Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Memories

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

Week One of covid is done… it did take it out of me a bit, I have to say, and the headache and general sense of malaise and fatigue have got in the way of the vague plans of either excessive reading, or blogging… although I have got a couple of reviews up. To be fair though, my symptoms are nowhere near as bad as so many other peoples; I have been incredibly lucky! Nothing that has rally hit my chest or breathing – perhaps a minor tightness…

Any, this week’s Top Ten list is our bookish memories and Jana invites us to

Share stories of your reading life as a child, events you’ve gone to, books that made an impression on you, noteworthy experiences with books, authors you’ve met, etc. Reminisce with me!

As with so many of us, I suspect, I cannot recall a time when reading was not a central part of my life, so there are so many memories to consider! How on earth to limit it to just ten?

My Reading Life As A Child

One thing that grieves me is that I have no memory – none whatsoever – of being read to as a child.

I am sure it must have happened. Mustn’t it? It is such a non-negotiable in my life with my own children that it must have happened in my own childhood… but I have no memory.

The first books I do remember reading avidly were – God bless her – Enid Blyton! Whilst I did read and I remember fondly the inevitable Famous Five and Secret Seven, those were not the series that I really engaged with. Perhaps a little too familiar and safe a setting: I grew up in a little rural village in Kent and, in hindsight, found the parochial settings there a little too familiar.

I was probably yearning for a setting more exotic and adventurous, so the Adventure Series gripped me as Philip, Jack, Dinah, and Lucy-Ann, along with Jack’s pet parrot, Kiki seemed to travel the globe.

I will also cite, as a very different reading experience albeit by the same author, The Magic Faraway Tree. There are elements there – the absurd characters of Moonface and Mr Watzisname and The Saucepan Man; the escapism from the mundane into the mythic, was the Faraway Tree Yggdrasil, connecting worlds? – that I adored

And I particularly remember the episode – I think it was in The Folk of the Faraway Tree when the Tree itself was dying, its leaves shrivelling up and I think it was the first time I felt the potential for true loss through my reading…

I do fear the prospect of returning to these books or reading them with my daughter… I fear they will not have stood the test of time that well, nor the ravages of linguistic slippage. Were the characters Fanny and Dick not renamed Frannie and Rick?

Another author who was formative for me was Roald Dahl – and it was Danny, Champion of the World that I remember most fondly.

In hindsight, I might want to say that this was the first novel that really got me thinking about social divisions in society, about class and inequality…

I might want to say that it was the father-son relationship that charmed me…

Whatever it was, the knowledge that you could drug pheasants by lacing raisins – was it raisins? – with sleeping pills has hung around in my mind for decades now!

Another story that has lingered in my imagination is Stig of the Dump by Clive King – the details, I admit are rather hazy now but I remember a boy discovering a caveman in a chalk quarry being used as a rubbish dump. Oh the horrors of landfill decades before recycling became a thing!

Going to be honest, I have just looked at the summary on Wikipedia and I had no recollection that one summer’s night Barney and his sister slipped through time to witness Stig and his people building standing stones…

This sounds so much more interesting than what I do remember: the fact that wood warms you twice, once when you cut it and once when you burn it!

Another book that cemented my love for high fantasy novels – without which perhaps I may not have embarked on reading The Wheel of Time this week – was J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Adventure comes knocking in the shape of an irascible, knowing wizard and twelve dwarves!

Tolkien fuelled my thirst for adventure and escapism as a child, showing that even the most sedentary and settled of lives is capable of disruption and adventure – hobbits, dwarves, trolls, giant spiders, Beorn, Elrond, and of course Smaug! Characters who spawned an entire genre.

Events and Authors

I’m going to be honest, I have not much to reminisce with here: there are so many book festivals that I would love to go to, would love to drag the family to, but I have rarely got around to it!

So those I have attended include

The Cheltenham Literature Festival

Cheltenham Literature Festival is the world’s first literature festival, leading the way in celebrating the written and spoken word, presenting the best new voices in fiction and poetry alongside literary greats and high-profile speakers, while inspiring over 9,000 school children with a love of books through its Literature for Schools programme. 

The Hay Festival of Literature and Arts

Dorchester Literary Festival

My memories of these generally involve tents and heaving crowds and a lot of sunshine in Hay on Wye, not inconsiderable rain in Cheltenham and a serious – covid related – shortage of tickets for Dorchester which is a shame because that one is so local to us!

Two are also two others that I would really love to go to – although that strays off the topic a little this week.

Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival

The Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival, set up in 2008, is now one of the leading cultural events in Devon and the South West. Set on the stunning Jurassic Coast, we run five days of events in September featuring some of the most exciting writers, thinkers, experts and opinion-formers, as well as lively panel events, workshops for writers and crafters, and lots of events for families to enjoy. 

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2022 will also be making it’s return, ready to crown a new winner of the most coveted prize in crime fiction for UK and Irish authors. This year’s 2021 winner, Chris Whitaker for We Begin At The End clinched the title on his very first nomination, with Brian McGilloway receiving Highly Commended for The Last Crossing after being chosen by a public vote, the prize Academy and a panel of expert judges.

Phillip Reeve

I will tip my hat to Phillip Reeve, author of The Mortal Engine , Fever Crumb and Railhead series of novels for the adventurer at heart, and Here Lies Arthur for a rather nuanced look at the Arthurian legend.

Reeve also wrote Oliver and the Seawigs which is an utterly bizarre book, but loved by my daughter.

I mention him because in my time as a teacher, I have had to attend some rather tedious conferences and training sessions and, in one, he was the keynote speaker! He swanned in rather late if I recall, possibly the result of train disruption, or of dramatic intent, dressed in tweed with a twinkle in his eye as if he had just been swept in from the moors having taken his hound for a walk – he definitely has the air of a man who would own hounds rather than dogs, and who may possibly release them!

And his speech, which was meant to be about how to engage young people with reading, was wonderfully self-indulgent and not dissimilar to my ramblings here: a personal potted history of his childhood reading and formative works. Not a single technique or strategy to engage others, but a wonderful literary biography!

But also, I suspect in his honour, a fantastic cream teas had been put on for us!

So, there we are, a quick stroll down memory lane with some bookish memories. I am really looking forward to reading your memories, expecially as I will have more time to do so this week, on account of being covid positive and not having to wrestle with my work’s filtering protocols that block my own blog!

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

  • December 7: Freebie
  • December 14: Books on My Winter 2021 To-read List (or summer if you’re in the southern hemisphere)
  • December 21: Books I Hope Santa Brings/Bookish Wishes
  • December 28: Best Books I Read In 2021

18 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Memories”

  1. What a great post, Michael. I don’t remember being read to, either, but I think it wasn’t a great thing at my time. You might be a little younger. My parents both read but I don’t remember any children’s books in our house, not until my youngest brother was born, almost ten years younger than me.

    Your list of literary festivals is great, hopefully, one day we will be able to lead a normal life again and visit some of them.

    Thanks for visiting my TTT.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I completely agree with your Faraway Tree opinions! Franny and Rick is one thing, but adding the ‘e’ to Jo’s name blows my mind, haha. (Also, hope you’re feeling better soon!)

    Liked by 1 person

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