Ever since I can remember I've loved books and reading. I remember my Mum reading me the tales of Flopsy Bunny and Little Grey Rabbit and of reading myself; books like Enid Blyton's Secret Seven and Mary Norton's The Borrowers books. I loved Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, Children of the New Forest, Gamble for a Throne and Lorna Doone plus a series of books whose names now escape me about three sisters from Northumberland who became a ballet dancer, a horse rider and a flamenco dancer - I'd love to know what these books were called. Later I worked my way through the books of Georgette Heyer, Margaret Irwin, Jean Plaidy and Anya Seton. Some of the books I studied at school have become favourites like Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. I remember reading Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham at school and discovering the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L Sayers at the library. Nowadays I tend to read more modern fiction and crime fiction - writers like PD James, Priscilla Masters, Val McDermid, Susan Hill, Kate Atkinson, Stephen Booth, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson and John Harvey are just some of my favourites. I've recently discovered the wonderful novels of Henning Mankell and the Imogen Quy novels written by Jill Paton Walsh - set in Cambridge in the fictitious St Agatha's College.
Of course, I wouldn't have been able to read all these books without libraries. We lived in a small village where a mobile library came every other week. We were also members of the library in our nearest town which was a bus ride away. I loved both these libraries and choosing books to read. Where ever I've lived I've always joined the nearest library - I can't imagine life without them. Of course today they offer far more than books; you can order books on line and check the progress of your order, attend a reading or writing group, use the Internet, borrow CD's or DVDs, find out about local activities, local history or family history and at some even have a cup of coffee. They are light, airy, welcoming places - but it is the libraries of my childhood that I remember the most, the dark wood and tiled floors, the rows and rows of books, the librarians with their boxes of tickets and inky date stamps. I loved this so much I used to play libraries on the table at home with the books from our shelves, slips of paper for the tickets and a hot water bottle top as a date stamp. So, you can see that books and libraries have been and still are a big part of my life and I'm thankful for that.