The Books That Made Me

It was my father who taught me the value of books. Our home was filled with books on poetry, philosophy, history and politics.

In my grown-up years, my father told me that he always thought that if our home had a plentiful bookshelf, one day, out of curiosity, his children would pick a book and read it. He was right. I remember one hot summer’s day in the school holidays, bored and languorous, I picked-up a book from our burgeoning bookshelf: The Sceptical Feminist: A Philosophical Enquiry by Janet Radcliffe Richards. I was twelve.

At the age of 49, I cannot disentangle myself from The Sceptical Feminist; such was its impact on me. I became a radical thinker in my young age; I began to challenge the status quo and was sensitive to the injustices that I witnessed around me, especially how women had a subordinate role to men within my culture. It is no surprise that I went onto study philosophy at university.

When I was a kid, a mobile library used to visit the road that I lived on. All the kids on the road used to make their way to the library and we’d hunt for books like treasure. I remember taking the books home and devouring them the same evening. It was the most simplest of joys. It was a good lesson in life to a young girl: there’s beauty in simplicity.

I have never limited myself on the type of books I read. My age has never stopped me from picking up children’s books such as Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and books by Beatrix Potter. Good books are good books – no matter who they are aimed at.

I’ve always thought of writers romantically. I imagine Beatrix Potter sitting on a hill in the Lake District, pen in hand with a delicious blank page in front of her: the beginning of something wonderful. Writers and readers both know how exciting a blank page can be. I imagine Roald Dahl in his humble yellow writing hut at the bottom of his garden: a small and unassuming powerhouse. Writers are close to gods: they create worlds.

A book that I re-read often is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. It’s unconventional and romantic and it always makes me feel like a young and curious girl and it reminds me of all teachers that left their own mark on me.

Every autumn I read Danny The Champion of The World – it’s a tradition that has lasted decades! It’s a simple book that doesn’t have the overt magic of

Dahl’s other books, such as James and The Giant Peach. It’s a story of single parent making the most of what little he has. It’s magic lies in its simplicity.

Books should open us up to the world even though reading is an insular activity. We are all the books we have read – there exists a library within us. When we read, we all become children who are willing to learn and be shown different ways and perspectives of being. May we never lose the child in us – it is vital for a curious life.

Twitter @KiranSidhu41

  • Kiran Sidhu