“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”
– Neil Gaiman
Over the years I’ve read many books, held many dreams in my hand. Some have stayed with me, and always will for a variety of reasons. Whittling this list down to five books was incredibly difficult, so I’ve cheated a little. Well…you can always bend the rules a little in dreams. Can’t you?
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
(Vintage Digital, 2009)
This was the first lesbian story I ever read and it opened my eyes to a whole new section of literature. I read Winterson’s work voraciously after this. My favourite was always The Power Book, but Oranges was the one that started me on a journey that led to me discovering lesbian literature. It’s where I found myself represented on the pages of a book for the first time. That was life affirming for me in a way that I hadn’t expected. By the time I found this book, I was 19. I was already out to everyone, lesbians were represented on TV (the famous Anna Friel as Beth Jordache in Brookside, then Zoe Tate in Emmerdale—and let’s not forget the whole Hayley/Harold transsexual storyline in Corrie. In fact, when I came out to my gran, the only thing she was worried about was that I wanted to be a boy and she’d have to call me Andrew! Bless.) But I’d never found them in my beloved books before I found Oranges. It made me truly happy.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
(HarperCollins, first printed 1950-56)
These seven books kept me in love with reading as a child. I discovered The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in the school library when I was seven and loved it so much I wanted to own the full set. I can’t remember why now, but I decided I had to buy them for myself. So I went knocking on the neighbours’ doors and offered to wash their cars and bukkies for two rand to make the money I needed to buy them. I guess as well as keeping me in love with reading, these books also helped me learn a very valuable life lesson—that if you work hard for what you want, you can achieve it.
Selected Poems by U.A. Fanthorpe
(Enitharmon Press, 2013)
I started writing as a poet when I was a teenager and full of angst, and an English teacher pointed me in Ursula Fanthorpe’s direction when I was sixteen. Farnthorpe’s words and her realism bringing to life very ordinary experiences through her poetry was eye opening to me. The way she mixed the everyday with mythology and history was awesome for me. So clever. It helped me to find the confidence to explore my own poetic inclinations and mix in them the sprinkles of my own interests. Biblical references, mythology, Egyptology…Fanthorpe’s influence set my imagination free in a way I hadn’t been able to before.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
(Del Ray, 1995)
I just love this series of books. The humour, the imagination, the suicidal Robot. What’s not to love? I found these books during a very difficult time. I was ill and they helped me through. They gave me something to laugh about when all I wanted to do was cry. Sometimes it’s not the book that is so important, but what you find in it. If it gives you that one thing you’re looking for in that moment…then it becomes the most important book in the world to you. If only for that moment.
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
(Back Bay Books, 1995)
I grew up in South Africa believing this man to be a terrorist and that all the ANC (African National Congress) were terrorists akin to the IRA. Because that’s what all white children were told. What we were taught. Indoctrinated with, you could say. Long Walk to Freedom taught me that there are always, always two sides to every story. That one man’s terrorist is another man’s liberator, and your view of that is down to your perspective…and which side of the oppression you are on. This book and this lesson were truly eye opening for me, and something that affected me and my writing very deeply. I see the threads of it and my time growing up in Africa wound through almost every story I’ve written.
Award winning author Andrea Bramhall, is launching her latest book, Under Parr, from 5pm to 9pm on the 13th of May 2017 at Deepdale Backpackers and Camping. With a short reading from the novel everyone is invited to come along: www.facebook.com/events/404125373272468