Books that Changed My Life – Part One: Childhood and School

Aged 5-10 years old

The Adventures of Asterix by Goscinny and Uderzo

Two Brave Frenchmen take on the might of the Roman Empire and travel the world with the help of magic potion.


When I first plunged into the many Adventures of Asterix I couldn’t read properly. I only realised this some years after first reading the picture books that I had not been pronouncing the names correctly in my head. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the myriad of historical events Asterix and Obelix encountered. The idea that two men could influence the events in whatever countries they visited with the added thrill of using the magic potion to help them bashing various armies along the way was enough to capture my growing imagination.  The basis of Roman history mapped out through the picture books ended up being one of the reasons I chose to study Greek and Roman Civilisation for my primary University Degree.

Aged 13

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

A short creature called a Hobbit and named Bilbo Baggins is drawn unwillingly on an adventure involving a Wizard, Dwarves, treasure, a dragon, and a very handy ring.


J R R Tolkien is a milestone in my literary endeavours for two reasons. My eldest brother gave me his copy one afternoon, by dinnertime Mum had to tell me to put it down during dinner and later tell me on a number of occasions to go to bed. I waited in the dark until the house fell silent and gingerly switched my light back on again, I was sure that I would be caught but I ended up turning the last page deep into the early hours of the morning. It remains the first and only book I read in one sitting. It was the scope of the story that hooked me. It unfolded and told me  how a small and seemingly insignificant creature like this Hobbit could have an influence over such a huge undertaking. Bilbo Baggins used whatever skills he had and became indispensable to the adventure. It opened me up to the vast and intricate imagination of Tolkien that would lead me to Lord Of The Rings and taught me that stories could be about anything your mind could conjure. I began to make up my own stories in copybooks.

Aged 17

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

The impact a stoic foundling has on generations of two families who live on the Yorkshire Moors.


We had to read Emily Bronte’s novel for our last year in school. As I ploughed through the narration by Nelly Dean and traced the interwoven lives of the characters in Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange I realised that the enjoyment of their tormented, tragic and complex existences was riveting. It occurred to me that writing exam questions about this book was going to be entertaining as opposed to topics in other subjects. I even went as far as writing a parody of the plot and substituting my classmates into the story and read it out in my English class. Even though I has already made up my mind to study English in University, Wuthering Heights cemented that choice, if I could enjoy a novel that much which was written 140 years previously I was going to be ok.

What are yours?

Books that Changed My Life – Part Two Young Adulthood and University 

Books That Changed My Life – Part Three: Adulthood to Now


15 responses to “Books that Changed My Life – Part One: Childhood and School

  1. Drugs, midgets and riding. You’re sick Ben! 🙂

  2. Upon graduating from college, I embarked on a quest to read the things that I SHOULD have read had I not tested out of all those English classes. Therefore, I plowed through the assembled works of Charles Dickens. That led me to learn the phrase “Oy vey!” as I found Dickens quite difficult to read in a competent manner. I moved through Hawthorne, Twain, Thackeray, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott and the majority of the library’s collection of the Brontes before I decided to give my aching brain a rest. About 3 weeks ago, while watching a late night broadcast of Devotion, I realized that although I’d SEEN “Wuthering Heights” on many occasions, I had never actually *read* it, so off I went to eBay to buy myself a copy because I knew there was something missing in my quest to be better educated than my college peers. It came, but I haven’t actually *read* it yet. So, although I know that on film, Heathcliffe carries the dying Kathy to the window to look out on the moors one last time, I’ve still not see it in my head. I’ll let you know…

  3. You read Wuthering Heights in your last year of (high)school? Be thankful, ever so thankful, you were educated in Ireland and not North America!! (okay, gross generalization across a few countries, but I’m sticking to my point).

    • Hi Lesley,

      Lol, all education systems have their plusses and minuses, I remember being very jealous that my U.S. Cousins learned to drive in school, and on the lietrature side of things I had to wait until college to read The Scarlet Letter!

  4. no ladybird books?

    • They didn’t stand out for me, but maybe because we were so lucky to have so many of them but now that you have me thinking about them I had forgotten all about The Little Porridge Pot!

      • Stop, little pot, stop!!

        I loved that book. For years I thought there was a town high in the German mountains where people travelled in boats through porridge.

      • Ah, that is just lovely 🙂 I remember thinking that if you were hungry it would have been a wonderful place to be.

  5. Oh, Asterix! I remember those fondly too! When I was in grade 3, I lived on the military base in Cyprus. We attended an international school which was quite British and these books were a favourite among the kids!

  6. Harriet The Spy. She was my heroine. I wanted to be a detective for most of my childhood courtesy of Harriet!

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