I got the idea for this blog post from one I read on the wonderful blog Mum, Write NOW.

Reading that blog post about a favourite book from childhood made me think: often, when I pick up an old book from my own bookshelves, I’m transported back to the specific time and place I first read it. It’s the same with hearing an old song, or watching an old movie.

What I find especially wonderful with books in particular though is that if I re-read an old favourite, I often take away something different from it depending on where I am in my life.

Take, for example, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I loved this book when I first read it as a teenager. I empathised with Heathcliff and Cathy, and thought of the book as a love story.

Later, I returned to the book when I did an undergraduate degree in English Literature as a mature student. Being at least 15 years older, I found Cathy spoilt and irritating, and Heathcliff simply cruel! Though I really enjoyed the book again on second reading, I definitely didn’t find it ‘romantic’.

So, in an effort to return to some of the books that ‘made’ me, (really more like just signify special times in my life!), here is a short list:

What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge

This book reminds me of being a young girl and of my own mother. She loved the story, and she gave it to me to enjoy. I particularly loved the fact that the main character was called ‘Katy’ (my full first name, though with a different spelling), and that she was always rebelling and getting into trouble. When I re-read this book as an adult, I realised how relatively little Katy does to get into trouble, and that actually, she is being held up to the standards thought respectable for a girl at the time. However, I think it’s important to recognise that (thankfully) the lives of young girls have changed a lot since it was written!

Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume

I could basically put any of Judy Blume’s teenage books in this list, as I went through them all! But this one stands out as the one all my friends and I would pore over and discuss, endlessly, slightly shocked at the stuff Blume got away with talking about. We really felt like she was listening in to our conversations, her portrayals of the difficulties of being a teenager were so accurate! Re-reading this one made me feel that her writing is still relevant. Her books really put young people at the centre of the story, and she is a great advocate for allowing children to access a wide range of literature in order to learn about themselves.

(Side note: I met Judy Blume a few years ago when she visited the UK, and she was as wonderful as I had hoped. It was very special to get my old book signed : )

Dr Miriam Stoppard’s New Baby Care Book by Dr Miriam Stoppard

This book accompanied me into hospital when I gave birth to my first daughter, and it barely left my side for the first 3 years of her life. As a new mum, you feel like you don’t know anything, and Dr Miriam (as she was affectionately known in our home) could be turned to night and day when I didn’t know which way to turn. I loved the compassionate way she spoke to new parents, and her way of child-rearing really fitted with the type of parent I wanted to be. Although this book had already been updated, some of the pictures look quite old-fashioned! But when I had my second daughter 7 years later, it was still to Dr Miriam I turned, though that time, I did at least have a bit more idea about my job as a mother!

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Although this is billed as a non-fiction travel memoir, it is far more than that. Gilbert, divorced and unhappy, sets off on a year long trip to ‘find herself’. She visits Italy, India and Indonesia, hoping to experience pleasure, mental clarity and balance. But it is Gilbert’s writing which brings this book to life: her shame and guilt at the mess she has made of her marriage; the depression she fights off; and the friends and experiences she has on her travels. I read this book when I was just turning 40 years old. I had lost my mum a few years earlier, and was struggling to see who I was. There are so many lines and paragraphs underlined in this book. I return to it once a year for a re-read, and even though I’ve moved on from the person I was when I first picked it up, I still get something from every reading. It still reminds me of feeling lost, and then of finding myself again.

I could have chosen hundreds of books for this list! As I’m sure any keen reader could. But these were the ones that stood out for me when I perused my bookshelves.

Let me know your own choices, and whether they hold up on re-reading!

Happy reading : )