Culture Writer Deyna Grimshaw takes us through the books which have shaped her, from the Mr Men series to Shelley’s Frankenstein.
As an English student, reading has framed much of my life.
The Earliest Books I can Remember
The earliest books which I can remember reading are the bedtime stories that were read to me by my parents. Whilst many people reminisce over Biff, Kipp and Chipper, I started out with the Mr Men books instead. Roger Hargreaves’ concoction of characters was detailed to me each night by both my Mum and Dad, until I took the books myself and read them back to my parents, showing my interest in fiction from an early age.
The Book Series which Influenced Me the Most
I quickly moved from Mr Men onto more advanced children’s novels, and I definitely began reading books that were more advanced than my age range early on (Flowers in the Attic is not a book I would recommend to anybody, in all honesty, but especially not to somebody aged 12). Luckily, the majority of books were less harrowing, and many of them I would read again even at the ripe old age of 20. Anyone who knows me will be fully aware that if any book series has influenced my life heavily, it is the Harry Potter series. I think I have always used reading as a form of escapism, and the fictional world created by J.K Rowling was the perfect space in which to abandon reality for a while. Combined with the ability the books gave me to bond with my older brother, from whom I borrowed them, the series remains something which I am unashamedly obsessed with to this day.
The Book which got me Back into Reading
Like many teenagers, I fell out of love with reading for a while, particularly after my introduction to social media and online streaming platforms. In fact, it was a novel which I studied for my GCSE’s, and which I actually read cover-to-cover the night before my mock exam (having not read the majority previously – apologies to my English teacher), which reminded me of my love of literature. Willa Cather’s My Antonia may not be the best-known or thrilling novel, however, the beauty which Cather portrays through the pages truly reintroduced to me the concept of reading for pleasure rather than necessity.
The Book which introduced me to my Favourite Genre
Some of the most important books throughout my life have been those which opened my eyes to new genres of literature. Despite studying Gothic fiction at A-Level, I was unable to connect with my set texts. It was only when I began to do some extra reading and fell upon Shelley’s Frankenstein (mainly because it looked the shortest of many Gothic novels) that I discovered a love for the genre which I have carried through university with me. To this day, I could not pinpoint what enthrals me about the novel (although it did immediately strike me how excellently written it is), but it is a text which I would be happy to pick up time after time. Similarly, I was dubious about studying Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in my first year of university, having avoided the author in my life thus far. However, my bookshelves are now lined with multiple copies of each of Austen’s works, as her writing immediately drew me in. In comparison to much literature, Austen’s writing feels casual and easy, almost akin to a better and more intellectual version of trashy holiday reading.
As our lives become more hectic, we can lose sight of the pastimes which we once enjoyed. I find making time for reading particularly difficult, as it is so associated with studying and university work for me. However, whenever I do get an opportunity to curl up with a good book, I am almost instantaneously reminded of why I fell in love with reading in the first place, and therefore why I chose to study English Literature at University. Whilst I may not know what my next steps in life will be, I can always be sure that they will include a lot more literature, and some hefty bookshop bills.
Enjoyed This? Read more Culture articles here!