OK the title really doesn’t have any relevance as this is a post about being half way through the reading year and reflecting on my favourite books so far. But I never think of the word halfway without remembering my favourite A A Milne poem. As I wrote about way back in the early days of this blog one of my very favourite bookish presents was a copy of When We Were Very Young and Halfway Down is my favourite poem from it (other people can recite Keats and Wordsworth by heart, I can do A A Milne).
Anyway, on to the favourites. Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise is collating people’s thoughts on this very topic so do stop by her blog and tell her your favourite reads so far this year. Given the overall improvement in the quality of my reading these days I could easily list a top 30 or 40 books but I suspect that is not the spirit of things so I’ve whittled it down to a favourite ten. I’ll be curious to see how many of them survive to appear in my favourite books for the year. Could I possibly read ten better books than this in the remaining 6 months of Twenty Ten?
What, if any, memorable or special book have you ever gotten as a present? Birthday or otherwise. What made it so notable? The person who gave it? The book itself? The “gift aura?”
Some of my earliest memories are of the books I received as presents as a child. Every birthday, Christmas and special event saw my brother and I receive a book from our parents. Well officially the books were from both our parents but in reality we know it was mum who picked them out; our dad is a voracious newspaper reader but I don’t recall ever seeing him read a book. When financial times were tough the book was the only present and when things were better the book was among the gifts received. But the book was the constant factor.
My mum’s love of reading and the fact that she treated books with such importance as to make them the first (sometimes only) gift we received for special occasions has, I am sure, led to my own love of books.
One of the books which stands out from among the many my mum has selected was Enid Blyton’s The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor ( I found this picture of the cover of my version over at the marvellous Enid Blyton Society website). The book is one of a series featuring Elizabeth Allen who is a boarding school student where, even though she tries hard, she often gets into trouble through being misunderstood. I do recall identifying very strongly with Elizabeth in this story for what seem, now, like very childish reasons but also often imagined myself being transported from my hum-drum suburban school to the place of midnight feasts and other adventures. It’s one of the books I retained well into adulthood and only lost it during a flood at my house a few years ago.
One of the other books I remember very fondly is a hardcover book that contained both When We Were Young and Now We Are Six: two collections of poetry by A A Milne. This cover isn’t exactly like mine but it’s close. I must have read those poems a hundred times each and, even now, can recite quite a few from memory. I used to love the way the words sounded when read (with what I now know to be the right cadence) and was inspired by them to write many of my own poems (a few if which were published in the children’s pages of our Sunday paper which was cause for much childhood pride).
I received many more books during my childhood and borrowed hundreds more than that from libraries and friends but these two have always stuck in my memory. I think they must have exactly the right book for me at the time they were given. Thanks mum.