The gorgeous Lucy Powrie (@LucyTheReader, Queen of Contemporary, the perfect vlogger and blogger and creator/host of #ukyachat) has written a post entitled 'The 5 Books That Changed My Life'.
This girl has inspired me – that's really nothing new, if anything it's a daily occurrence – but this time it's to write my own post!
Without further ado, here are 5 Books That Changed or Shaped My Life... In no particular order, as they were all equally important for their own reasons...
One Day, by David Nicholls.
I have all of David Nicholls books but this one will forever stand out among the rest. I read this in 2012, while on holiday in Majorca with rad friends – I say read, I mean consumed. I lapped up every word for days lying on the beach, and then finished it at 2am while playing Scrabble, several cocktails down. I cried my eyes out – I howled hysterically for about an hour. I then thrust the book at my best friend and demanded that he start reading it immediately. (The next day he smacked it shut and cursed me for breaking his heart)
This book reminded me of my childhood dreams to be an author. At uni I'd been focusing so hard on perfecting my media writing skills so maybe I could get a weekly column in The Times someday, or edit features for Stylist magazine, or interview my idols after they did their cover shoots for Vogue. I'd been frantically devouring and dissecting scripts and dreaming of being backstage when my show opened in the West End, or sitting next to a director on set for my latest Hollywood smash hit.
Now while those jobs still appeal to me, I cannot believe that I lost sight of my original dream – to spend hours poring over a laptop typing furiously, to have a novel in book stores all over the country, to inspire readers and maybe, just maybe, make them cry.
Favourite line*: “Dexter, I love you so much. So, so much, and I probably always will.” Her lips touched his cheek. “I just don't like you any more. I'm sorry.”
(*I knew I had to find this line when I dug out my ancient battle-scarred copy of this book. I was totally prepared to flick through and pull it out with my tired old eyes. But blow me, past-Gracie had folded down one page. The page with this line on. Like she knew, when she was at the dining table in Majorca weeping over her Scrabble tiles and comforting herself with a fifth peach schnapps that someday she'd need to reference her all-time favourite line in her all-time favourite fiction book. So thanks past-Gracie, you romantic loser.)
How To Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran.
How could I not include this – this masterpiece, this magical mould-breaking part-memoir part-magniloquence – in a list of books that changed my entire life? It played a huge part in my becoming...me. Mind you, so did How To Build a Girl, but this bad boy was next level. I read it on holiday with my family. I laughed – and learned – so much in just a week spent sunbathing topless around the side of the villa with this book balanced on my knees (and at times shielding my top half from prying eyes, see this post for the ridiculous story there!). I then lent it to several of the women in my family, and urged my friends to buy it for themselves as surely fine educational literature like this is worthy of shelling out precious pennies from the pissed away student loan...they all loved it. Someday I will loan it to my sister, too. Or maybe I should buy her her own copy as mine is well and truly broken in; the spine is knackered and a few pages are now stapled in place.
This book made me even more determined to meet Caitlin. Since reading it I have seen her utterly marvellous live show twice (Brighton Theatre Royal, 2014 & Hackney Empire, 2015) and been honoured to oblige when she demanded the entire audience stand on their chairs (a major health & safety risk on flippable plush theatre seats) and shout 'I AM A FEMINIST'.
Wow, I am so close to launching into a part-review of these shows and part-gush of love for this woman BUT I won't. Not this time. I'll just link my previous review/gush posts about her here... Cool.
Favourite line: ...and then a bat flew through the window, into my face.
More sensible favourite line: When a woman says “I have nothing to wear!”, what she really means is, “There's nothing here for who I'm supposed to be today.”
OR: a) Do you have a vagina? and b) Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said 'yes' to both, then congratulations! You are a feminist.
OR: I want a Zero Tolerance policy on All The Patriarchal Bullshit.
Reasons to Stay Alive, by Matt Haig.
I have a broken brain. In every sense. I actually felt stupidly lucky when I was hit with some hideous depression after my first brain op (after the second one I knew to expect it) and I was told by nurses that it was totally normal given the state of my brain – the physical state, that is. I had an excuse. I felt like I was cheating – many things contributed to my depression, many things I needed help with and could easily be deemed triggers, or problematic at the very least, but I was given a free pass with my brain tumour and the operation which altered the physical state of my brain. I still reckon that my personal circumstances at that point contributed a fair bit too – I was finishing uni, I had no idea where to go or what to do next, some of my friends had faded away...
This book read my mind – and also blew it. Constantly. I finished it (after several days spent doing little else but drinking it all in, and often happy-crying because Matt Haig just got it) on the London Overground on my way to get a tattoo that for me symbolised hope. I closed the book and hugged it close for the last twenty minutes of my journey. It was perfect. It was eye-opening – and it was me.
Favourite line (in this case more of a paragraph): I didn't totally fit in. I kind of disintegrated around people, and became what they wanted me to be. But paradoxically, I felt an intensity inside me all the time. I didn't know what it was, but it kept building, like water behind a dam. Later, when I was properly depressed and anxious, I saw the illness as an accumulation of all that thwarted intensity. A kind of breaking through. As though, if you find it hard enough to let yourself be free, your self breaks in, flooding your mind in an attempt to drown all those half-versions of you.
Second favourite line (the infamous one): How to stop time: kiss. How to travel in time: read. How to escape time: music. How to feel time: write. How to release time: breathe.
Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales, by Angela Carter (obvs).
I had to read some Angela Carter for my English Lit A Level (The Magic Toyshop), and then again for my Textual Intervention II module in the third year of my Drama & Creative Writing degree (The Bloody Chamber). I figured it would make sense to go above and beyond the required reading and buy her thick hardback of fairy tales. Little did I know that this purchase – and the following nights spent reading every tale before falling asleep – would not only help me determine what to write for my assignment but also have such an effect on my overall writing style.
One of several projects I have on the go at the moment is a fairy tale, and that is something I never thought I would say (or y'know, type...). It is all down to Angela, my white witch inspiration.
Her fairy tales are beautiful, unique, diverse and, well, downright disturbing – in the best way possible.
Favourite line: Stars on our door, stars in our eyes, stars exploding in the bits of our brains where the common sense should have been.
OR: She was like a piano in a country where everyone has had their hands cut off.
Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli.
Another fiction. An American one! I came across this book in the study in my family home when I was maybe ten or eleven years old. Now I won't lie, the shocking warm pink hardback cover did draw me in considerably. And the simple cover art – just a stick girl looking like she'd been half-heartedly doodled, with a star floating above her head. It was unlike any other book I'd seen at that point. I was curious, so I grabbed it off the shelf and took it to school to read under the table (I'll blame the book for my low grades in Maths that year, not my disgracefully non-logical mind).
Anyway, this story was extra special. Not only was it a damn fine and quirky romance, but also the overwhelming theme was that of discovering who you are. Stargirl Caraway used to be Susan – then she was Mouse, then Hully Gully... Stargirl is a one of a kind character. She wears what she wants, she does what she wants. She meditates. She is mindful. She cycles out to the desert and finds the 'enchanted places', where she can sit, bask and lose herself.
After reading this, twice, it stayed with me. Then some time later when Love, Stargirl came out, the book that told the next chapter of the story from Stargirl's perspective instead of lovestruck Leo's, I was enveloped in that beautiful strange world all over again.
Favourite line: Like so many of Archie's words, they seemed not to enter through my ears but to settle on my skin, there to burrow like tiny eggs awaiting the rain of my maturity, when they would hatch and I at last would understand.
So, there you have it. Five important reads. Writing this post actually got me thinking about another potential bookish post, would you believe... Blame Angela Carter for that. Or rather, the way she came into my life. I'm sure that post will be up soon – but until then, dearies, I would LOVE to hear which five books (or one, or ten, however many!) have shaped your life or changed your way of thinking, even if only on one occasion or about one subject. Feel free to comment, or tweet me @GracieActually !
Also, of course, each and every one of you need to read these books. Pick one, read it, see if you have the same reaction or a very different response!