Your First Memory of Books

My first prominent memory of books and reading comes from my grandmother.

My grandmother was harsh, stern and silent from my memories (she passed away when I was 12), but in her home there was always a locked glass cabinet of books. All of them is various stages of disrepair. I remember always looking at the books, wondering what they were about.

I remember once getting brave enough to ask to read one, and she produced a key seemingly from nowhere, and unlocked it. I wasn’t given a choice, but I was given a book.

I really struggled with it. I wasn’t very old, and the words were foreign and in small writing. I’d never read a book in English before, not on my own. My schooling was all through the medium of Welsh, and thus, all the books I’d ever learnt to read were in Welsh. I’d never encountered an English book on my own before.

Sitting there, I found it really hard, but I remember loving the feel of the pages, turning the pages. But, it had sparked something. I needed to know more.

She never read those books to me, and I struggled to form the sounds of the words in my head as I read them. English words are a lot different to Welsh words, and the letters sound different.

I haven’t seen those books in a long time, and I don’t even remember what they were called. I remember the bright red and yellow covers, I remember the sellotape holding some of them together. But, they were my grandmother’s prized books, and I remember being so excited to get to finally read them.

There are two people in my life who I can thank for my love of literature, and my desire to study literature. The first would be my grandmother, for allowing me to read those books, or at least attempt, and then for her unwavering loyalty to my growing hunger for the page. I remember she used to collect stamps from the paper and get books from stamps just for me.

The second would be my English teacher in comprehensive school. Her passion and enthusiasm for the written word and the joys fo understanding the words presented in front of you inspired me to try and understand literature in the same way.

I have a lot to be grateful for, and I owe these two people a lot for who I am today.

What’s your first memory of books? Let me know!

Banned Books Week!

The 23rd to the 29th of October is Banned Books Week!

This is an important week of the year for literature, as it’s a week that celebrates books that have been challenged, either for their authors or their content.

Banned Books Week is an initiative started by the American Library Association and Amnesty International, and highlights the books challenged or removed from libraries and school libraries. Some of them are pretty absurd. Books challenged for LGBT characters, books banned for their drug use, magic, etc.

Is there a book on the list below that you’ve read and loved, but is challenged?

Take a look here and let me know!

Reading Teen Fiction

Over the years, I’ve read quite a lot of teen fiction, or young adult fiction and immensely enjoyed it. There are so many gems in the genre, and some amazing writers.

Whilst studying English literature at undergraduate level, I discovered that there was some dissent to even considering teen fiction as literature.

There seems to be a stigma around reading teen fiction, about perhaps the way it is not considered literary enough for it be anything noteworthy. I have personally never understood this concept.

Literary fiction implies that the novel that is published under this name is somehow superior. The Oxford Dictionary describes literary as “Concerning the writing, study, or content of literature, especially of the kind valued for quality of form.” Quality of form implies that it is a well-written piece, or it is valued for it’s form, and it’s use of language, perhaps over the plot of the writing. This could also be seen as marking ‘literary fiction’ as a superior writing genre, as it is ‘quality of form’. It could could also imply that the person writing in this genre is somehow better than someone working in teen fiction, or even children’s fiction.

I’m curious as to why that is. Is there a certain aspect of teen fiction that doesn’t meet a certain criteria? Is there an element of classism that makes it not literary?

Classism wouldn’t be hard to rule out, if it is viewed as not literary, then that implies a substandard. That only ‘real’ readers will reader literary works, and that the ease of access of teen fiction or the aim at younger reading implies that there can not be a literary concept to teen fiction. The ease of access implies that anyone can read it, whereas if it were considered literary, it could imply that it is inaccessible to ‘normal’ readers.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Your Top 5 Book Recommendations!

We all have our favourite books, but what are your top 5 reading?

What are the top five books you can think of that you always go back to reading?

Mine would be:

  1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (technically it’s one book!)
  2. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
  3. More Than This by Patrick Ness
  4. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
  5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

All five of these books have influenced me in quite a large way, either growing up or as a person. I always struggle to think of my top five favourite books as they change quite frequently. For example, if you’d asked me maybe ten years ago, Harry Potter would have been on that list, too. And whilst Harry Potter was still an influence part of my reading, it’s not in my top five anymore. Maybe in ten years, my top 5 will have changed again.

What are your top 5 favourite books? Let me know in the comments!

What Do You Think Makes A Successful Novel?

What do you think makes a successful novel?

What does a successful novel mean to you? Is it how well it does sales wise, or is a successful novel because you enjoy it?

There are two ways to look at success in a novel, and for me they are both just as important as the other.

Sometimes successful novels that sell well are not always successful novels in other ways. For example, there’s sometimes always the negative connotation that successful popular literature is not successful in the writing department. This is not always necessarily true, but for some, it is not a successful novel to them.

In another sense, a successful novel might not be as popular as some, but is successful in drawing in a reader and is written successfully.

Success within writing is always a matter of personal opinion, and how you understand an authors writing. It’s how you relate to the way the author writes. For example, I personally, really enjoy Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy, but when I’ve recommended it to people, they have not enjoyed it as much as I have due to the writing style of the book. For me, the novel was a success, for others, they might not agree.

What is your interpretation of success? How do you value a successful novel?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Happy Pride Month!

June is Pride Month, and to celebrate, let’s share our favourite LGBT+ novels!

Is there a character that you feel you can relate to?

Do you have a favourite author from the community?

Patrick Ness is an amazing teen fiction author, and his characters come from a wide variety of backgrounds and sexualities.

As an asexual myself, I have not yet found anyone to relate to myself. This could just be because of my avoidance of typical romance novels, or perhaps I just haven’t looked hard enough.

Share your thoughts on your any good reads from the LGBT+ in the comments below!

Well-read

What constitutes as well read to you?

For me, when I picture a well-read book I think of broken spines and the indescribable smell of paper.

A book that is well-read has the signs of being read and loved.

As a younger reader, I used to loathe the idea of breaking the spine on a book and the thought of bending pages on it would send a shiver up my spine, but there’s also something special about a book that has obvious signs of reading.

A book can tell a story, but it can also tell a story about the reader. It can show your reading habits, how much you’ve enjoyed the book and how much you’ve taken from a book. A book that sits on your shelf or next to your bed looking too read is just as amazing as a book that looks untouched.

I remember once going to a book convention in London, and I apologised to the author who was signing my book about how unkempt it looked. But they told me it showed them I had enjoyed.

There is always another side to the story, and what you take from it. I used to be so bad about preserving my books the way I’d bought them, but now I don’t mind so much when they end up a little worse for wear.

Do you have any unbreakable rules when it comes to looking after your books? I find a lot of people differ on their views on books than I do, and it leads to an interesting discussion!