Literally lost in whatever you’re reading

I’ve already commented on the book we were reading for book club last week, Bookworm by Lucy Mangan, and although I didn’t enjoy it, I did think it was a very interesting way to explore autobiography – by considering the books which had an impact on you through your life – especially if you started young as a reader. She mentioned the way one can become totally immersed in a book to such an extent that you become blind and deaf to the actual world around you – and that total immersion is particularly strong as a child when you can become literally lost in whatever you’re reading.

Someone asked me what books I read when young – I kept a notebook with them all written down, a notebook lost aeons ago which is sad because it would have been fascinating to be reminded of those stories I read when I was still at junior school. I still have some of my books from early child hood, ‘Kittens and Puppies’ – or was it ‘Puppies and Kittens’, I’ll have to burrow in the book case to find out. I had two Babar books by Jean de Brunhoff which I must have had read to me and then read myself hundreds of times; some of the incidents in ‘Babar the King’, and ‘The Travels of Babar’ made a great impact on me; the idea of adventure, of troubles and difficulties to be overcome, of love and loyalty, influenced my early writing – even though there are aspects of the books which are not acceptable these days. These two books were written almost ninety years ago in 1933 and 1932 so it’s not surprising they have ideas which we reject now.

Every year I had a Rupert annual – or so I seem to remember, but in trying to find out which ones I had, I think that maybe I only had two or three of them. My parents read them to me time and time again before I could read, and they always read the rhyming couplets which went with each illustration; this had a big influence as when I went to school, whenever we had to write a poem I found it very easy because I had that idea of rhythm and rhyme imprinted in my mind! Later, when I continued to write poetry I began to abandon the rhyme and wrote with the idea of the rhythm, regular and irregular. I still occasionally write poetry, for my private enjoyment, and those influences of the way to use language remain!

My godmother gave me a book of Æsop’s Fables, and although some of the fables have meanings which are no longer current, there are many which still resonate with me, and it would be fair to say some of the moral codes did influence me as a child. Mount Everest was first climbed in 1952, and when I was only a very young child I received ‘The Conquest of Everest’ by Sir John Hunt, the story of Tensing and Hillary’s climb of the mountain. I was too young to read it, but I would spend hours looking at the picture, and that fascination with it, and with Tibet has remained – and only recently I read several books about the ill-fated 1997 Everest expeditions.

I read literally hundreds, if not thousands of books as a child and into my teens, several and more a week sometimes. All the classics, Arthur Ransome, John Verney, E. Nesbit, Noel Streatfield, Frances Hodgson Burnett, C.S. Lewis, Phillipa Pearce, Mary Norton, Lucy M. Boston, Captain W.E.Johns, William Mayne… The list could go on and on, and yes I did read Enid Blyton but I can’t say she was a particular favourite. When I look back at some of the books I read, I wonder how I did! I have tried to reread some of them and found them stodgy beyond belief – not necessarily the ones by the authors I’ve mentioned above! Which ones had the most influence on me? That’s something I need to think about!


  1. Klausbernd

    Dear Lois,
    when I was a child I read the Ilias and Odyssey in a version for children with great pictures and in the same series Don Quichote. I loved these books read and re-read them many times. Then I loved Nils Holgersson by Selma Lagerlöf like all the kids around me did. But my favourite was Astrid Lindgren, especially her books about Pippi Longstocking, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, Emil of Lönneberga and the book of the six Bullerby kids and about Kalle Blomkvist the detective.
    I read “The Ascent of the Everest” by Hunt as well when I was in my early teens. Afterwards I wanted to become an explorer and so I read many books about Amundsen, Nansen and Nordenskiöld. Also I liked Jules Verne.
    Fairy tales and classic sagas were read to me as well but I found them quite often rather boring.
    Okay, this I can remember.
    All the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂


    1. Lois

      Thank you for mentioning the other books Astrid wrote, apart from her Pippi adventures – I didn’t realises she was so prolific and so varied in the stories she produced! I also never realised what an interesting woman she was – what a life!
      Coincidentally I bought a book by Nansen called ‘Farthest North’ published in 1897; I haven’t started reading it yet, it’s in a pile by my bed! He sounds an incredible man with so many achievements as well as his polar exploration.
      I loved Jules Verne, thank you also for mentioning him – I want to re-read his stories now!
      All the best to you too, Klausbernd, and the family, from Lois

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Klausbernd

        Dear Lois,
        we are very proud to have the first English edition of Nansen’s ‘Farthest North’ in our Library. Sigmund Freud used to read this book as a bed time story to his children. We like it VERY much as it is not only geographical but also about dreams, mythology and the the psychology of such an journey. Nansen was such a well read person and he was worthy getting the Nobel Prize (for his political engagement).
        Astrid Lindgren’s stories were read by all my friends when I was a child. She was extremely popular.
        Thanks a lot!
        Wishing you a happy week
        The Fab Four of Cley
        🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂


      2. Lois

        Dear Fab Four, what a wonderful thing to have! My copy is a paperback but it has a wonderful picture of Fridtjof on the cover. I’m going to put aside what I’ve been reading, and dive in tonight and find out more about this amazing man. I have just discovered it was his birthday yesterday, I wish I had realised!
        We have had very pleasant weather again today, although it was a little chilly when I put the washing out on the line! I hope you have similarly nice weather over in the east!
        A happy week to you too!
        from Lois

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Klausbernd

        Dear Lois
        We are fans of the great explorers and have the first edition of Amundsen’s and Erling Kagge’s books as well, unfortunately we couldn’t get a first edition of a Norderskiöld book.
        Here we have grey and quite cold weather, a staying-inside-weather.
        All the best
        The Fab Four of Cley
        🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Lois

        Hello Fab Four, I started reading Nansen last night – how beautifully written, what wonderful use of language, what amazing imagery! It’s going to take me a long time to read because it needs appreciating and considering. A marvellous book!
        I must follow up with Amundsen, and I confess I had never heard of Erling Kagge before you mentioned him – I’m now having a look to decide which to get first… do you think ‘Silence: In the Age of Noise’?
        More lovely weather over here, I’ve been sitting in the garden drinking coffee! I hope the sun shines on you,

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Klausbernd

        Dear Lois,
        ‘Silence’ is his best one.
        Nansen could write VERY well, indeed. Amundsen needed a ghost writer, partly is was his brother. By the way, Dina is borne and lived in Frederikstad where Amundsen was borne.
        Love ❤
        The Fab Four of Cley
        🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Lois

        I’m looking forward to reading it! I went to Norway with cousins when I was sixteen and fell in love with it! A wonderful country and friendly people – a long time ago but I would love to revisit!


        Liked by 1 person

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