CS Lewis is reputed to have said that we read to know that we are not alone. How lovely is that. I can’t remember when I first started reading and I have never really felt alone. My earliest childhood memories are of me curled up somewhere with a book. When I was old enough, and with the blessing of the village librarian, I enrolled both my parents in the local library so that I could get books on their tickets, too. That was six books a week.I progressed from the Famous Five, the Five Findouters, and the Secret Seven to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. John Buchan’s The 39 Steps was a major leap for me from teen fiction to grown-up books and I’ve never looked back.
Given my druthers, I prefer translated fiction. Somehow what has been written in another language and then translated has an added element of something I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s as if I’m getting an insight into a world that by rights I should not know about as I don’t speak that language. I’ve been particularly taken lately with Srdjan Valjarevic’s Lake Como and Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin.
I’m smitten with Mikey Spillane and his ilk. Raymond Chandler is, to my mind, one of the best crime novelists out there. He has a delicious turn of phrase. James Lee Burke is one of the most descriptive. I can get lost in the bayous of Louisiana with Dave Robicheaux and feel like I know him personally. Travelling through Italy with Andrea Camilleri’s Salvo Montalbano is almost as good as being there in person. Spending time with CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake had taught me at thing or two about the Reformation and what Cromwell got up to in his day.Add to this list Jasper Fforde and Christopher Moore, for a trip to the ridiculous through the sublime; Robert Olean Butler and Paul Watkins for a more sober take on reality; the wonderful South African Damon Galgut for his take on post-Apartheid life; and the inimitable Amistead Maupin and his wonderful tales of the city. Dick Francis and Ian Rankin have never let me down. Giovanni Guareschi is the one Italian I would most love to have to dinner. And had I my pick of characters I could meet in person, it would be Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.
I have lost myself in all sorts of books. I can while away an afternoon, or an evening, and on occasion a whole day in the company of my fictional friends. This week, as the temperatures finally dropped and my sanity returned to normal levels, I am truly grateful for my love of reading. I can’t imagine my life without books and the sanctuary they provide.
Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52