One of my great loves in life is books, and my earliest memories are of me, in my own little world, with a book. As soon as I learned to read there was no stopping me; a trip to the local library with my mum and sister was my greatest treat. I devoured books at speed, desperate to get to the end, yet feeling somewhat sad when that particular journey was over – nothing has changed and I still get a hint of sadness when I finish a book.
I can still picture the hallowed hall of the children’s library, the smell of the polished parquet floor and the dusty aroma of thousands of books. But what I vividly remember above anything else is the silence. The deathly hush that hung over the rows of bookshelves. My sister and I knew that we were not to utter a sound; a glare from mum was enough to scare us into silence. The only sounds that could be heard were the hushed tones of the austere librarians, the clicking of heels on the parquet floor, the rhythmic clunk of the date stamp and the thud of the cover as the stamped book was closed ready for the borrower to take away to read. Then, people really did respect that libraries should be silent places, unlike today.
I could never choose books quickly; I had to examine the contents of each shelf carefully and often several times. I would end up with at least half a dozen books and then spend ages trying to decide which three to take home. The Noggin The Nog series was a big favourite of mine, If I particularly enjoyed a title, I often used to get it out time after time. Two books spring to mind here: Epaminondas and His Auntie and The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein.
I still have some of my own books from childhood. Not many, unfortunately, as I sold most of them as a bulk lot when I was about twelve; a decision I now deeply regret. This box of books included all of my Enid Blyton books, However, during a recent clear-out, I was delighted to find one lonely St Clare’s book from the seventies.
I have included an image of two children’s books that have pride of place on my bookshelf: James and the Giant Peach and Grey Rabbit Finds A Shoe. The artwork in both is beautiful, and Grey Rabbit Finds A Shoe is still in its original dust jacket.
I have several shelves filled with books of all kinds, including modern fiction, classics, children’s books, textbooks, reference books of diverse kinds and a variety of cookery books. I enjoy books by a wide range of authors, but a couple of particular favourites are Peter James, a British crime writer, whose books are incredibly gripping and Alexander McCall-Smith, a Scottish writer, whose books are quite magical. I have been recently listening to the audio versions of many of Alexander McCall-Smith’s books, which are truly captivating in the spoken form.
I always find that reading and books are topics that can be relied on to get conversations flowing in most situations and, of course, a love of reading shows intelligence. And intelligence is sexy!
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