My only wish when I open a book is that somewhere amongst the thousands of words, there will be a few that will stick with me. That line that speaks to my heart, makes me laugh or shed a tear, or strengthens my resolve. I’ve been a reader since early childhood and “lights out” didn’t stop me. I’d hide for hours under a duvet with a torch or lamp—well, until the time I set my duvet on fire…but that’s another tale. Here’s a snippet of my story so far in books.
Age 13 – The Kinsey Millhone Series by Sue Grafton
(Holt Paperbacks, 1982)
I have a great-aunt who would load my arms with an uncensored box of books every time I visited. Amongst the first I unearthed was G Is for Gumshoe. I’ll admit to checking the dictionary to find out what a gumshoe was! I was instantly hooked for one reason only: the PI was a woman. A kick ass, take no crap, I’ll live in a garage and eat pickles if I want, kind of woman. She was flawed and I wanted to grow up to be just like her. After years of being fed Sweet Valley High perfection, these books were a revelation. I discovered a will to be independent, to create my own space, and to do things my way.
Age 18 – The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
(William Morrow Paperbacks, 2009)
The Bronze Horseman revolves around seventeen-year-old Tatiana Metanova and begins the day that Russia enters WWII. It is nine hundred and twelve epic pages of love, loss, tragedy, and survival. It broke my heart repeatedly, yet I never wanted it to end. This was the first historical novel I ever read and it brought history to life for me in a way school lessons never did. It made me feel very small, yet also powerful; if Tatiana could survive the siege of Leningrad, I could survive the projected siege when I finally got around to coming out! It’s my favourite book of all time and the first I recommend to anyone asking.
Age 20 – Lessons in Murder by Claire McNab
(Naiad Press, 1988)
This was the first lesfic book I read. Not only was Detective Inspector Carol Ashton a woman, she was also a lesbian. I remember being closeted and shifting uncomfortably when I realised this, then furtively looking around to see if anyone had magically figured it—and me—out. I naively looked under “crime fiction” a few years later for the next instalment. The smug assistant then redirected me to “my section.” Below adult fiction and just left of religion was a tiny label indicating gay and lesbian books. Indignation raged inside of me. I found myself in the midst of what would become my first ever protest, something that’s now my everyday job. After refusing to leave until I saw the manager, “my section” and its tiny label was eventually moved to general fiction. I even wrote to Claire McNab to check she didn’t mind the move. Cue my first ever fangirl experience when she replied!
Age 23 – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
(Harper Collins, 2007)
I was entranced by this book. I hung on every piece of prose and drank in every philosophical nugget. It was a time of big changes in my life. I was finally out and had moved some distance from the comfort of family. I was on my own for the first time and looking for inspiration, something to tell me it would all be okay. A friend gave me The Alchemist and it turns out she knew me better than I gave her credit for. “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” If ever there was a book to help pick you up that eighth time, this is it.
Age 26 – The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad
The only non-fiction title on the list, it reads like a novel. It has personal meaning because, as an army brat, I was familiar with countries such as Iraq, Bosnia, and Afghanistan, but I had no concept of the where, who, why and what. To me, mention of these countries meant upset, the news channel on a loop, and absent mums and dads. This book led me to many others that not only opened my mind to a whole new kind of story and way of thinking, but also helped me understand more about the world I grew up in.
The story continues…
Apart from my family, reading has been the most influential element in shaping my character. The effects were sometimes immediate, other times only on reflection, or later when circumstances brought them back to the forefront of my mind. I can’t wait to discover the next one.
Originally from Northern Ireland, Wendy Hudson now lives in Scotland, where her summers are all about wild camping, sailing, golfing, and drinking beer at as many festivals as possible. This is normally followed by a restful winter of eating out, skiing, avoiding the gym, watching ballet and football, and not dancing at gigs. Wendy just published Four Steps with Ylva.