The Books of my Years: The troublesome teens.

Time for part two of my ‘Books of my Years’ feature – the troublesome teens. I think like most teenagers, books weren’t the be all and end all for me, it was all about having fun, passing exams and juggling A’Levels. I still read. I read lots, but my tastes changed somewhat, probably driven by movies I was watching, things which were happening in my private life and influences from school and college. I even have early University reads in this mix as even though I wasn’t as obsessed with reading, English Lit remained one of my A’ Level choices and was the minor in my degree.

The Troublesome Teens – 11-20

1557254It Shouldn’t Happen To A Vet – James Herriot

I loved these books. I love animals, so reading about a Vet and his trials and tribulations  as he navigates his early career was a sheer delight. Some of the characters he came across, over weight dogs, over wrought farmers, epidemics, devastating diseases. It was all contained in these pages in often funny, sometimes moving prose.

And yes. I watched the TV series too.

Seriously though, if you haven’t read these books, then you really should. They’re a wonderful read and gave my youth a touch of colour and escapism.

19691The Hunt For Red October – Tom Clancy

I’m not entirely sure when my tastes took a turn towards the intrigue and spy type drama’s, but when looking for a good bit of espionage and action, then my go to author was Tom Clancy. I really got hooked into the world of Jack Ryan (possibly aided by the movie as I love Sean Connery) but once I had started reading the books, I had to have them all. The movie came in my mid teens, quite a bit later than the book was first released, but it didn’t stop me collecting the whole back catalogue and catching up with our dynamic hero.#

 

18490Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

A real classic and one of my favourite reads of my teenage years. So much so that I used this as one of three books for my extended essay for A’ Level English Lit.

I don’t think there is much I need to say about this one as I don;t think there are many people left on the planet who don’t know the story. For me though, it was a wonderful blend of the slightly macabre, of scientific discovery and of the pain of separation and rejection by those you trusted and loved the most. It had a lot of meaning for me. Still does.

 

17245Dracula – Bram Stoker

Enuff said… Moving on.

Again, along with Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde, this was also one of my chosen extended essay texts. This is an absolute classic which I feel needs no explanation. You’ve probably seen from my early learning years post that I have a thing for Ghost stories. Well I was also in love with vampires too. I watched all the Hammer Horrors, loved Christopher Lee (my hero) was fascinated by Bela Lugosi, obsessed with watching Love At First Bite and happily creeped out by the movie ‘Salem’s Lot.

Dracula is just one of those stories for me. The closest I came to being in love with a love story. Forget Wuthering Heights with the moaning Cathy and surly Heathcliff. For me Dracula is one of the greatest (and bloodiest) love stories of them all.

6360296Carrie – Stephen King

God I love this guy. Up until the early nineties, I don’t think there was a single Stephen King book that I didn’t own. I remember watching the film Carrie and it was so shocking at the time (I was very young) but a bit like Halloween which was on TV every year and I watched religiously, I kept finding myself drawn back to this one too.

I guess in some ways, I could identify with Carrie White. My mother wasn’t a religious nut and I don;t have telekinetic powers, but I did recognise the feeling of being an outsider. If there being key things about growing up that my parents neglected to tell me.

And it was bloody scary. I could probably fill a dozen posts with all of the Stephen King books I read or the movie adaptations I watched. I loved some of the shorts, Sometimes They Come Back was one which really resonates, plus the horror of The Shining, the eeriness of Christine, the simple curse of Thinner. Oh I could go on, and on and on… But you get the picture.

228296Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin

The book which started the thread. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. I don’t know what it is about this book but I do remember that when I read it, it really spooked me. I think possible because so much of what happened was while Rosemary wasn’t fully aware, that because things happened in shadows and whispers that they felt more threatening. And the idea of something evil growing inside of her, of the occult. Oh it all appealed to me. Much more so that The Stepford Wives although I did sort of enjoy that one too.

I was certainly more excited when I finally made it to New York to go on a tour where they pointed out the building used as the backdrop for the film than I was when they pointed out the one used in Ghostbusters, but that could just be me. The building, The Dakota Apartments, was also coincidentally the same place where John Lennon was shot. Small world.

1883275The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris

Yep. You guessed it. If there was a serial killer or something completely gross and macabre – I was all over it.

The Silence of the Lambs, apart from being a brilliantly written book, had just the right amount of gore to keep me hooked. And yes, I was drawn to the series by the movie, but as soon as I found it I was hooked. And so I went back to read Red Dragon too. As you do. It seemed the polite thing to do.

I really loved Hannibal Lecter, the perfect sociopath in the perfect profession to find his victims. There is just something about him. As repugnant as his actions might be, you can’t help but be drawn to him.

89717The Haunting Of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

I was inspired to read this after reading Danse Macabre by Stephen King in which he spoke of the things in literature and film which scare us, and why we are so engaged by it all. I am so glad that I did.

With this book it is not so much what happens, there are few majorly gory scenes to perturb the reader, and yet there is a growing sense of unease and unrest. Noises, small movements, the whole idea that the house is alive. And it gives us one of the creepiest and yet most beautiful lines I have ever read.

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”  Shirley Jackson – The Haunting of Hill House

119073The Name of the Rose –  Umberto Eco

Another read inspired by a movie (did I mention I love Sean Connery?) but I am very glad I looked this one up as I feel like the book was much stronger than the film.

Set against a backdrop of a monastery, the evil which occurs here is all perpetrated in the name of religion. And how many times in history have we seen that. Franciscan Monks, exploration of heresy, ancient texts and obsessional madness all make this a captivating and tense read.

 

3876The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

Yes. I read this book. And no. It really doesn’t fit in with all the other reads which shaped my youth.

I’ll admit. This was a forced to read, part of my required reading for A’ Level English Lit, but I am so happy about that. I don’t know what it was about this book that grasped me; the imagery, the depiction of the ex-pat lifestyle, the ultimate unhappiness of Jake whose life was irreparably changed by war, or the whole idea of the strained love triangle, but I loved this book. Ignoring some of the less delightful elements of animal cruelty, this was just a wonderful depiction of human life, so very honest in feeling, that it is one of the things which inspired me to take literature as part of my degree. And again, one of my favourite quotes closes out the novel as Jake and Lady Brett Ashley finally part ways, the acknowledgement that what they both wanted could never really have happened.

‘ “Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”

Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.

“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”  ‘- The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway.

Beautiful, poignant perfection.

12986736Weep Not Child – Ngugi Wa Thiong’0

This was one of my University set texts but one which has stuck with me some twenty odd years after I first read it.

The story is set in Kenya, detailing the fates of two brothers during the Mau Mau war. A completely moving read, this drew me in, enlightening me to a conflict and situation I knew and understood little of. The two brothers in this book, Njoroge and Kamau, may have very different outlooks on life, but their fates are not their own to decide. War will take care of that.

I kept very few of my University texts, but this was one of the few that I did and one I highly recommend.

1612312Stars of the New Curfew – Ben Okri

Another one of my University reads, this collection of short stories is rich in stunning and uncompromising imagery and Nigerian history and is a fantastic introduction to the works of this wonderful author.

Touching on the brutal effects of conflict, the stories blur the lines at time between reality and mysticism, dipping into folklore and spiritualism in order to capture the essence of the era. I had never read anything like them before but they captured my imagination and stayed with me.

Not easy to do when most nights in this period of my life were spent in a drunken student-esque haze…

Yes. It’s official. When I was a teenager (and now although to a lesser extent) I was a horror & gore addict with only a tiny little bit of variation. And… well, maybe I read more than I thought 🙂

So what were your reading tastes like in your teens? I read a good number of classics around this time too, some Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that kind of thing, but for me horror and the macabre was mostly where it was at. For me books were the same as the movies I watched. The gorier the better. I mean – who doesn’t like a little bloodshed every now and then?

Happy week of reading all

JL

18 thoughts on “The Books of my Years: The troublesome teens.

  1. I read throughout my teens and my tastes varied enormously (and depended largely on what the library had in stock.) I read the bonkbusters of the age, Jilly Cooper, Barbara Taylor-Bradford, Shirley Conrad and the like mixed with horror by James Herbert.

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  2. I had the same reaction as you when I watch Carrie and loved reading Stephen King. Some Other books I loved as a teen were anything by Lois Duncan, the Point Horror books, Judy Blume, Virginia Andrews. I think they probably do reflect my reading as an adult – suspense, a bit of supernatural, Domestic noir and contemporary fiction. I’m quite varied. Love these posts x

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  3. Saw some overlaps there for me, though my teens were a little earlier than yours. I think I’ve read Dracula about five times – it’s brilliant. I struggled with Frankenstein, though. Maybe I should have read the book before seeing the movies, but – like you – I was a big fan of late night horror movies.
    And I’d completely forgotten about reading the James Herriot books. Thanks for triggering a little nostalgia – I’m a big fan of that as well!

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  4. I loved the James Herriot books in my teens, I convinced myself I wanted to be a vet 😂 And I think Carrie was the first book I read by Stephen King and I loved The Silence Of The Lambs, it’s one I hope to read again one day and see if it still scares me as much as it did then 😀

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    1. I was obsessed by the Stephen King books up to my early twenties. He’s the one author I fought hard to get every book by. Some ruddy great gaps there now though. Don’t think I’d ever catch up.

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  5. Karen

    I love these posts – you do them so well 🙂 I too loved the James Herriott books (and the TV series). My teenage reading years were quite varied – I loved Agatha Christie, Virginia Andrews, Barbara Bradford Taylor and the Women of Substance saga. Read quite a few Danielle Steel’s until I got bored with them and also remember reading James Herbert’s The Fog and The Rats under the bedcovers with a torch so that my parents wouldn’t confiscate it! Also Jeffrey Archer featured quite heavily on my reading list at the time, I remember getting through one of his political thrillers in one day after coming home from school.

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  6. I never finished The Sun Also Rises (I do have issues with assigned readings!!) but Silence of the Lambs was awesome and creepy and I loved it. I used to read lots of Stephen King as a teen.

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