This post originally appeared on Random Things Through My Letterbox. Read it HERE.
Many thanks to the awesome Anne Cater for asking me to it down and think about the books that inspired me and left a lasting impression in my life! I was really surprised to discover what came to mind first … have you read any of these? What would YOUR life in books look like?
1) Amelia Jane Again by Enid Blyton
One of the first books I remember reading was Amelia Jane Again by Enid Blyton. Presumably this means I read the first one in this series too, though this sequel sticks out for some reason. It was a yellow hardback book, with the cartoon of a ragdoll kicking down some green blocks (she had stripey red and white stockings!). It’s weird how detailed it is in my mind.
I loved these tales of bad ragdoll Amelia Jane, who’s so naughty and always getting into trouble all the time. I’m sure this started my lifelong obsession with ‘bad girls’ in general! I also became a die-hard Enid Blyton fan, I think I reads her entire back catalogue.
2) Pictures of Adam by Myron Levoy
So, I read lots of books in-between, but the next one that leaves a strong impression is Pictures of Adam by Myron Levoy. I was about ten and had lots of romantic thoughts about boys but I didn’t really know any, apart from my brother and next door neighbor (I went to a girls-only school).
I read Pictures of Adam and he seemed so dreamy and understanding, the perfect boyfriend really (even if he did think he came to earth in a space capsule! We all have flaws!). To be honest I thought Lisa was a bit mean to Adam in the book, I felt sure I would be a MUCH better girlfriend.
3) The Janice Project by Nancy Rue
The next book that sticks out is The Janice Project by Nancy Rue. I could relate to Janice because she is an outsider, plus my Mum’s name is Janis, so when I saw this for 10p at a jumble sale I had to buy it. Another romance, I was so in love with being in love – but I was at secondary school by now, with actual icky boys … I couldn’t ever believe these beasts were the same!!! I much preferred my book boyfriends, even if poor Eddy nearly dies in this one. YIKES SPOILERS! (C’mon, someone always ‘nearly dies’ in YA romance!!).
4) Weaveworld by Clive Barker
Then came Weaveworld by Clive Barker. This one haunted me for a long time before I actually read it! It was on the bookshelf for ages but had a scary cover of a shadowy man on fire, so my whole childhood I’d rushed past on the way to the bathroom just in case he jumped out and set me on fire. Even though we moved several times, this book followed … so by the time I was about 14 I decided to face my fear and read the damn book!
I’m not much of a fantasy fan – I’m still not – but this book is AWESOME! It’s freaky and weird, but also has a great human element to it. Susanna is one of the protagonists and she has magical power called menstruum – you don’t need to be a genius to figure out the reference there. I love how Barker makes being female POWERFUL, he does this in other books too like Imajica and as a girl growing up I thought his heroines were the coolest.
5) Ariel by Sylvia Plath
Ariel by Sylvia Plath is another book that left ripples through my life – though this is of course a poetry collection. Lady Lazarus is my absolute favourite, especially the line ‘I eat men like air’. I used to draw pictures around this quote and started getting interested in folklore about female beasts who killed or ate men, like Sirens and Succubuses.
Because of this collection, I read The Bell Jar, but got frustrated and angry and upset. I wanted to reach into the pages and talk Plath out of it, but of course she had died long before I was born. I re-read The Bell Jar recently and my reaction is not as extreme; I am more mature now and understand the pain of suicidal thoughts a lot more.
6) I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The next book that made a big impression on me is I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. It was assigned as part of my A Level English Literature course, so I must have been about 17. As a very pale Devonian girl, I’d never heard of Maya Angelou and knew zilch about American or Black history. But I opened it up when I fetched it from the library and I just couldn’t stop reading! It’s amazing. I was so impressed with the detail and how Angelou relates various events in her life to the lessons she learned because of them; most of all however I was struck by her humility and grace, never shying to talk about the mistakes she had made too.
I went and checked out the rest in the series … I read all seven in a very short time! Maya Angelou became a source of inspiration to me, especially since I was a young teen Mum too who wanted to be a writer. Obviously our life paths were very different, but we both had to face adversity. Every time I thought, ‘I’m never going to make it’, I thought about Maya Angelou and how she had persevered, so I would too.
I still think of her and her awesome spirit. I like to think she’s still around somehow in the wind or trees or some other natural phenomenon – there’s no way a powerful spirit like hers can just disappear into the ether.