My Love of Books

If you want an education, drop out of school and join a library.” Frank Zappa

I learned to read at an early age and once I did I wanted to read everything. I approached every new book with a sense of adventure. I couldn’t wait to open it and go through the pages. I can remember something that happened during the school holidays when I was nine or ten. I took a mystery novel by Alfred Hitchcock out of the local library one morning, read it, and dashed back to return it and get another book about a quarter of an hour before the place closed at 7 pm. It was a blow to learn that it was against the rules to return a book on the same day it had been taken out. It meant I had nothing new to read that evening, as children were only allowed to take out one book at a time.

All this reading made me, I suppose, something of an oddball in my family. My parents weren’t literary people. My father was a steelworker. Both he and my mother encouraged me to read though, and were proud of the way I could whizz through “grown-up” by the time I was eleven. I must have been a clever and studious boy. I had no enthusiasm for formal education though and hated the boys’ grammar school I was forced to attend. I was very wilful and would only read what I wanted to. I think the emphasis upon formal education and attaining qualifications is one of the things most wrong with our society. No one seems to know how to follow their own nose any more, hence they’ll never end up in an unusual place.

By the time I was in my late teens I was working on the night shift in a warehouse and spending all my spare time reading. I’d buy new books every week and slowly acquired an impressive paperback collection of American fiction, with a few European names thrown in. I considered most British authors dull in comparison, though I had begun to harbour half-baked hopes of becoming one myself. Poetry came later, and I then acquired another impressive collection of books. I have been surrounded by books for years.

I’ve moved around a lot in my life. I’ve lost count of the different addresses I’ve lived at. In the first twelve years of marriage, my wife and I moved home nine times. I learned that the only items of furniture I couldn’t live without were bookcases. I can cope for long periods without chairs, tables, even beds, but take away my bookcases and I am fucked. I suppose the digital age should be a godsend for someone like me, but sadly I don’t enjoy reading anything on a screen, so I only rarely use the internet. I have no intention of purchasing a Kindle or whatever they’re called. I like to hold a book, to feel its weight in my hands, to savour the texture and smell of the paper. No kidding.

Geoff Hattersley


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Geoff Hattersley

Geoff Hattersley was born in South Yorkshire in 1956. He began writing in the early 1980s, since when his poems, reviews and articles have been widely published. His many collections of poetry include Port of Entry (Littlewood Press 1989), Don't Worry (Bloodaxe 1994), Harmonica (Wrecking Ball Press, 2003), and Back of Beyond (Smith Doorstop 2006). He is an experienced reader of his poetry, appearing at venues ranging from the back rooms of pubs to the Royal Festival Hall. He has performed and recorded musical arrangements of his poems with guitarist and singer Michael Massey, and some of his poems have been set to music and recorded by Dutch musician Jack Smits. He is an experienced creative writing tutor and has run writers' workshops for organisations such as the Workers' Educational Association and The Poetry Business. His poems have been part of syllabuses in schools, universities, and with the Open University, and have been broadcast on local and national radio. He edited The Wide Skirt Press from 1986 until 1998, publishing 31 issues of the magazine and 24 books and pamphlets. He is currently working on a new collection of poems and a volume of short stories.

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