The books that made me me {Anita}

Readers, I realise that your bank accounts may not thank us for this, but we’re spoiling you – two book posts in the space of two weeks. 

This post is a really great example of the books that made me me series, because I really feel like I’ve got to know Anita better, just by reading about the books she’s chosen. Plus, she included Matilda, which I’m pretty sure is on almost everyone who reads AOW’s book that made me me list!

Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery (and the whole series)

These books taught me SO MUCH. They taught me about the power of imagination, the power to escape far far away from the mundanities of daily life, and they taught me humour. Even more importantly, they taught me that when you dream, you have to dream big. Anne is an orphan brought up in an asylum who gets sent to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert by mistake. She isn’t someone who you’d expect to be phenomenally bright and go to college on a scholarship and get a BA –but she is and she does. I think of her as one of my greatest female role models as a child…

Matilda – Roald Dahl

…and of course Matilda was the other. What is there to say about Matilda? Who couldn’t love the incredibly bright child who was misunderstood and even hated by her family, who was a total bookworm, who was only really understood and loved by the librarian and her teacher and who eventually got her revenge on everyone? I’m pretty sure everyone who reads AOW can identify with Matilda. And the current West End musical sums it up so well with the line ‘sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty’ which ties very well into my next choice…

Sleepers – Lorenzo Carcaterra

…which is all about breaking the rules. I first came across ‘Sleepers’ via the film, which was huge when I was about 16. I’m not going to lie, I watched the film because it starred 2 gorgeous men called Brad (Pitt and Renfro) but after seeing the film the story mesmerised me and I sought out the book. Now, the moral compass of this story is somewhat skewed –it basically says that under certain circumstances it’s OK to murder (which is even backed up by a priest!) which obviously I’m not agreeing with, but what I did take from it was that sometimes you do have to bend the rules. I admit I was (and in many ways still am) a bit of a Goody Two Shoes as a child and teenager –I actually liked school and worked hard, I did my homework, I never, ever sneaked out to meet boys or get drunk on cider. I wore glasses, had a Saturday job in a bookshop (which I loved and still miss), and didn’t discover makeup, alcohol or boys until I was about 19. I followed the rules. ‘Sleepers’ is about 4 boys whose lives were so different from what mine was that I can barely imagine it; but their lives were ruined as teenagers through no real fault of their own and they broke the rules to get justice. What a life lesson that was.

Anita and Me – Meera Syal

No, I didn’t choose this just because of the name (mostly), but because it’s one of the best (and funniest) culture clash novels I’ve read. Semi-autobiographical, it describes Meera Syal’s childhood growing up in the Black Country, how much ambition and hope her parents had for her, and how at odds this was with her own desire to be like beautiful, blonde (but very messed up) Anita (actually, now I think about it properly, the Anita in the book is a bit of a cow, I definitely don’t want to be identified with her). The scene where Meena chooses to sing the latest hit from Top of the Pops when her family comes round, rather than singing a traditional Hindi song, resonates so strongly with my own memories from childhood that I can’t help but laugh and be glad that someone else felt the way I felt.

Bodies – Jed Mercurio

I thought long and hard about including this book because I’m not sure I can totally recommend it to others. But then I realised that if there is one ‘book that’s made me me’ as an adult then this is it. ‘Bodies’ is written by an ex-junior-doctor about his experiences and it’s really true to life (except all the sex –I, and most other junior doctors I know, were too busy working, surviving and trying to catch up on sleep to fit that in!) What I really like though is how the interpersonal relationships are played out, between the main character and his colleagues and his bosses, and eventually the choices he has to make between doing the right thing or potentially ruining his career. The dilemma he faces is, to a lesser extent, something I’ve faced too and the power struggle is scarily accurate while also inspiring. Be warned though, don’t read it if you are squeamish or if you are one of those people who has trouble trusting doctors –this book will do you no favours!

Watermelon – Marian Keyes

OK, I admit it, I love Marian Keyes. Chick lit it may be, but it’s funny, perceptive chick lit. I want to be a Walsh sister more than almost anything.
When I was trying to come to terms with my divorce I read all kinds of things. Biog, autobiog, self help, you name it. I never expected the book that helped me most to be chick lit. But Claire’s slow journey from deserted wife and mum to happy single mum really was inspiring and strengthening. The internal monologue when she realises she’s torturing herself with how and why her marriage failed could have been written by me. But because it’s Marian, of course, she gets a happy ending ;)

The Harry Potter books – JK Rowling

And I’m going to finish with something predictable and popular but still just great… Who doesn’t secretly want to believe there’s a parallel magic world if only we could get to platform 9 ¾, and who doesn’t want good to triumph over evil?

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

14 Comments

  1. Posted July 24, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    There are no words for how much I love this post! If I hadn’t already met you this would make me want to meet you NOW. It still makes me want to be your new best friend, please?!

    Absolutely adored Anne of Green Gables, I’d almost forgotten how that book shaped me, but I loved it.

    Also, you should never feel the need to apologise for ‘chick lit’ (oh how I hate that marketing phrase, so patronising and anti-woman), especially Marian Keyes. Her book Anybody Out There, was such vivid portrayal of denial and grief and loss that it triggered my anxiety, it was so real that I stopped being able to differentiate, and I felt the emotions she described, and lost myself. It took me 5 years to pick that book back up and feel brave enough to read it. Equally, the recent Mystery of Mercy Close is one of the best descriptions of depression and anxiety I have ever read, ‘chick lit’ can be powerful. It’s a myth that things written for women must be fluffy and light and vacuous. I love a lot of chick lit.

    Anyway, morning rant over, I need to say how I love Harry Potter. Love love love it. It’s another one like the Chronicles of Narnia, it taps into that child-like desire for another world, full of magic and opportunity, and the chance to be yourself and fight for what is right. And, you know… MAGIC.

    I want to go to a bookshop now and lose myself, that’s what this post makes me want to do.

    KL x

    • Anita
      Posted July 24, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      So true about Anybody Out there, it’s very raw. And you can absolutely be my new BFF x

  2. Morwenna
    Posted July 24, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Great choices. I absolutely loved Anne of Green Gables as a child- it’s one of the reasons I have a pearl engagement ring! I’m going to re-read it x

  3. Posted July 24, 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Oh I haven’t read Anne of Green Gables in YEARS and now I feel I must read it again asap – am going to download it so it’s waiting for me as soon as I’ve finished my current book (The Night Circus, sent to me by Caroline – best book I’ve read in ages).

    Am I the only one who really wishes I could perform a memory charm so I could read all the Harry Potters for the first time again?

    • Amanda M
      Posted July 24, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      I loved the whole Anne of series with a passion and used to re-read and re-read them until they basically fell apart. It’s a tough job to get you swooning over a man called Gilbert (sorry to Gilberts everywhere) but I so did.

      I remember my shock when I read Sleepers – it’s grim and gripping stuff. I saw the film too but it was the book that had the impact on me (probably because I read it first so the shock wasn’t there to the same extent when I saw the film).

      I didn’t love Watermelon but I did love the rest of Marian Keyes books – not sure why. I love (most) chick-lit but this is definitely the more cerebral end and I think the fact that each of her books deals with a different issue, subtly, means that most women can find one or more that chimes so bloody loudly it’s like having Big Ben go off.

      And Harry Potter – so love these books. I discovered them before they went stellar – I bought the first one when the second one had just come out, read it in 4 hours and went back to the shop to buy the second. I actually blocked out weekends in my diary when each of the hardbacks came out so I could just read it immediately and solidly.

      Great choices!

      • Posted July 24, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        I took the Monday off work when the final HP book came out, just in case I hadn’t finished it by then (I had). It’s also the only time I’ve taken a cab home without being drunk – I just couldn’t wait to get home and start reading after the midnight queue.

    • Amanda M
      Posted July 24, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      LOVE that idea about the memory charm – if you work one out, let me know!

  4. Posted July 24, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I love these choices – the Anne of… series gave me and my sister real problems with falling for unsuitable men just because they looked like Gilbert Blythe and she was totally my role model. I read the proposal scene when I can’t sleep and know it off by heart. Aunt Jimsie was another hero of mine. She was brilliant – in fact pretty much all the women were heroes of mine! LOVED IT!

  5. Zan
    Posted July 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    LOVE Anita and Me and Matilda. And Marian Keys – great BTMMM!

  6. Anita
    Posted July 24, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Totally forgot this was going up today as am currently on holiday in Peru and recovering from the inca trail!! Thanks for all your lovely comments ladies, glad I’m not being thrown out of AOW community for liking chick lit!!

  7. Posted July 24, 2013 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    I love Matila and yes, yes to Harry Potter! My mother signed me up to recieving books once a month for a year, and Harry P was in one of those packages. It was before it went big, and one of the ways my oldest friend and I bonded was discovering we were both reading the second book on a school trip.

    I read the first Anne of Green Gables and always meant to read more. I’ll be heading to the library as soon as possible to rectify this!

  8. Posted July 24, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    I love Matila and yes, yes to Harry Potter! My mother signed me up to receiving books once a month for a year, and Harry P was in one of those packages. It was before it went big, and one of the ways my oldest friend and I bonded was discovering we were both reading the second book on a school trip. I used to read all of them within 24 hours. I really miss the excitement of waiting, then getting one of the books!

    I read the first Anne of Green Gables and always meant to read more. I’ll be heading to the library as soon as possible to rectify this!

    • Anita
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 1:13 am | Permalink

      Crysta- you haven’t read the other Anne books?!! Get thee to a library pronto!! Anne of the Island is just beautiful and so is Anne’s House of Dreams. Actually they all are…

      • Posted July 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        I will, I promise, once my flat move is finished!

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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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