up as book characters, and I remember exactly what I wore as Anne - a long blue checked dress, the aforementioned straw hat with a navy blue ribbon, pigtails with matching ribbons and felt-tipped freckles. My mother wouldn't let me dye my hair, though.

5. 1992-ish. One evening, when I was about seven, my dad sat me and my sister down in the living room a little before bedtime, took out a book, and started to read aloud: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." An excellent opening to an excellent book. I was hooked from the beginning, and even more so when I realised that the Edmund and Lucy were the same as the characters of the same names in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I hadn't realised that there was any more to that story. Over the next couple of months, or years, Dad or Mum would read us a chapter from all of the Chronicles of Narnia and the Swallows and Amazons series every night as a bedtime story.

6. 1998-ish. Discos were the popular form of birthday party when I was in years 7 and 8 (aged 11-13) but the most memorable one (except for my one-and-only slow dance with Sam Irving, who I semi-stalked for the rest of the school year - sorry Sam!) was nothing to do with the disco at all. It was held in a room above a pub (The Bargeman's Rest, which I highly recommend if you are looking for somewhere to eat on the Isle of Wight.)  There was a shelf of second-hand books for sale, which included a few out-of-print Chalet School paperbacks from the 1970s, which I was quick to notice and charmed my parents into buying for me. I still have these, except for one which has since fallen to bits and been replaced.

7. 1999. Harry Potter had been in the world for a few years, but only recently become big. Suddenly it was the name on everyone's lips. Over-protective parents had been concerned by even more over-protective parents who denounced the series as witchcraft, and my sister's school required a permission slip from parents for the children to check the books out of the library. I was at high school by that point, and my friend Lara was reading Prisoner of Azkaban. My father bought a copy of the first three books to see for himself if he thought they were suitable for children, but   he left them lying around in the living room, where anyone could pick them up. And by "anyone," I mean me. From the very first sentence, I was hooked. "Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." Thus began an adventure that would continue for many years, many rereads, and an awful lot of speculation.

8. 2001-2003. My sixth form years will forever be associated with one thing: The Lord of the Rings. Until the first film trailer, Lord of the Rings was one of those weighty tomes that lived on every bookshelf but people didn't actually read - did they? I associated it with War and Peace. Then I saw the trailer before the first Harry Potter film, and decided that actually, it looked quite interesting. The first movie was released on the last day of the Christmas term, and the year 11 teachers booked a screening at Cineworld for the entire year group. I left the cinema and took down the weighty tome; I simply had to know what happened next. For the next two or three years I lived and breathed Lord of the Rings. My abiding memory of sixth form is of my circle of friends hogging the squashy chairs in the library, reading and rereading Lord of the Rings, talking about Lord of the Rings, writing Lord of the Rings fanfiction... you get the picture. And for the first time, I felt like I fitted in. I've always been a person with obsessions, and for once other people, even some of the cool people, shared my obsession.  I found my niche and could for the first time revel in being a nerd, instead of being ashamed of who I was and conspicuously failing to fit in.

9. 2007. When I arrived home from university, by some chance I discovered that me, my best friend Judith and two other friends (Cat and James, then a couple) had all been reading the same book series: Robin Hobb's Assassin series. So we decided to hold an informal book club - which consisted of going to the pub, beginning discussing where we had got to in the series, predictions and opinions, and generally wandering off-topic more often than not. I recall one summer evening taking wine and cheese to a picnic area near the beach and very much not discussing the books, but nonetheless, book club it remained. Alas, now Cat and James are no longer on speaking terms or living near us, but Judith and I from time to time revive the old book club, recently reading American Gods and last year working our way through A Song of Ice and Fire. And a healthy amount of wine.

10. Present. I confess I find it very enjoyable to watch other people's reactions to big moments in books I've already read. Last year in our aforementioned Song of Ice and Fire readathon, there were a couple of times I got ahead of Judith, and it was with a certain amount of smugness that I listened to her speculations about what was going to happen next. She began reading a certain chapter (those who have read it will know which chapter I am referring to, while those who are going to are none the wiser) one afternoon when we were at the beach. She put the book down halfway through that chapter, and did not resume until three days later! The suspense was almost as unbearable as the incident in question. I was waiting for her anguished "MARTIN!!!!" text message for three days. And when it finally arrived, it was very satisfying indeed. Mark Oshiro's blog Mark Reads is great for that, as he goes into popular books with no prior knowledge, reviewing them one chapter at a time. The comments, too, make for excellent in-depth discussion of the books in question, but read them at your own risk. 


  1. wow, those are great memories. I love your Lord of the Rings memory. kelley—the road goes ever ever on

  2. You broke it down by year...wow! Nice job! New follower!

    Check out my TTT.

    Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know

  3. Thanks for sharing those great memories! Some of yours read just like mine. Especially the one about not remembering a time when you couldn't read! http://wp.me/pzUn5-1pk

  4. I was never a big reader as a child but I do remember being obsessed with any book that was about animals. Call of the Wild is the firs book that comes to mind. I read it over & over.

    I love the way you broke your list down. Love reading about your memories.

  5. All right, I totally love your memories. The Biff, Chip and Kipper one cracked me up. I had a similar experience to your Martin-reading friend with one of my friends listening to the audiobook of the final Harry Potter. And I wholly sympathize with the delight in nerdhood. :)

    Cheers from one fan of Anne of Green Gables and Harry Potter to another!

  6. Such a lovely post - WHERE DO I START? I LOVE your Goldilocks story - I always melt into a mushy ball when kids do stuff like that! Those travelling book fairs were amazing - you could SMELL them before you even walked into the hall, all those shiny new books. I was only ever allowed to buy, like, ONE book at a time (pfffft), but I had a lot of agonising fun choosing!

    I was a HUGE Anne fan, and I'm STILL a huge Harry/LOTR fan. The LOTR thing really was quite all-pervasive at school, wasn't it? Two boys managed to learn Elvish during their lunch breaks, and everyone was reading the books or discussing the movies or heading off for their sixth showing or whatever. All the smart awesome book people, anyway! ;)

    Off to check out the Mark Reads blog...

  7. AH, I love 'reading biographies'!

    Here is the first part of mine: http://kinga-thebooksnob.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/how-i-became-reader-part-1.html


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