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Which Five Books Changed Your Life?

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by Romy Page (subscribe)
Writer. TV producer. Film maker. Mum. Lovely food vs a great wine? Don't ask me to choose... This is me:
Published January 18th 2017
The incredible Maya Angelou wrote: 'When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.'

Reading is, and always has been for me, a way to lose yourself in another world and in doing so to find yourself. As a reader, you become consumed by other places and people and lives that are as real as any that actually exist. As a reader, you learn through your encounter with these stories, through understanding other minds and actions and motivations. Through this, I believe you ultimately you learn about yourself, who you are and how you want to live your life.

There are many books that I truly love, but there are a select few that, to this day, are still a part of me, are a part of who I am and I would recommend without hesitation.

1. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton

This book was my first love. The adventures of Silky, Moon-Face and the old Saucepan Man introduced me to a magical world far from reality. I got lost in it over and over. I journeyed with Jo, Bessie and Fanny as they went on adventures to the top of the Faraway Tree, visiting the Land of Spells, the Land of Goodies, the Land of Do-As-You-Please. Discovering a world where fairies and goblins exist ignited my imagination and so began my lifelong love of reading. This book was the start of my love affair with the written word, my love of literature and the wonderful worlds that lay within the pages of a book.

2. Middlemarch by George Eliot

Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life, published first in 1871, is a novel that I studied at school and I have loved since. Within its pages lies a vast world, a world of wonderful, tragic, idealistic, flawed, exciting characters. Rich in storylines and imagery, it reveals a world that made me think about my own place in the world and who I wanted to be. At its heart are two central characters: the young, wealthy, idealistic Dorothea Brooke and a young doctor called Tertius Lydgate. Both strive to reach their potential and are, to different measures, brought down by this. Dorothea became an early heroine of mine, a girl striving for a meaningful life, struggling to find it, making mistakes as she navigates and eventually finding how she wants to live.

3. Hamlet by Shakespeare

This is a play that I studied line by line and word by word with the most important teacher I ever had. The richness of this text saw me through my A Levels and my English Literature degree. Studying this play taught me to analyse, to question, to study and unlock words and to understand their power. This is a play of questions: where a strong but tragic figure questions who he is and what it means to be 'Hamlet the Dane'. At its heart, it's a question of who are we, how should we act, when should we act and what drives us?

To be or not to be: That is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take up arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them?'

4. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

This is a family saga about a family from the American midwest. It follows elderly parents, Enid and Alfred, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease, as they invite their three grown children for a final Christmas together. Within this book, I identified with the beauty, the sadness, the humour, the failures and the neuroses of modern life. It is a book that felt as real as any I had read and it is beautifully written. It is said we all have a novel in us, and if I am ever going to write my novel, this is the kind of book I'd like to pen.

5. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

This is the book I wish I'd written about the teacher who unlocked Hamlet, and in doing so, opened up a new understanding of literature for me. I think, at least I hope, that we all have someone who opened up the world for us, who gave us a new way of looking at our lives, and provided some life lessons with it. For Mitch Albom, this is Morrie, his college professor, a man he reconnects with in the last months of his life. For me, it is my former teacher. I missed my chance to reconnect with him as he passed away early, but I will never forget him and he will always be my 'Morrie'.

I hope this list provides some inspiration. I'd love to hear the five books that changed your life too.
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