As a child, I adored being read to and reading aloud. Bedtime favourites included: Smoke and Fluff (a charming Ladybird story about two naughty kittens), Judith Kerr’s Mog books and the tales of Beatrix Potter. Basically, anything involving cats.
During primary school, the films of Walt Disney cemented my lifelong love of fairy-tales and I made it my mission to read every Jacqueline Wilson book published during the 1990s. I don’t think I quite succeeded, but I must have made my way through at least a dozen. Her working-class, adolescent, female protagonists struck a chord with me and I eventually handed my dog-eared copies down to my sister, who read them just as eagerly as I did. At age eleven, I discovered Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I’m still devastated that I never received my Hogwarts letter.
In my early teenage years, I devoured heaps of Point Horror novellas borrowed from the local library before progressing to heavier tomes such as Stephen King’s Misery and Virginia Andrew’s Flowers in the Attic. You could say my taste for the Gothic began here. At some point during my late teens, my best friend introduced me to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the image of the Count crawling along the castle walls has haunted me ever since.
My sixth-form English teachers are responsible for introducing me to Jane Austen, by way of Pride and Prejudice, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale – the two female novelists that come closest to rivalling my worship of the Brontës. I have fond memories of studying Literature at A-level. We were a small, intimate class with good predicted grades, so we were permitted a few liberties, such as hot chocolate on Friday afternoons and trips to the theatre. It was a great environment for a future English undergraduate to flourish.
Last, but certainly not least, I discovered the poetry of John Keats during my degree. I’ve always loved poetry, but Keats’s Odes (especially ‘To Autumn’ and ‘Ode to a Nightingale’) completely blew me away. Seven years later, I’m still obsessed.
Honourable mentions: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath because I could read them a hundred times and still find something new.