Book Review: The Book that Made Me, edited by Judith Ridge

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_book_that_made_meThis is an ideal book to leave around any home containing a book-lover, for idle moments while eating breakfast, while the kids are peacefully bickering about what to watch on the tablet, or falling asleep, or…

In this book, 32 authors tell their stories, in whatever form they see fit, about their love of reading and how their chosen book/s have made them who they are. When I began the introduction and realised it could have been written by me – I don’t remember when I couldn’t read, and I was well and truly into chapter books by age 6, this was a shoo-in for my reviewing pile!

My highlights were NZ writers’ Rachael Craw and Mandy Hager’s stories, not only because of their parallels with my own experiences – As a child I actually spent more years in Australia than in New Zealand – but because they each chose one book (a series in the case of Craw) and concentrated on its effect. Trixie Belden was a friend on sodden West Coast summer days for me as well as for Craw, and I remember the Sweet Valley books well, though Sweet Valley High was a bit racy for me!  And Hager’s pick, 1984, came along when I needed it, late in my high school years, changing my view of the world.

Shaun Tan’s illustrations throughout the book were ideal brief breaks between individual works, showing all creatures great and small reading, as acts of challenge, expansion, and everything in between.

Most of the authors meditate at some point on the link between reading and writing, but Simon French I think says it best. “As an adult writer, I came to understand how much the unfolding skills as an author had been indelibly fashioned by encountering so much in the way of quality reading; that reading and writing are so eloquently knotted together and dependent on one another.”

This book has seen me add  20 more books that I’d never even heard of to my reading list. It expanded  my understanding of the works of those authors I had read, and my awareness of those I might be interested in reading. And in a nice double-up effect, it made me aware of more brilliant books that are waiting out there for me to be transformed by.

I recommend this book to every bookseller, and book-lovers everywhere. It would make a particularly brilliant gift for a teenage reader. And a range of the books suggested, and those by the authors that suggested them would make a wonderful window for NZ Bookshop Day!

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

The Book that Made Me
edited by Judith Ridge
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781922244888

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