Monday, December 09, 2019

Improving Literature

One Christmas it was dressing-gowns. I don't know how it happened, but without consultation everyone seemed to have thought, 'I know - I'll get them a dressing-gown.' I still have a photo somewhere of five of us in a line-up flaunting them over our Christmas party best.

This year, I think it's going to be books. From the whispers I hear I don't think I'm going to be the only one who's decided books are the answer for Christmas 2019, and looking at the gaily-wrapped parcel my sister-in-law left with us in October – yes, she does that every year – I reckon it isn't a football.

When you get to our stage in life, when we've accumulated so much that the gift of another little knick-knack, however charming, isn't really going to be greeted with more than a wan smile as the parcel is opened, books are definitely the answer. It's usually not too hard to know what people's taste in books is and even if they are in the habit of buying what they like for themselves, most will wait for the paperback and having the brand-new hardback for Christmas is a luxury.

Of course,other motives beside careful and sympathetic choice can come into play. When my son gave my husband, a political biography freak, a biography of one of his own heroes knowing that his father didn't like him at all, it definitely came into the category of 'improving literature'. (He read it and enjoyed the book but it certainly didn't change his opinion.)

That was a great phrase in my youth. 'Improving literature' was the sort of book that would wean you off the other category, 'trash' and usually made your heart sink even though you might later see the point – though it could also have the opposite effect. My father gave me half-a-crown to read Walter Scott's Ivanhoe and I did it, but I've never read another one.

Which brings me on to the subject of my bookworm oldest granddaughter, aged 13. She has said she would like some 'classic' books for Christmas and I'm keen that my choice for her won't have that effect. Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice haven't grabbed her (she wants to be an astronaut) but she's been known to express an interest in 1984.

So, advice, please! I'm thinking along the lines of Animal Farm, Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird, perhaps even 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. What are the books that really snared your interest at that age and perhaps even shaped your reading habits for ever afterwards?


Anna said...

At that age I hugely enjoyed The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne (sequel to 20,000 Leagues), which takes place during the Civil War. Much state-of-the-time information about the sciences and practical arts, which some readers have found tedious but which I lapped up.

Aline Templeton said...

Thanks, Anna.

That's really helpful. So hard to know what will catch the imagination for the next but one generation!

Christine said...

I was an avid reader at that age, and would read virtually anything, but struggled to get through 20,000 Leagues - pretty turgid stuff.

Aline Templeton said...

Thanks Christine - Ill take the warning!

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

It's been a long time, but I remember enjoying A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Of course, there is also the movie version.

Donna S said...

Hi Aline:
How about "The Turn of the Screw" for your grandaughter? I remember the first time I was allowed into the adult section of the library, it was the first book that came to hand and I could not put it down and read with bated breath.

Aline Templeton said...

Oh, I do remember that too,Donis! I read it when I was young, decided the governess was mad, read it later and decided the children were possessed and have changed my mind again since. A masterpiece, and very scary! But not as scary as WW Jacob's The Monkey's Paw!

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking maybe Sirius, by Olaf Stapledon? Or you might consider some of the John Wyndham books - The Chrysalids, or Day of the Triffids?

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking maybe Sirius, by Olaf Stapledon? Or you might consider some of the John Wyndham books - The Chrysalids, or Day of the Triffids?