This week on The Books That Built the Blogger, I’m delighted to welcome Karen from Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings! Her blog has long been one of my favourites, with a fantastic mix of classics, poetry and works in translation. I was so intrigued to hear about the books that made her the reader, and blogger, she is today!
If you’ve been reading books as long as I have, and you think of yourself as a voracious reader (I certainly am!) then it can be hard to pick out favourites. However, when Cathy asked me to contribute to her ‘Books That Built the Blogger’ series, I thought I would have a go at pinpointing some books that are particularly significant.
As a child I was always reading, more often than not Enid Blytons, or basically anything I could get my hands on. We didn’t have much money for books, so the library was an essential port of call, and in our lovely little local one I came across Dr. Seuss’s I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew. This was completely unlike anything I usually read but I loved its combination of rhyming words and images, and the latter were particularly stunning – colourful and surreal, they took me far away from the dull everyday routine, and when I was grown up and had an income of my own for books, I soon picked up my own copy.
Another series of books featuring strange characters and landscapes came in the form of the Gormenghast books by Melvyn Peake. I was gifted a set of these for Christmas 1978 and spent the whole of the festive period absorbed in their wonderful narrative. I still believe Peake was a genius, with his many talents from painting, book illustration poetry and novels, but his Gormenghast stories were his crowning achievement. Not only did the books affect me emotionally, but they got me involved with the Mervyn Peake Society, and I ended up helping to run this for some time.
In my twenties I began to explore more widely 20th century women’s literature. One highly recommended author was Virginia Woolf, and the local book shop had Mrs. Dalloway, which was therefore the first Woolf I read. I loved it then and I love it still – I’d never come across anyone who played with language like she did and took the reader on such a breathtaking journey. I spent some time after discovering this book in reading all of her novels, essays, letters and diaries…
Another book that holds great emotional significance for me is one that was gifted by OH around the same time, on the recommendation of a friend of his. That book was Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night a Traveller and reading it was revelatory. If I thought Woolf played with language, here was someone who turned it on its head! I was hooked from the very start, when Calvino described the words of the page you were reading as being obscured by the smoke of the train in the story. As with Woolf, I went on to read all of his works, developing a huge obsession with his books, and I still return to them with great joy.
I realise that all of these books are ones I’ve read quite some time ago, so my final pick is a book I came across more recently which had a huge impact and sent me off on one of my regular bookish obsessions – “Life: A User’s Manual” by Georges Perec. I picked this up on a whim in a charity shop, having a vague memory of reading something interesting about it online, and it was one of those serendipitous finds that any bookaholic will recognise. I discovered that Perec was a part of the OuLiPo group, of which Calvino had also been a member, a group who were dedicated to playing with language. “Life” is a brilliant piece of work: long and complex, full of dazzling stories, even if you don’t get the underlying structure and constraints employed to write it, it’s still a masterpiece and utterly compelling. And needless to say I feel the need to read everything by Perec and have amassed quite a collection of his works…
So those are some of the books that made me the reader and blogger I am. Of course, if you asked me next week I might well come up with other titles – that’s the joy of reading and the joy of all the books in the world. You never know what you’ll stumble across next!
Thanks so much to Karen for taking part – what fantastic choices! I adore Mrs Dalloway, which I only read last year. I know if I had read Woolf earlier in life she would have had a profound effect on my reading. The Calvino is in the 746 so I’m looking forward to that one at some point and the George Perec sounds amazing!
Have any of these books had an influence on your reading? Don’t forget, if you’d like to take part, drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org