Seven books that made an impact on me
This is a list of books that had some sort of impact on me. This list first appeared on my facebook page, last year. I’m posting it here because I havent blogged for ages and ages.
They are listed in the order in which i read them, and not in any order of preference.
Book 1.The Ladybird Book of Toys and Games to Make.
It required stuff that was far too middle class for me. Date Boxes , Wine Corks and the like. But It was my favourite book when I was a kid. I bought myself another copy off eBay a couple of years ago.
Book 2. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner.
I first read this in about 1974/75 in Mr Fraser's English class at Highfield Comp. It was the first fantasy novel I had ever heard of. I didn't even know this was a thing.
It is set in Alderley Edge (which is now famous for the uber rich footballers that live there). I thought it was a fictional place.
The chapter where Colin and Susan are escaping through the caves, crawling through tiny tunnels was so stressful. I think this book kicked off my claustrophobia.
Years later when i got my first car I was looking through a road atlas for a place to drive to. I was amazed to find that Alderley Edge was a real place. One Sunday morning I drove there then followed the map in the book to The Edge. I found The Wizard Inn,The Golden Stone, Saddle Bole, Stormy Point and The Wizard's Well. I wandered about for hours and even went into a cave. Everything was exactly as it was in the book.
Alderley Edge is still one of my favourite places. I need to go there now!!!
Book 3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I read this in Miss McGuiness’s English class at Highfield when I was about 14.
I’d previously seen the opening credits of the film when I was about 10 and the title had stuck in my mind since.
The book was not what I was expecting. Every character was real to me, it taught me about equality and that you should treat everyone with the respect that they deserve. No matter how weird or different they seem to you. It also taught me that bigotry and racism is something taught to kids by idiotic peers and parents.
Book 4: The Complete American Graffiti (movie novelisation) by John Minahan
Back 1974 at the end of the summer holidays, our last one before we moved up to Seniors, Me and my mate Fitzy went to the ABC Lime Street to see . . . erm - cough. . “Remember Me This Way”. It was a documentary film about erm Gary Glitter....
OK just to put it into context. we were 11 and he was one of the biggest pop stars of the day.
Anyway we were lured in by the promise of some action movie scenes. (The trailer showed him punching a bad guy through a window.). I mean, this was going to be great, wasn’t it? - It wasn’t, and this was verified when some lad stood up in the middle of the cinema and shouted “FUCKING SHITE!!!!”
Anyway back to the point of this post. Before the film came on, there was a trailer for American Graffiti. It looked amazing; Cars, Girls, a Diner, more Cars and Amazing Music but It was either an A or AA rated film which meant you had to go and see it with your mum or dad, and that wasn’t going to happen.
So I never saw the film and seeing as back then you had to wait about 7 years before the film made it onto the telly there was zero chance of me seeing it. Oh and video recorders were something you saw on Tomorrow’s World and not something that anyone had in their homes.
But there was another way of getting your fix of movies you had never seen...
The Movie Novelisation. Yep this was a thing back then. Someone would take the screenplay of a film and pad it out into a novel.
It was 1979-80, I’d left school by now and I remember being in WH Smiths on Church Street and there on a shelf was the novelisation and included was the novelisation of the sequel. . . There was a sequel???
This was the first book I’d read in about a week. I finally got to see the film in about 1982 when it was on BBC2 very late and I was on the dole. It was just as good as the book. 😉
Book 5: Airflow by Philip Castle.
In 1979-80 I was working for the MYA Reprographics department on a YOP scheme. I learned graphic design the proper way with Technical pens and Letraset, producing posters, reports and stuff to deadlines all for £23.50 a week.
I was obsessed with Hot Rods and the amazing paintjobs and pinstripes. I had been putting money away every week in Beatties Model shop in St John's Precinct. I was buying an airbrush I think it was £60? My Y.O.P. Scheme came to an end in November 1980 and I thought I'd get a job as a Graphic Designer, but I spent the next three years on the dole.
I had an airbrush and I needed inspiration. So I bought some airbrush books; a few instructional books and a couple with examples of airbrush art. The best of which was Airflow by Philip Castle. This book is full of the amazing illustrations he had produced for various advertising campaigns, movie posters, magazine articles, book covers and LP cover art.
Unfortunately Airbrushes need Air and for that you need a compressor and I just didn't have the money to get one. Every so often I would spend a bit of cash on compressed air in a can, and that would only last for a couple of hours. So I hardly did any airbrush work. But in my head I can paint like Philip Castle.
I love this book and I still look through it.
I still have my Airbrush. In fact, I have three. I still don't own a compressor.
Book 6 :- Reasons to be Cheerful by Paul Gorman
They say you should never judge a book by its cover., but the same rule doesn’t apply to LP’s and singles.
When you leave school and suddenly you are earning enough cash to buy your own stuff, you quickly learn the value of money. Every purchase you make becomes a life or death decision.
Back in 1979 I found myself earning the amazing wage of £18.50 a week which was a massive amount compared to the £1.00 pocket money I was used to. But after giving a fiver to me mum for my keep and then taking out my bus fares and dinner money and maybe buying a pair of jeans or some other item of fashionable garb I’d have a couple of quid left to spend on records.
Top of the Pops was the only time you could see and hear bands. Half of them were shite and a precious few would go on to your “Bands I like” list. The NME, SOUNDS and The Melody Maker was where I learned about proper bands that hardly ever made Top of the Pops but would sometimes appear on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’.
But you can be deceived by a great review. f you’ve never actually heard the band on the radio, the last thing you want to do is waste precious cash on records bought on naff advice from some muso.
So I came up with my own formula for picking out music to buy.
I owned a little box of precious singles that I loved.
The ones I played the most were “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” by Ian Dury and ”Accidents Will Happen” by Elvis Costello both of which had great sleeves. The Elvis one was inside out and was blank on the outside. My mate in school actually owned “Armed Forces” which had an amazing cover with fold out flaps that allowed you to turn the sleeve inside out if you wanted. So I started buying records which looked like these.
They were all designed by the same fella - Barney Bubbles, although I didn’t know this at the time.
This formula proved to be a good one. As well as Ian Dury and Elvis Costello he designed covers for The Damned, Dr Feelgood, Billy Bragg, Nick Lowe and countless others. He even did the logo for the beloved NME and directed my favourite music video of all time “Ghost Town” by The Specials.
If you are a fan of British music from the 70’s and early 80’s and Graphic Design buy this book. (If you can get your hands on a copy! Currently going for around £160 on eBay.).
Barney Bubbles deserves to be famous and not just a graphic design hero.
Here’s a short documentary called “In Search of Barney Bubbles” that’s well worth a listen.
Book 7: His Dark Materials - (Trilogy) by Philip Pullman.
This is a bit of a cheat really as it's three books. but it is now available in one volume so that's good enough for me.
I got this as a box set in 2000 as a christmas present from a friend who basically never shut up about them.
I loved every minute of these books. They are all set in parallel worlds where everyone has their own daemon in the form of an animal. I'm not going to review them. All I can say is. "These books are fantastic, and if you haven't read them yet, then why not?
They are also available as full cast recordings from Audible.co.uk (Complete and unabridged.).