Why books are important to me

My first memory of books is going to the mobile library which came to my village every week. I would have been two or three years old and I would go with my mum. I would plonk myself on the floor in front of the row of Beatrix Potter books and choose one to take home. Every week my mum would try to persuade me to choose something different but I knew what I wanted to read. I loved those little white books with the beautiful drawings and the stories which were so real in my mind. Those books were smooth and small-perfect for little hands to hold.

I gravitated to Ladybird Books. As a child of seven or eight I used to visit our nearest town. As we walked through the local department store I would be drawn to these wire baskets which were brimfull of Ladybird Books in muted hues. They were slim and matt. The spine creaked a bit when you opened them. They weren’t in any order but I could always dip my hand into the basket and pull out another in the Kings and Queens of England series. My imagination was captivated by stories and illustrations of Alfred burning the cakes, Matilda with her long hair plaited right down her back and Queen Elizabeth with the Armada visible behind her. I learned her Tilbury speech from that Ladybird book. Was it accurate? Does it matter? What matters is that the books inspired and thrilled me and made me curious to discover more.

My best friend commented that the books I have on my bookshelves today reflect all the facets of my personality. They show my passions, my influences and what is important to me.

I think that’s true. For me, books have the capacity to excite the imagination, intellect and emotions all at once. They allow us to discover more about the ideas of others and help to define ourselves. They testify to our development as individuals. Discovering books is not about the acquisition of complete collections at the press of a button. Instead it is the gateway to a lifelong journey of revelation, excitement and passion. Books are tactile, visual and mind expanding and they live in the memory.

Fiona Arnott


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