Upon my initial reading of Ulysses, I detested it intensely.
The earliest memory I have of reading is…
When I was around five years old, I sat in my grandfather’s study in Brittany. He read to me in French from his translated version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. He read these stories to me so frequently that I could correct him if he skipped a part or changed something he thought sounded awkward. He called me “Grenouille” (meaning “frog”), which was also the name of Mowgli, the main character in the stories. I believed that the stories were about me.
was “To Kill a Mockingbird”
As I was growing up, “To Kill a Mockingbird” was my preferred book.
Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. It had everything an imaginative, lonely child could want: a magical carousel; a carnival of monsters; the scent of autumn leaves in the sun; a glimpse of the darkness behind the nostalgia of childhood. And the language is as crisp and sweet as an October apple, awakening in me a passion for words and the magic they can evoke.
The book that had a profound impact on me during my teenage years.
At the age of 15, I initially encountered Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast while I was meant to be studying for my mock O-levels. However, the book captivated me from the very first page. It was unlike anything I had ever read before: complex, peculiar, and subtly bleak beneath its facade of lightheartedness. I became fixated on it: the masterful use of language, the vivid descriptions, the illustrations, and the intentional disregard for conventional storytelling conventions. I have revisited it numerous times since then and it always provides fresh perspectives.
The author who shifted my perspective
I used to think that my decision-making was unbiased and not influenced by my environment or emotions, like many others. However, after reading Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational a decade ago, my perspective changed. This thought-provoking and enlightening book opened my eyes to the concept of rational thinking, social conformity, decision-making, and moral principles in a whole new light.
The book that sparked my desire to become a writer.
I have always aspired to become a writer, even from a young age. However, the environment I grew up in did not encourage such dreams. It seemed like being a writer was just a fantasy, similar to being a pirate, a pony, or an adventurer in space. It wasn’t until I read the introduction to Ray Bradbury’s S Is for Space that I realized being a writer was a tangible reality. Bradbury expressed thoughts and feelings that I thought were unique to me. The concept of writers becoming like a chosen family resonated with me and I held onto it throughout my formative years. Even now, it still holds true.
The book or writer I returned to
At the age of 15, I read Ulysses by James Joyce, mistakenly believing it was about Greek mythology. I found it unattractive, gloomy, and uninteresting, and I strongly disliked it. It wasn’t until 40 years later that I revisited the book and was able to understand and appreciate it – not necessarily enjoying it, but at least grasping the intricate details, mythical connections, and innovative writing styles used. It is still not my preferred book, but I can now see past my initial, immature impression.
The book I reread
I frequently revisit books, occasionally for solace and other times because I believe exceptional books can evolve along with the reader, providing new insights as the reader gains life experience. When I first encountered Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights at 16, I interpreted it as a romantic tale and was captivated by the intensity, fervor, and emotional depth of the main relationships. Upon rereading it as an adult, I was struck by its stark differences and how much of the humor I had previously overlooked. Now, I appreciate its poetic language and rawness, as well as the underlying love story between Brontë and the North York Moors.
The book I could not bear to read once more.
While some books can evolve alongside us, others are left behind. Upon revisiting childhood favorites, I have discovered that not only has the enchantment faded, but as an adult, certain aspects of the story are now discomforting. I am particularly aware of elements that I did not notice as a child, such as underlying themes of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and fatphobia. These personal or societal attitudes may be deeply ingrained in the story and cannot be separated from the text. In these cases, I am content to leave the book behind. I have taken what I needed from it and do not feel the need to return to it.
I found the book at a later stage in my life.
As a native French speaker, I did not have the opportunity to experience many beloved children’s stories during my childhood. However, I was fortunate enough to discover them as an adult while reading to my own child. One such classic is The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, which is filled with timeless wisdom, empathy, and humor. It also showcases a strong appreciation for nature and its untamed landscapes.
is “The Great Gatsby”
I am currently engrossed in the novel “The Great Gatsby.”
Selina Mills’ book, “Life Unseen,” offers a unique perspective on blindness, exploring its myths, misconceptions, and societal attitudes throughout history. As a blind author herself, Mills provides insightful information and lessons on the power of imagination, language, and perception in shaping our understanding of the world.