The Books That Made Me Me – Amy

We know Amy.  We love Amy, she of Field and Fallow who will make bespoke accessories for your big day, whether that be a wedding, a birthday, or hell, just lounging around in your PJs and a beaut of a headpiece.  By the way, you’ve got til midnight tomorrow to enter our competition to win one of them!  Do it! Now!

Here are Amy’s books that made her who she is today.  I love how this series gives such an insight into our readers.  You’ll recognise and empathise with a few, but it’s the final book that may surprise you… a perfect example of the diversity that makes the AOW community who you are.  All links to the AOW Book Store.   

Over to Amy:

Matilda – Roald Dahl

I’m sure this has been a BTMMM before but seriously, who can resist the tale of a little girl who gets magic powers and therefore defeats all the nasty people because she’s JUST THAT CLEVER! I’m not sure it’s even my favourite Dahl book. It was the BFG that first hooked me in, and The Twits and Fantastic Mr Fox that I kept going back to, but Matilda was definitely the one that taught me the power of reading.

The Drina Ballerina series – Jean Estoril

Confession time: I still read this series of books. Over and over again. I was devastated once I passed the age where I could realistically have begun training and still had time to become a dancer. I still am, never mind the fact I’m also about a foot too tall.  I’ve even planned holidays based on locations Drina visited in the books.  The books themselves aren’t brilliantly written, the stories are cheesy and idealistic, so much of the content is outdated to the point where I’m sure some of it is actually offensive but I just love them all so much.

Hello?  Is anybody there? – Jostein Gaarder

When I was doing my GCSEs our religious studies teacher leant me his copy of this book as he thought I’d enjoy it. I still have his copy as he was then sacked for having an affair with a pupil before I’d given it back (NB one of SIX of my teachers to have been fired under such circumstances, it was not a nice school).  It’s a sweet children’s story about a boy whose parents are having another baby and the journey of understanding the boy goes on to comprehend what this means via a chance encounter with an alien child. It sounds bonkers and you can read it in about half an hour but I promise you it’s wonderful and uplifting and I’d recommend you all give it a go (especially if you’ve got kids).  This book led me to Sophie’s World, which led me to want to study philosophy.

Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

I actually came to this story via the TV adaptation in 2000. It spoke to me in a way nothing had before and I read it in English and the original French (don’t ask me how – I probably wouldn’t understand a word any more). Just as I’d picked up on Matilda as a book loving child, and growing up I devoured the stories of a ballerina who got her dream career and the man of her dreams, at 17 I WAS Emma Bovary. I was tempestuous and idealistic and I was stuck with something way below the ideal. It made me see that I wasn’t the kind of girl who could settle but that was exactly what I was doing. Unfortunately it didn’t give me a decent escape plan as I wasn’t the sort for affairs and arsenic, but it did make me realise that I needed to leave my small town and broaden my horizons, and ultimately it was doing just that that made me me.

Haynes Automotive Welding Manual

My original list only had 4 books on it and when Anna asked if there was another I could add I honestly couldn’t think of one. There are SO MANY books I love, and to be honest many of them are obvious choices like any Austen (except Mansfield Park) and the Harry Potter series, but I didn’t feel that any of them had an impact on me other than in terms of enjoyment. Then it dawned on me what the perfect final choice would be. The Haynes Automotive Welding Manual represents the biggest challenge I’ve ever undertaken and one that noone who knew me when I was younger would ever have believed possible. When I announced that I was going to learn to weld noone quite knew what to say (except my grandad, the consumate DIYer, who simply said “you do right”) and when I walked in to my first class I was met with bewildered looks and a query as to whether I was in the right room. But I’m so proud that I did it, that I surprised people, and that I’ve got the ultimate answer to the old ‘tell me something interesting about yourself’ interview question!

Categories: Books, Books That Made Me Me
38 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Yay! I’ve been waiting excitedly for this to be posted since you said you’d written it, Amy!! :-D

    Oh my gosh, I adored Jostein Gaarder. I had completely forgotten her books, and I read them all. I think my Mum probably still has them in a box. Sophie’s World is one of the best books I read as a child. That’s why I love this series, it brings back books that you’d forgotten over the years, and at the same time offers you new and exciting books to explore.

    I never read Drina the Ballerina. Is it okay to want to read it now? As a 26 year old? Yes? Good. I’m also adding Madame Bovary to my shopping list, because to my shame I’ve never read it.

    Finally, you can WELD? You’re officially the coolest person I know.

    K x

    • Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Please read them! They’re crap but I heart them.

      • Gemma
        Posted March 14, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

        Katie, Amy is fibbing. They’re not crap, they’re AWESOME. I thought I was the only one who loved them, and when I read this today I was at work and couldn’t comment, so I EMAILED Amy to ask her what had happened to Drina in the end. Srsly.

  2. Zan
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    hahaha – that last choice is genius! Well done you :) The mere thought of welding scares me!

    Big love for Matilda – I have a distinct memory of being at primary school in the playground, pretending to be her. I literally devoured Roald Dahl books. And the same with Sophie’s World..have a very dog-eared copy knocking about in a box somewhere that I read to death.

    I love this series, each new BTMMM post makes me want to do one!

  3. Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    The Drina Ballerina series looks SO familiar – I bet I read those. And *sigh* Matilda. ADORE.

  4. Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Lovely Amy I’ve been looking forward to this. I rediscovered Dicken’s through a film. I think that’s what’s great about adaptations they can lead you to discover books one might not think of. And now I would like to spend the afternoon re-reading Madame B.

  5. Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Ahhh, Matilda, that little out of place girl who loved to read – no wonder I loved it so much!! (Am also dying to see the new west end version!)

    Haven’t read any of the others here, the Hello? Is anybody there? book sounds very interesting, as is the story of how you came to own your copy, six of them – my word!!

    Love that you can weld and surprise people with your bank of skills :)

  6. Tom
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    OK, so I read that as the Haynes Automotive WEDDING manual, and was temporarily very confused…

    • Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      I want a ‘like’ button for this comment.

  7. Mahj
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Amy, much love for your last choice. You can proper weld and everythin! Wow!
    Also, Matilda, Jesus that’s a good book. Miss Trunchball was scary as and my copy of it came from my big sister Zan!


  8. Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Amy’s BTMMM! Eek…. I actually did a little dance in my chair.

    I loved all the Dahls although I think George’s Marvellous Medicine was my favourite… and both the Charlie books, which I must have read about a hundred times each.

    I had completely forgotten about Jostein Gaarder, my mum gave me Sophie’s World and I LOVED it. I’ve never read anything else though. I’m going to check out this, and Madame Bovary which is on my list of must-reads already.

    Mansfield Park really IS the only weak Austen. Fanny Price, pull your drippy self together! I can’t believe she wrote it.

    Is it sad that I want to learn to weld so I can be like you? Maybe with a bow in my hair….


    • Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      Despite not enjoying the story so much Mansfield Park has the best line in it for changing thoughts & behaviour.
      ‘Nobody meant to be unkind but nobody went out of their way to make her feel welcome.’
      A book blogger called Book Snob has hosted some great gentle Austen read alongs this year. Do read her great posts if you’re interested.

      • Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

        Oh that line is fantastic. Very thought-provoking.

    • Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      I have argued before that all of Austen’s heroines are feminists except for Fanny. I really want someone to convince me otherwise because I feel so let down by her.

      Also Penny you have made me blush!

      • Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        Completely agree with this, Fanny is a huge let down and it really bothers me every time I read it. I keep trying to re-read it because I want so much for Fanny to grow a spine at some point. Apparently I’m ever hopeful that this will happen one day.

        K x

        • Helena
          Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

          I agree that Fanny and Mansfield Park as a whole are a bit difficult to love but I do think that she’s a stronger (and more feminist) character than we give her credit for – for example she won’t take part in the play because she’s thinks it’s wrong and she refuses Henry Crawford, going against the wishes of her family/benefactors – surely not an easy thing to do at that time, because she recognises that he’s a bit of a wronggun. She may not have the witty charm and quite modern spark of Elizabeth Bennett et al (let’s face it, an evening in the pub with Mary Crawford would be rather preferable to an evening with Fanny Price!) but she remains true to her own beliefs in the face of external pressures to the contrary, which I think makes her a bit of a feminist too.

          • Posted March 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

            Very valid points! I’m planning to reread MP soon so will think of this and try to find a bit more of something in her.

  9. Mahj
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Damnit, my comment got chewed! Amy, you can weld! That is pretty awesome! Also Matilda is a classic, Miss Trunchball used to scare the beejesus out of me!


  10. Mahj
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Crap, it didn’t get chewed. Stupid smart phone. Am going to stop leaving comments now! xoxo

  11. Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Tom, totally read it as ‘wedding’ and thought that is the ugliest wedding book front cover ever.

    Love that you can weld! That’s so cool. What do you actually weld though? DIY stuff in your house?

    I loved Roald Dahl with all my heart- a little lightbulb just went off in my head that maybe I subliminally named George because of it. (maybe)

    Matilda was one of my favourites- I’ve missed out on the ballerina series though. Not sure how as I was a total young adult section junkie.

    Hello is anybody there? sounds incredible and so useful to know as I have lots of friends having second children this year!

    Great list, x

  12. Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    my comment just disappeared?!

    • Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      Anna, the comment is still up on my screen?

  13. Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I think I have a little glitch or something as they vanish but then come back sometimes. Weird.

  14. Clairey
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Ahh Drina – I forgot about those. Might have to dig them out of mum n dad’s cellar… Totally loved the first book think I read it at least 10 times. Thanks for unearthing the memories Amy. x

  15. Becca
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    So I….um….thought I was Matilda and spent many hours staring at pencils trying to make them move with my eyes. Turns out I still do it (but do not charge £300 an hour for doing so). These posts make me sad that I never really read that much anymore.

    I’m going to send you my dumbed down version of TBTMMM. You can all laugh at the fact my reading tastes remain somewhere around year 7.

  16. Alex D
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    You can weld? Amazing. For some reason now have an image in my head of you creating facilitators using a welding gun & one of those mask thingamabobs (I hope you appreciate the technical terms I am using). x

  17. Helena
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Great choices – and seeing Drina has reminded me of my love for Lorna Hill’s Veronica at the Wells series; loved those!

    And being able to weld is so cool!

    • Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      I LOVED the Wells series too!

      • Helena
        Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        I think I might have to dig them out and re-read them!

        My sister and I both loved them and STILL always refer to “ices in the first interval and coffee in the second” when we go to the theatre as, back in the small town we grew up in, that just seemed like the most glamorous thing we could ever imagine!

  18. Lee-Anne
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Matilda was the first book I ever purchased after winning book tokens for a library competition. I think I have had to replace it about 6 times now as I reread it all the time. I wanted to be Matilda because she just read all the time (oh and the eye thing). TBTMMM is brill, im away to think about my own list.

  19. Posted April 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Coming v late to this post to say I LOVED the Drina series so much – and I still reread them too. I also harboured dreams of becoming a dancer (despite a lack of talent) and devoured these plus others like the Lorna Hill Sadlers Wells books.
    My school also had a run of teachers having affairs with pupils – maybe it’s the same one?!

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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