As you know, I’m a lover of all the arts, in different ways. Movies provided a gorgeous escape world as a teenager, music is the closest thing to a religious experience, visual art soothes my soul. But my first and greatest love will always be reading.

Reading was one thing that was ingrained into me by my mother, who to this day is still a voracious reader (she also loves James Patterson books, but let’s not talk about that). She read to me in the womb – children’s books, the newspaper, whatever novel she was reading at the time. I could read fluently at the age of three, before I could speak properly. That wasn’t meant to be a boast, but it certainly set the foundation for my method of learning and comprehending the world around me.

I never used to be able to sleep without reading a book first. I would read a lot of Little Golden Books and the like, lovely sweet things that I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of. Reading would relax my frantic mind and I would go to sleep, dreaming of kittens, trains, princesses and Sesame Street. We had first aid books and layman-level medical books lying about the place, and I used to love looking at the pictures, which kickstarted my fascination with anatomy. I read and read and read. I was always at the school library and town library, and as I got older I tried to discover what sort of books I like, so I read them all.

I loved the pure escapism. I especially loved it when the books had true elements, elements that existed in my world that I could grab onto and then leap off into the world of imagination. I loved being in different worlds with different people, where people were good and kindly and lived happily ever after (sometimes, I still believe that). Adventures were had and things got scary but in the end everyone returned home safely with dirty faces. I was running beside them, being a train driver, playing with kittens, climbing trees, exploring castles, even fighting people with swords. I could do it all, and see it all happening in my head. The best-written books are the ones that are only half-written – your imagination supplies the rest.

When I was in my early teens, I started to write. I wanted to create a story of my own, one I could control for myself. I wanted to have my own adventures. I had the Internet and video games and movies, so my reading kind of dropped off. I was still using old favourite books to help me go to sleep, my mind becoming more frantic. Then I just started to read purely for research purposes, to help me write. The constant text analysis I had to do in English class put me off reading for pleasure, because I couldn’t turn off the analysis (thankfully after I finished school that went away quickly). Reading before bed was a disaster, because it just gave me ideas and made my mind race even faster. I kept notebooks beside my bed into which I would scribble notes in the middle of the night. I used to have ideas so strong and so clear come into my head, that it would actually wake me up.

Then, when I was 15, came the big one.

The Lord of the Rings.

The next four or so years of my life were devoted to that book. Reading it, reading its companion stories, reading the histories, biographies, letters, everything. And then I started to write, and that consumed me even more. Through that book came a community of people I am still proud to call my friends, and, indirectly, my husband.

After the dizzying high of that gorgeous world with so much potential came the crashing low. I couldn’t find another fictional world that I could fall in love with like I did Middle-earth. I couldn’t find characters that inspired me, and who I wanted to follow. So, I turned to non-fiction. My writing output slowed to a trickle. I could still laugh, I could still learn. I found gorgeous, funny, interesting people from whom I learned so much, and still learn from today. But it’s not quite the same.

My house is filled with thriller and crime books, which don’t really appeal to me. For a while I thought that I’d never love fiction again the way I used to. Is falling into the world of fiction something that adults don’t do? Do grown-ups only read books that are true or about people being chased? I couldn’t find a genre I liked, a setting I liked, characters I liked. And it only served to remind me about the loss of my own writing creativity.

But now, a few years on, a renaissance is happening.

I love fiction again. I’ve been having a hard time lately and I needed something to calm me down, and my worn and battered copy of Mother Tongue just wasn’t doing it anymore (still my number 1 book ever though, you need to read it!). And I’ve been itching to write again as well. This blog has been great but I want to tell stories again, and not about myself. I want to have notebooks and notebooks filled again. So my lovely boy said to me, ‘Start reading.’ So I did.

For my birthday last year I got a Sony Reader, which is a wonderful little thing, but I didn’t use it as much as I should have in the past year. I decided to try public domain books, and I read a few books and authors I’d wanted to read, but I didn’t really get into them. I enjoyed the flowery prose of Oscar Wilde, but it was too overblown for me. I enjoyed the plot of Jane Eyre but it was so slow to start.

But then, it hit me.

I read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

I don’t know what I was expecting – more of your stuffy Victoriana, I expect. But the humour, the quirks, the pacing and the pure quality of the writing just killed me stone dead. I loved it. So, I started collecting more books, and requested some for Christmas. Between Christmas and now, I estimate that I have bought, downloaded or been given around 20 books, and I’ve read about 6. I’ve scoured cheap bookstores, found some gems and some duds. Books are exciting again, and I’m getting used to digital ones (they would never replace my paper collections but they are so damned convenient). I downloaded more Sherlock Holmes, and Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, which knocked my socks off once again. For the first time in a long time, I was standing beside Edward Malone, watching the iguanodons with their babies. I’ve gotten art books, DIY books, lots of fiction, historical texts, language books and non-fiction. I’d found one of Michael Palin’s diaries during my wanderings and his beautifully gentle, warm, funny and heartfelt voice was the perfect companion to my dark and desolate mood at the time.

I’m starting to find my feet again writing-wise as well. I’d like to think that my blog posts are getting better (although I find I’m making some awful grammatical errors, what the hell) and maybe, one day, I can finally leap into my own world again.

But trust me, once I do, my backpack will be full of books.

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