I have vague memories of being read to by my parents at a young age, books like Spot the Dog and Cops and Robbers spring to mind. At primary school, reading with a teacher sat next to me, begging to be able to move up to the next colour level of books on the shelves as they looked far more interesting. Moving further up the years in primary school I remember Pippy Longstocking! At home I was very much into books that were full of supernatural ‘real’ stories, conspiracy theories about aliens and UFO’s, my favourite book was a huge Encyclopedia of the Unexplained.
My real passion for reading began in secondary school where all students had access to an amazing library. I can’t remember being overly encouraged to use it but there were so many classic books that I had to borrow out one or two a week. I vividly remember being in awe of a short story contained in an edition of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001. Reading 2001 also made me realize that the majority of the time the film version of a book is much less magical than the book itself. I can’t think of a film that I have preferred to a book, Coppola did a very good job with the Godfather and also Apocalypse Now, his spin on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
Books have inspired me to travel and see the world in new ways. I spent a few months travelling across North America with dreams of it still being as free and wild as the land described by Jack Kerouac in On the Road. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby may be the book I have read the most, helping me get over a few break ups with his sublime balance of comedy and very tender true to life moments.
Reading can be an incredibly moving experience. Only last year I had vacate the living room and read the final pages of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Behind the Scenes at the Museum as I really didn’t want to burst into tears in front of my housemates! Phillip Pullman also has a real gift for a moving story. Stephen King is a personal favourite, I thoroughly recommend his Dark Tower Series. King has scared me senseless on more than one occasion, a short chapter in Salem’s Lot describing two boys walking through a dark wood has been seared on to my memory.
I also read to gain more knowledge of the world around me. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel C. Dennett have all made me look at who I am and where we came from in completely new lights, changing the way I think about the world. Books can also be less serious and silly, many of Woody Allen’s short stories and observations are hilarious.
I generally tend to choose the books I read relating to a topic I am interested in learning about. I read recommendations from friends who are avid readers when it comes to fiction or read a few books in a row from one author if I enjoy.