I’m not really a book person. I rarely finish novels – most of them are simply too boring to make me want to find out how they end. When I do enjoy a book, I tend to read it over and over. I’ve read each Harry Potter book at least three times (except the last), and have read Pride and Prejudice (197 years old and still f***ing hilarious) about six times.
I can’t, even now, think of a (fiction) book that has profoundly changed my life in the way my favourite music has. The closest to a life-changer would be Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart, which taught me the habit of flipping a coin over important decisions – not, in my case, to act so impulsively, but to reveal my subconscious desires: if I’m disappointed by a result, it means I didn’t really want to do it in the first place.
Mostly as a child I grew up reading standard fare – Lewis Carroll was a particular favourite, as were Grimm’s Fairy Tales and other fantasy fiction: The Wind in the Willows, Narnia; the usual. When I was eight, I used to read a comic written by Pat ‘Judge Dredd’ Mills called Misty – a fabulously morbid slab of gothic horror – specially for little girls.
The first book I remember finding profoundly affecting was A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair by Nicholas Fisk. I was about ten, and I’d read a couple of his other stories – Trillions, for one – and the thing I loved about it was that he didn’t patronise his audience. He wrote grown up, solidly-written science fiction in which the protagonist happened to be a child. What was most arresting, other than the vivid detail of the worlds he described, was the shock twist ending. I bought the book from Amazon a couple of years back and, finding it just as good now as it was back then, sent it on to my nephew. I hope he read it. When I first stayed over with one of my closest friends, I was pleased to see Nicholas Fisk’s children’s stories nestling comfortably between Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene on her bookshelf.