Saturday, July 10, 2010

Marg's Books of a Lifetime

To help celebrate Historical Tapestry's 3rd blogiversary, some of us are sharing our 'Books of a Lifetime', which is actually a lot harder than it sounds. When I started thinking about which books I would include on my list I would think that I had it settled, but then would think of another book which simply had to be included. So this is my list, but be warned, if you asked me again in a couple of months time, the list could be a little different.


From a very early age, books were my escape, my sanctuary from everything in life! I would read at any opportunity and my family often used to say that I would read the back of a cereal box if there was nothing else available.

One of the earliest specific books that I have memories of reading is Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I have no idea what edition it was that I read, but I have clear memories of borrowing this book from my school library when I was about 6 or 7, and being so proud of myself because the book was so huge and I read it in no time at all (some things really don' t change all that much - I still love chunksters). The print must have actually been huge, or there must have been a lot of illustrations or something because it really isn't that big a book but I didn't realise it at the time.

Fast forward a few more years, and my books of choice were the Trixie Belden mysteries. For anything else I may have found to complain about my mother did buy me the whole series that was out at the time. I loved reading about Trixie and her brothers Martin and Brian, along with their friends who made up the rest of the Bob-Whites, especially Jim who was my first red headed literary crush, but not my last.

Another childhood favourite was Kings in Grass Castles by Mary Durack. This is a tale of a pioneering family who are trying to build a cattle empire in the isolated land in far north Western Australia. I have no idea how this book would stand up to scrutiny now, but I do remember loving it when I read it.

Teenage Years

It was in my early teens that I discovered Jean Plaidy, and I think that my love of historical fiction was cemented. I read through basically every novel that my school library had by Plaidy, and I particularly loved reading the books that she wrote about the queens of England. I couldn't tell you about individual books that I read, but my goodness, I devoured them as quickly as I could get my hands on them.

In my late teens, my aunts introduced me to the books of Noel Barber. He wrote romantic, angst filled sagas set against the background of World War II. Once again his books were chunksters, but I didn't let that stop me from reading them as quickly as I possible could. I particularly remember really enjoying The Other Side of Paradise and A Farewell to France.


There was a period of about 10 years where I really didn't read anything. It happened to coincide with a period of time where I was in an unhappy relationship and I really lost myself in a lot of ways. Not only in terms of reading but other ways too.

Whilst it wasn't the first book that I read once things started getting back to normal, I really credit Cross Stitch (Outlander) by Diana Gabaldon for really reigniting my love of reading. I was given the first book in the Outlander series for my birthday. The book sat on my shelf for a few months until one day I picked it up and started reading, and pretty much did not put it down until I was finished. I went out and bought the next book and read it basically straight through from beginning to end, never mind that I was a zombie at work. In the end I had to restrict myself from buying the next book in the series until Friday night because I knew that if I bought the book during the week I would never get enough sleep to be able to survive. Definitely didn't hurt that this book featured another red headed literary crush!

Reading the Outlander books and feeling the need to read more and more led me to some of my other favourite authors, particularly Paullina Simons, Sara Donati and Sharon Kay Penman, and in turn to Elizabeth Chadwick and many other authors I really enjoy reading now.

The next book that I wanted to mention is the book that started me on my blogging journey. I had been reading a few book blogs for a while, but then I listened to The Red Tent on audiobook, and I just had to talk to someone, anyone, about it! Now I look back at how terrible that first review I ever wrote was and cringe, but I am still blogging nearly 5 years so from that inauspicious start good things have grown, particularly as blogging has given me friends all round the world, including the ladies that I blog with here at Historical Tapestry.

Recent reads

Some times you pick up a book and read the first few pages, and you know that you are either going to love the book or that you really are not. Luckily for me, The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley was the former. I knew within a page that I was going to love that book, and I did! Since then I have read a couple of the author's other books and really enjoyed them too, particularly The Shadowy Horses, but that first special read will stay with me for a long time.

So, there you have my Books of a Lifetime, for now at least!


  1. Thanks for sharing! I love learning about how books have touched peoples' lives, and your note about the ten-year-hiatus is particularly moving. We're all so glad you're back to reading and now reviewing!

  2. Guy de Maupassant has inspired me to write from a very early age, and I even learned how to read Boule de Suif in French, which is the only French I know. Thanks for the great list!

  3. We have several books in common, Marg. Those Trixie Belden books were such an obsession! The Winter Sea is also among my favourites.:)

  4. Awww, The Wind in the Willows is such a special book to me. It is one of my favorites from childhood. I remember walking to the library with my mom and discovering this collection of stories.
    Thanks for the heart tugging memory.
    The Red Tent is one of my favorites for sure.
    Susanna Kearsley I have not read so I'm glad you blogged about her.

  5. I got hooked on Jean Plaidy in my early teens too. Great list!

  6. I loved The Red Tent. I bought it for a few people after I enjoyed it and they enjoyed it, too! I really need to read on in the Diana Gabaldon series and rerequest The Winter Sea from the library!

  7. I see we both like Diana Gabaldon's work. I absolutely love the Outlander series.

    I have The Red Tent, picked it up once but set it back down. This is one book that seems drop back into my mind via mentions such as yours. I think I should really give this one a go because it is always talked about so highly.

  8. Kailana, it seems to be quite a divisive book. People either love it or hate it. Where are you up to in the Outlander series, and yes, read The Winter Sea!

    Thanks Stephanie!

    Wisteria, if you hang around long enough either here or at my blog I am pretty sure you will hear about this book again and again, and oh yes, again! My grandmother really loved Wind in the Willows too, so it has a nice connection for me.

    Alex, I had forgotten that you had read The Winter Sea, and yes, the Trixie Belden books were addictive.

    Firepages, I did French in high school but can't remember a lot, other than how to say pass the butter please which comes in handy all the time!

    Thanks Carrie C. It's hard to imagine stopping again now, and I don't think I would let it happen again.