My name is Sue, and I'm addicted to reading.

I taught myself to read when I was about three, apparently, without any formal lessons. My parents had several thousand books, and I soon had my own collection. I read Enid Blyton avidly, as did most of my generation in the UK. I read classics: the Narnia books, Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and more; a note in my copy of 'What Katy Did' says that it was given to me as a school prize when I was six. I read the Swallows and Amazon books, and the Doctor Dolittle ones - twelve in each series - in my father's hardback originals.

I read and re-read, discovering more books at my grandparents' house each summer. I fell in love with the Chalet School series when I was perhaps nine or ten, along with Noel Streatfeild's 'Ballet Shoes' and others. I discovered Malcolm Saville and his Lone Pine series.  I spent pocket money, Christmas and birthday money on books, mostly paperbacks at discounts, or at church markets, and my collection increased. I borrowed books from my school library almost daily.

At around twelve, having re-read all my books one Summer, my parents introduced me to PG Wodehouse, Gerald Durrell, Agatha Christie, and other lesser known authors who featured on their shelves. 'Jane Eyre' utterly captivated me when I read it for school at the age of 13, and I was delighted at the gift of several Georgette Heyer novels from an aunt, when I was about 15.

So I moved from children's books to mid-century adult literature without any difficulty, although I continued reading my childhood favourites regularly.  I wasn't so keen on non-fiction, other than books by CS Lewis, which I read regularly; 'Mere Christianity' and others of his books (including the Narnia series) shaped much of my theological thinking and general Christian belief.

University, marriage, work and small children meant that I read very little for a period of perhaps nine or ten years. I read picture books to my sons, of course, but it was very difficult to find the time (or energy) to read novels. Occasionally I picked up a childhood favourite to pass a couple of hours without exerting too much brain power, but I didn't try anything new.

Then I was introduced to Rosamunde Pilcher, who started my love of late 20th century women's fiction of the character-driven/saga style. I tried to find other writers of historical fiction similar to Georgette Heyer's and was mostly disappointed, though I did like books by Jane Aiken Hodge and Mary Stewart.

Adrian Plass was the next overtly Christian author I started reading regularly, in my late twenties, when his 'Sacred Diary' trilogy became so popular. Gradually I found - or was introduced to the writings of - others: Philip Yancey, John Ortberg, Brian McLaren.

When we moved to Cyprus in 1997 we didn't bring many books at first; so I bought anything that was available at church jumble sales or the thrift store. They were mostly war-years sagas, but on the whole I found them disappointing. We were home educating, so my time was still limited; yet I had an urge to read again, to discover new authors, to explore new worlds.

As my sons grew up I continued to read to them - classics, my childhood favourites, and then some new books that we all wanted to read. It was my husband who first discovered Terry Pratchett, although he then lost interest as I collected more and more of his Discworld series. We picked up the first two of JK Rowling's Harry Potter books almost on a whim, seeing them on special offer - and loved them.

Friends suggested I try Maeve Binchy, Libby Purves, Alexandra Raife, Marcia Willetts... and so I discovered more and more wonderful writers, and began collecting their books.

As a teenager I sometimes tried to keep a note of what I'd read and what I thought of each book; in 1999 I decided I would do it more intentionally, and started keeping a notebook in which I recorded everything I read, and what I thought of it.  I discovered an online book catalogue called Bibliophil, where I could enter all my books, star ratings, reviews  and more.. and started the painstaking process of adding our entire library (probably about 2000 books by that stage) and the reviews I had written down.

Concerned that this information might get lost (the site owners warned that the site would not necessarily continue forever) I used their export function, and then imported everything to GoodReads, and then yet another similar site, Shelfari.  And then I decided I would do better to start my own blog, of which I would have more control. So I backdated it to the start of my 1999 reviews booklet... and have kept going ever since.

We have around 3,000 books now, and I aim to read about 100 per year. The Bibliophil site did, indeed, vanish one day, but I keep updating the other two with succinct snippets of the reviews I write for this blog. I've started putting them on Amazon UK too.

I was given a Kindle as a surprise Christmas present a few years ago, and find it a wonderful invention for travelling, and for quick downloads of classics and other books I can't find elsewhere. I have about 300 books on it, and tend to use it at breakfast, where I can read one-handed. But I still prefer to handle real books where possible, and usually have about five or six that I'm reading at any point, although only one is likely to be fiction.

This blog is a personal reading journey, but it's inspired a few interesting discussions, and occasionally has even helped people find books they only half remembered, or introduced them to more. It even helped one friend feel less alone after a difficult time, as she read through it one night not realising, at first, that it was mine.

Please feel free to comment, if you wish, or peruse the blog; there are links in most of the posts to buy at Amazon UK, should you wish to, and in many at Amazon US as well, since some of my readers are from the United States. Most of them can be bought inexpensively second-hand, and increasing numbers now have e-book versions too. 

No comments: