The best thing my gran ever did for me was take me to join the local library when I was 9. It wasn’t long before it became a weekly visit, every week I’d leave laden down with the maximum 8 books, and return the following week, all would be read and I’d be eager for more.
I read about animals, pirates, aliens – in fact, I read whatever I could get my hands on. I read about love, about hate, jealousy and trust. I learned which of those I wanted in my life. I explored desert islands, planets I’d never heard of, make believe worlds of elves and dragons and so many more weird and wonderful places.
To me, every unread book was an adventure waiting to be had. Inside the cover was a passport to another world. One I could visit whenever I wished. And the best thing about it was the world would stay with me long after the book was returned to the library. It was mine.
My childhood was fairly lonely; I grew up in a very small village with hardly any children of a similar age. Books were my refuge. They became my friends. Sometimes during the long days of summer I would get in 10 hours of reading per day. I would immerse myself in the book during the day and then dream about it at night.
Sometimes I was so taken by the world I had entered, that I tried to draw it; to capture it as I first found it. Alas, I’m no artist. But it didn’t matter. As a child it was the best homage I could pay to the creator of my new world.
Even now, I can come across a book I haven’t read for 20 years and reading it again is like catching up with somebody I once shared my life with.
My collection of books isn’t as big as it once was. I’ve tried to slim it down but my favourites will be there forever. There are books that comfort me after a hard week. Books that can give me that sometimes needed slap of perspective. Books that can hold me when I’m lonely.
There are so many places I’ve visited; I’ve seen famines in Ethiopia, genocide in Rwanda. I was in Derbyshire during an outbreak of the plague. I was in Castle Rock when a clown started taking children. I was with Anne Frank on 4th August 1944.
People talk about your life flashing before your eyes in near-death situations. What will I see? Will it be my own life history? Or will I see all the adventures I’ve been allowed to enter? I hope with all my heart that it’s the latter.
And the best thing about books? I will never run out. Authors all over the world are making brand new adventures for me every day. I’ll always have somewhere to escape to.