From The Guardian:
Reading has always been everything to me, keeping me afloat when the sea of life gets choppy. Working in a bookshop added another dimension; not only was I was soothed in a near magical way by the physical presence of the books, but talking to strangers about them could always lift my mood. What joy, then, to explore all that in a bibliographic memoir. I imagined my dream customer, addressed them directly, and proffered anecdotes and themed booklists. Dear Reader was born.
My ulterior motive was that the novel I was writing was rather too full of characters who did little other than read. ‘“That’s no good,” I said to myself. “Fiction needs action!”
. . . .
- Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
Orphan Anne Shirley felt as real to me as any of the flesh and blood little girls I knew, and I longed to be able to climb into the pages and join her story club. We have a lot in common. Anne is a ferocious bookworm who gets into trouble for reading Ben Hur in class because she just can’t stop until she knows how the chariot race will turn out. Such is the lure of reading, that she has to get her guardian, Matthew, to lock up tempting books in the jam closet until she has finished her homework.
- I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Cassandra Mortmain writes her diary while sitting in the kitchen sink, capturing her eccentric family. Her father, still famous for his experimental novel Jacob’s Ladder, is now stuck and does nothing but read as many detective novels as he can find. Cassandra’s beautiful sister, Rose, frets because she has no clothes and no opportunities. When they hear that rich Americans are about to move in next door, it reminds them of the scene in Pride and Prejudice where Mrs Bennet says that Netherfield Hall is let at last. Perhaps now something exciting will happen …
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
I’ve been reading and rereading this novel since my teens. My favourite scene these days is near the beginning when Anna is returning from meeting Vronsky for the first time and scarcely wants to admit the attraction. On the train home she reads an English novel and it is her impatience and frustration that signal to us that she is about to transgress: “It was unpleasant to read, that is to say, to follow the reflections of other people’s lives. She was too eager to live herself.”
- The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
In the first of the Cazalet chronicles, Howard layers up satisfying details about what everyone is reading. Somerset Maugham, Margaret Irwin, Howard Spring and Angela Thirkell all get a mention and the characters are in and out of bookshops. When the brothers and their wives meet at the family home in the country, everyone chooses a book that reveals much about their character.
Link to the rest at The Guardian