10 Books That Shaped Me
The Three Billy Goats Gruff (ladybird edition)
It’s not the story that’s important to me with this one, it’s the storytelling or rather the storyteller. When I was very small my dad was not often home at bedtime (work commitments) and when he was, we would both delight in his telling of this classic. I remember the tension building with the ‘trip trap’ on the bridge and my mum telling him off for getting me too worked up right before bedtime. Story telling feels like it’s part of who I am, and I think that’s why this book had such an impact.
The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
Another childhood classic. I identified with Mildred Hubble; I was a clumsy, messy kid who had a habit of getting things a bit mixed up. I also wanted more than anything to be a witch myself, to make magic potions and cast spells and was always on the lookout for my very own pair of hobnailed boots. The Worst Witch taught me that you didn’t have to be perfect to be the Main Character.
Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I’m sure this one is on a lot of people’s lists, but perhaps for different reasons to mine. I was a poor sleeper as a child and with two working parents there wasn’t always someone about to read to me. This book was my first experience of audiobooks, in this case it was the full and unabridged radio performances of the book. I listened to this so many times I think subliminally I may have memorised it. A couple of years ago I got this on audible, narrated by Stephen Fry and found I could ‘read’ along practically word for word. I blame this book for my sarcastic dry humour, my love of mice and the number 42.
The 4.50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie
When I was a teen back in the 80s there wasn’t the amazing choice of books written for you young adults that there is now, many of my friends graduated from children’s books to Danielle Steel, Virginia Andrews, Stephen King and James Herbert, but I found my way to Agatha Christie. And this book is still my favourite Miss Marple. I loved that Miss Marple was always underestimated and yet was inevitably one step ahead of the police.
Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
This book was on my GCSE syllabus and I fell in love with it, with one character in particular and she wasn’t even one of the major players. Fanny Robin, she’s supposed to be the foil to Bathsheba (a character I never did care for) and show the reader a reflection of the differences in the way society treated women. But for me she was more than that. She walked all the way to the farm, clearly sick and in no state to be doing so, all the time telling herself she only needed to make it to the next way marker, then the next and so on. And yes, she dies when she gets there but she got there. There have been too many moments in my life where thanks to Fanny Robin I have been able to remind myself I only need to focus on making it to the next way marker.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
This book shaped me for a very different reason to all the other books on this list. It shaped me before I’d even read it. In 2015 I was in Birmingham Airport, my plane was delayed by 5 hours, I was coming back from a work trip, and I had nothing to do, so naturally I ended up looking at books. I saw this book on the stand, read the back, and had an epiphany moment. I’d spent a lot of my teenage years travelling from Edinburgh to Penzance and back again for school and I’d often thought a story where a murder was witnessed from a train would make a great book. But I’d done nothing about it, in that moment I realised that I hadn’t been following my dreams & ambitions for a long time, so I didn’t buy the book (sorry Paula – I bought it later & enjoyed it) instead I bought a pack of pens and a notebook and started writing. That day was the day everything changed, I made a commitment to my writing.
The Five by Hallie Rubenhold
This is a non-fiction book, and I would thoroughly recommend it to everyone, it focuses on the lives of the victims of Jack the Ripper and more than anything for me it was fascinating social history lesson of the time. I listened to this on Audible and it made me angry, for the injustice and it made me cry. It made me think and I really like that from a book.
Silent Scream (DI Kim Stone 1) by Angela Marsons
I’ve read a lot of American crime fiction and as I started to take my own writing seriously, I made a concerted effort to read more British crime fiction, and this started with this book. In addition to being a really good book with great characters I also enjoyed learning more about Angela Marsons and her journey to publication
Deadly Indiscretions (an unpublished book) by me, Angela C Nurse
This was the first full length crime novel that I wrote, it taught me that I could do it and that I loved it. I sent it away to agents and made lots of mistakes. For one I didn't do nearly enough rewriting and editing, my cover letter was a blanket Dear whoever, I took your name from Writers & Artist handbook etc. Looking back I'm not surprised that I didn't get any full requests or an inkling of interest. However, this book showed me I had what it takes to write a book and it showed my nearest and dearest that I was serious about making writing a priority. It also opened the flood gates for so many more ideas. Only a handful of people have ever read this one, but it had a huge impact on my writing career.
The Rowan McFarlane Mystery Series by me, Angela C Nurse
Seeing my story become a book was the fulfilment of a lifetimes ambition and yes, I’m one of those authors who occasionally like to take hold of my book and hold it and remind myself that I did it. The reviews for this book have been amazing, when you release a book into the wild you’re opening up yourself to all sorts of judgement, but I realised I was okay with that because not following my ambitions was worse.