I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read. For me, reading was not only enjoyable but an escape from everyone else. I’ve never been particularly sociable, and neither is my family, so reading has always featured in life for me – I think we read to avoid each other! It makes me sound dull, but I found the games my school mates played futile and silly, and I could never really work out the rules and social nuances that to most are quite literally “child’s play”. So I used to sit on benches reading Nancy Drew books. At seven, all I wanted was to be Nancy Drew: I wanted a Ford Mustang, to be eighteen, to have people think I was clever enough to solve these ridiculous mysteries. I soon discovered Point Romance (my sister read Point Horror) and I still love the cheesy “boy-meets-girl, happily-ever-after” trope in films and books.
As the youngest, I desperately wanted to be taken seriously so I spent my pocket money on those £1 Penguin Classics you used to get: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights. I tried Moby Dick but, as the lovely Mr put it years later, “it’s just not a very good book”.
My love of reading grew from not wanting anything to do with anyone, and I still use a book as a means to hide and an excuse to ignore everyone. I’m never without one – I went to a gig alone and sat in the bar reading Skagheads waiting for it to start, sat in traffic on the M25 reading Madame Bovary, whiled away hours on the train with The Goldfinch. I used to drive on nights out with my friends. Nightclubs are awful when you’re sober so, when I got bored of the music and the drunk revellers, I’d go to the loo and sit in a stall and read until it was time to go home. By the way, a book is a great way of making a clutch bag easier to carry.
But now, I also see the social side of books. I’ve been in book clubs and met top girl Liz when she started one in Greenhithe. I studied literature with the Open University. A chance sighting by the Lovely Mr’s friend of a book in my bag the first time I met him gave inspiration for conversation rather than awkward silence while the Mr got the drinks in.
And, it may sound twee, but with a book you are never truly alone. I’ve been on adventures with Huckleberry Finn, fallen in love with Greg from The Chocolate Run a thousand times, and cried so hard I hurt my neck at Black Beauty. Some books stay with you for life, which is more than can be said for people in real life.
Like Alice in Wonderland, I really do go down the rabbit hole with books and can’t stop myself reading. In my first job, I just had to finish a novel before I could do any work so sat in the loos to finish that final chapter before I could log on. The other week, I tripped up the steps reading my kindle on the way in to work because I just couldn’t put my book down.
This World Book Day, I will be rereading Pride and Prejudice. What will you be reading?