Like most of you reading this, I'm a bookaholic. If it's got print, I will read it.
I was three years old when those squiggly lines on a page began to make sense and I didn't look back. I can remember as a young girl being depressed at the realisation no matter how long I lived I couldn't possibly read every book ever written.
We all have a childhood book that made a resounding impression. For me, and generations of little girls, it was Anne of Green Gables. My mother gave it to me when I was six and I read it, and fell in love - not only with Anne Shirley, but the whole - to me - fairytale world of Prince Edward Island and the end of the Victorian era.
I often wonder what my life would have been if my mother hadn't given me that book at that particular moment in time. She was holding onto it until I was older, but I'd come home crying because the neighbour's children wouldn't play with me. She gave me this treasure - a playmate in the form of a book, and so it has been ever since.
Books are where I go when I'm bored, when I'm tired, when my mind is racing at midnight and I know I need something to slow it down. Books are my joy, my comfort, my window into other worlds. They partner me when I eat alone at restaurants, they come with me on long, rambling walks as I recount favourite stories in my head. They are the place I go when my soul has been carved out of me and there is no feeling left. They revivify and reconstitute as nothing else can.
Those voices, for me at the top of the pile: Byron, Tolstoy, Eliot, James, Colette, Woolf, Akhmatova, Faulkner, Byatt, Mantel, Makine, Toibin (feel free to add your own) show you the world and your place in it as not even the wisest friend can. They are there for you at one a.m. in the morning when you are awake and your family and friends sleep, they are speaking to you on a train, at a bus stop, sitting on a winter's beach or curled in a favourite chair in your house. All of these wonderful, capacious, sharp, insightful minds telling you a story that connects you across time to what it means to be human, making you feel less alone.
Share with me, if you would, the books that made the biggest impact on your life, the books that rescued you, the books that led you astray, the books you couldn't live without. I have a couple of my own little books to give away - they won't change your life or rescue you from disaster, but they will pass the time for a couple of hours and hopefully make you smile.