Books I Loved as a Child

The other day I found myself thinking about my favourite books from when I was growing up. The ones that made me a reader and made me long to be a writer. I guess it’s something to do with the fact that we are rapidly approaching the end of yet another year.

This list is not definitive, it’s way too short for that, but I have to stop sometime and it’s not a bad representation. Anyway, I can always update it this time next year! I also avoided ranking them in any sort of order. It would be like asking me to rank my family in preference order.

So, going way back to the beginning of my reading love-affair…


Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

Okay, so our heroine and the main character is Jo. Jo is a bit of a tomboy and a passionate reader. Her heartfelt desire is to be a writer, something that she does throughout whether it’s plays for her sisters to appear in or writing fiction for newspapers. Do I need to say more? Her joy at getting her first payment for a piece that she wrote is one of the high points of literature for me. To be honest I don’t now remember whether all of this is evident in the first book – Good Wives, Little Men and Jo’s Boys continued the story – but I do remember that my dearest wish was to grow up to be her.

The Lord of the Rings – Tolkien

I probably don’t even need to mention this one. By the time I was 7 I’d worn out one copy and saved hard to afford a new one. I’ve still got both of them and the third copy that became necessary. Yes I can translate the runes around the gateway depicted on the second version’s cover. Perhaps oddly, I didn’t read The Hobbit until afterwards. As a result of which, for me, The Hobbit appeared curiously childish when my pre-teen self finally read it. As an adult I can appreciate the subtleties rather more. Tolkien introduced me to the majesty of language and absolutely swept me away with his descriptions and the sheer depth of his world-building. Whenever I read the anti-adverb and anti-description advice from various experts, I think back to this book and smile. I don’t think that Tolkien’s sales have suffered by ignoring it.

The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper

I’m being a bit tricksy here – this is a name of one book in a quintet but also the name of the overall series. As a child I didn’t know about the need to read a series in order and so I came to what is actually the second book first (the running order is Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; and Silver on the Tree). I don’t altogether remember what order I read them in after that but do know that I’ve always considered Over Sea, Under Stone the weakest – because it didn’t involve Will who by then was my absolute hero. This series also introduced me to jealousy – I never took to Jane as a character because Will liked her too much! The books overall are a masterpiece in taking classic tales and adapting them for a more modern and a younger audience. They led me on to all things King Arthur. Please absolutely ignore the abomination that was the film – the worst adaptation of a book I’ve ever seen.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen – Alan Garner

I read all of Alan Garner’s books that I could get my hands on but the Weirdstone is the one that has remained closest to my heart. I think for the first time I appreciated a female character and her style of bravery. I also fell in love with a world of elves and dwarves that differed markedly from Tolkien’s by being within and yet apart from our own society. And even as a child was intrigued by why the two races couldn’t get on and their different cultures. This book opened my eyes to difference. I was brought up in a small village and attended a small, single-religion school. I did not encounter difference in my daily life at all. This was a great way to have my eyes gently opened. It was also, I think, the first time I read a story where one of my beloved characters died. I remember the shock but also understanding that it was a necessary sacrifice. The Morrigan is an outstanding baddy and I went on to read everything I could about her. In fact everything on Celtic mythology that I could find.

The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

I used to get pennies in pocket money growing up. Don’t get me wrong, we’re talking long enough ago that my parents were being pretty generous, and as soon as I got the money I would head to the local bookstore to buy a new book. There was a series of children’s classics that were abridged versions of the true English classic literature of the 18th and 19th century and were mine for the princely sum of 15p each. I read all sorts – The Black Tulip, Great Expectations, Moonfleet, Frankenstein, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Dracula and Treasure Island to name just a few – but the one that I loved the most was The Three Musketeers. It’s not a light and fluffy book – don’t take too much notice of the films that have been made, which tend to keep the character names and not much else, great fun though they are. The language was amazing and the situations intense – I went away to find out more about the history of the time because it had been brought so vividly alive to me. Dumas is not considered a kids author and yet I think I probably got more out of it as a child than I would as an adult today. The concepts of loyalty and friendship and mutual support were ones that I was living every day on the playground and so they made total sense within the story. I have a feeling that the concept of honour had a profound impact on me and helped to shape my approach to the world.


So, there you have it. The books that shaped my approach to reading and writing and still sit on my bookshelves ready to whisk me away. The hours of pleasure that they, and so many other books, have given me is a never-ending source of wonder. I owe so many authors so much.

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