I was trying to figure out what my first proper post was going to be about, what direction I would take first and I realised we should start where all this began for me – books. I have loved reading for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I read everything. And I mean everything : my age appropriate books- Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, Kenneth Grahame were favourites, my Moms not so age appropriate books – Mills & Boon, James Herbert, Jilly Cooper, Jackie Collins – all absolutely unsuitable but I’d pilfer them from the shelf over her bed without her knowing and read them, wide eyed, buried under my duvet late into the night. I just wanted to read. And I did, I read everything – random things like cereal boxes or pamphlets in the doctors surgery/ bank/ dentist. Anything with words on – I was interested in. I could give you the official spiel on prostate screening long before it became fashionable. There was a second hand bookshop in the square in Tralee called The Bookshelf. My mom used to go to town every Thursday and she’d bring me home a book most weeks. Most of the kids books were around 80p and each had a trade in value so if you took it back you’d have maybe 40p towards your next book. mine never went back. I wanted a collection of books. I liked to read and re-read. I found comfort in the familiar. Even now I can take out my Laura Ingalls Wilder trilogy, climb into bed, block out the world and I instantly feel safe. There have been times in my life when I physically needed to feel the security that comes with the happenings in The Magic Faraway Tree or the wondrous goings on in Narnia. That is the magic of the written world. They are simply letters printed on a page but have the ability to help you escape the most difficult of times.
There are also times when I enjoy being scared silly by a book. Stephen King, James Herbert and Dean Koontz are the only men for me in this genre – often imitated but never equalled. Many years ago I was in the bus station in Tralee one Monday night, waiting to get the bus back to Cork. This was maybe ten years ago – so there wasn’t the lovely bright building that’s there now. It was fairly grim. Dead of winter, dark and not a sinner to be seen. I was reading Intensity by Dean Koontz. I swear to god Edglar Vess haunted me in that bus station. I was shitting myself. I can still feel that creeping sensation of fear now. Logically I knew the odds of any harm being visited upon me by Koontz’s atrocious villain were slim. I knew that and yet it was so well written I found myself thinking but what if ? What if this psychotic American serial killer was also planning on boarding the 18.50 to Cork this very night. Erm what else would he have had to be doing of a wintery Monday? Cork has a certain allure and sure the Americans love it. Even though I was petrified I was unable to turn away, I had to continue to read, I had to find out what happened next. I did not sleep properly for weeks after reading that book. I love a book that provokes strong emotion – be that fear, sadness, joy, nostalgia – whatever. Here are some of my favourites;
- Intensity – Dean Koontz. You may have gathered from the above rambling that the emotion this book promotes in me is fear, definitely fear. Read this if you haven’t already but save it for daytime hours and be ready to put it in the freezer when it all gets to much.
- The Road – Cormac McCarthy. I read this long before the movie came out and raved about it (I’m the stamp of Oprah when I get going) to anybody who would listen. it was unlike anything I had ever read before. Everything was just different – the language, layout, all deceivingly simplistic but capable of drawing the reader into the horror of the post apocalyptic world the characters were now inhabiting and the writing left you with a harrowing bleakness that lingered long after you had finished the final chapter. It took me a couple of goes to get into it but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended.
- Harry Potter – JK Rowling. I am unapologetically a Harry Potter nut. In actual fact as I sit here typing I am very comfy in my Harry Potter pj’s and every birthday that passes when I don’t receive my Hogwarts acceptance letter another tiny part of my soul dies. (I know I’m too old now but I could be a sub teacher or take the remiedial classes for muggle studies. Something. Anything) I came to HP late in the game. I was off work sick for a couple of weeks and my Aunty Katty gave me the seven books to read to kill the time. And read I did. I devoured them. I was transported to Hogwarts, each term I became more invested in the futures of our young heroes. My husband came home one day to find me in floods of tears on the couch. He thought somebody had died, I managed to tell him that yes, somebody had. Dobby. Cue total bewilderment when I explained he was a house elf- it took Finbarr a while (after he had thought I was high for a minute too long to be comfortable) to cop I was talking about a character in a book. He didn’t get it. He’s not a reader. I was genuinely devastated. Heartbroken. So much so I texted my Aunt to ask her why she hated me? How could she have given me something that was going to cause so much emotional distress? And what kind of sick Bastards were giving these books to children?! Thankfully my rage and distress dissipated and I apologised to my Aunt. I now cannot wait until my son is old enough to be entranced by the magic that is Harry Potter. JK Rowlings ability to create something so intricate and magical and REAL fills me with awe. That and Snape is one of the greatest characters in literary history. ‘Even after all this time?’ ‘Always’. Always people, ALWAYS.
- Me before you – JoJo Moyes. This is the book I recommend to friends – especially those that may not be massive readers. I read this years ago and was so drained by it afterwards I couldn’t even talk about it. I was bereft and I LOVED it! honestly this one gets you in all the feels.
- Primal Fear – William Diehl. I was young when I read this – maybe 15? And it sucker punched me. It has what I still believe to be one of the greatest twists in any story I’ve ever read. I actually shouted at it when I turned the final page. Don’t watch the movie first – although Ed Norton is really very good – read the book. You wont be sorry.
- Superchick/ Rock & a Hard Place/ Ride On – Stephen J. Martin. Irish author, funny,easy to read books, chicklit from a male perspective. Dicklit? Or is that something else entirely? Aesop’s interview as gaeilge literally makes me snort with laughter every time I read it.
- Roddy Doyle – in particular The Barrytown trilogy, defined a very specific time in Irish culture. It was the first set of books I’d read that sounded Irish, was set in Ireland and even though I most definitely wasn’t a Dub, they were relatable and I highly doubt there’s an Irish person over the age of 30 that can’t quote from The Commitments/The Snapper/The Van. ‘I suppose a rides out of the question?’ Never, Mr Rabbite, never.
- The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch. This is a very special book. I would recommend anybody that has ever had a dream, anyone that has children or family, anyone that needs some inspiration to live their best life -please read this book. Then check out the YouTube video of the same name. Inspirational, heart-breaking stuff.
- Famous Five, Malory Towers, St. Clare’s, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Enchanted Wood, Wind in the Willows, Little House on The Prairie, Anything by Roald Dahl – basically children’s books. I still read children’s books. I cant even pretend I’m reading them to Fionn, he’s 3 and enjoys The Farm and Plant magazine. I read them because I love them and they are clever and funny and comforting and although may have some heartbreak along the way – usually have a happy ending. As an adult it is nice to spend an hour knowing that the mystery will always be solved and the bad guys always get caught.
The above books are a very small snapshot of some of my favourites. For the most part they are books I read a long time ago and they are the books I would buy again if my house burned down. (I’d obviously buy them in digital format as no doubt my book mountain will have been the reason we lost everything in the fire) Speaking of which I now love my kindle. I didn’t think I would as I love the smell and weighty feel of a book in my hand but I am a convert. I love the convenience and now have hundreds of books with me all the time. The authors I have filled it with write the books I love to read every night when in bed or away and have time to read. These are Harlan Coben, Alex Barclay, Linwood Barclay, Jeffery Deaver, James Patterson, Michael Connolly, Robert Galbraith (AKA JK Rowling)Gillian Flynn – the list goes on and on. I read a lot of detective/ thriller/ serial killer books. looking at my kindle history I should now be able to commit the perfect crime. I’m joking obviously. Especially if the Gardaí are now reading this for any reason. Can somebody who loves me delete my internet history please?!
So there you have it, a long old ramble about books! The hope would be that in the future I will write reviews on whatever I’m currently reading. Are books an important part of your life? What were your favourite childhood books? What are you currently reading and would you recommend?
Until next time, Bernie x