What I should have been reading and what I did read

There were the books I was assigned to read at school and then there were the books I was actually reading. Obviously I did read the class texts (because: English nerd) but as soon as I got home, it was other books that I was engrossed in.

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1985 – supposed to be reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, was actually reading the Caitlin series by Francine Pascal

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1986 – supposed to be reading Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park (I actually loved this book), was actually reading Sweet Dreams romances. All of them.

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1987 – supposed to be reading A Kestral for a Knave by Barry Hines (notable in my class because it had a swear word), was actually reading Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews

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1988 – supposed to be reading My Brother Jack by George Johnston, was actually reading Lace by Shirley Conran

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1989 – supposed to be reading In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason, was actually reading I’ll Take Manhattan by Judith Krantz

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23 responses

  1. Such a brilliant post! I loved Francine Pascal and my early teens were spent consuming all she produced, alongside more worthy reading matter 🙂

    Flowers in the Attic was one of those books EVERYONE read – I remember many playground dissections of that novel!

    Happy days….

    I’ve never read Lace and it does feel like a hole in my reading life. One to remember when I’m looking for a beach read!

    • I think Flowers in the Attic was a rite of passage (in fact, I only read Twilight because I realised that it was the ‘Flowers’ of this generation).

      I’d almost be scared to read Lace now – it could be beyond terrible. BUT Conran et al defined a whole new genre, so it might be worth reading for that alone.

  2. Judith Krantz taught me everything I know about sex. And she taught everyone else in Year 9, too. Conveniently, the crease in the spine helped the book flip open automatically to the sexy pages, as we had to read the section quickly before handing it onto the next girl in the row.

    • Ha ha! I do think it’s funny that people got all excited over Fifty Shades of Grey given that Judith Krantz did it all – and a million times better – decades ago! I think I got all my Krantz off my mum’s shelf which looking back is a bit weird!

    • One day I’ll photograph my collection (of Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High). Luckily I never had to hide what I was reading – I think my mum was of the opinion that I’ll only understand what I understand and all the rest while go over my head! Not sure whether her theory worked or not (and maybe that’s why so many friends would borrow books from me in high school!).

    • Borrow away! I enjoyed a lot of my assigned reading – there were some gems in there including The Outsiders and Across the Barricades (an Irish Romeo & Juliet). That said, the ones I didn’t like (particularly A Wrinkle in Time) felt like a tax on my reading time.

  3. I’ve wanted to read My Brother Jack since the tv adaptation from about 15 years ago (Simon Lyndon was Jack – I thought he was the most beautiful thing). Is it actually a good book?

  4. Read Flowers in the Attic (there were sequels, yes?), Lace, several Krantzes, along with Jackie Collinses, Sid Sheldons, as well as all the Stephen Kings, Dick Francises, Agatha Christies, Robert Ludlums, and even an obscure occultist novelist, Dennis Wheatley. But Wuthering Heights was my favourite teen novel (a school text) and I enjoyed the other texts we had to read: Machiavelli, Dickens, Austen. Just as an aside, my daughter who is 19 says one question she asks contemporaries and younger kids (she’s involved in the Arts Faculty student association at uni) is ‘Are you a reader’ and she says 80% say ‘I used to be.’ This is a shift that we will see the proper consequences of in another 20, 30 years I think, or am I being fuddy-duddyish?

    • There were a bunch of other books following Flowers in the Attic (I read them all…). And I also read Jackie Collins, Jilly Cooper, Judith Krantz and all the others in that glamour-Hollywood-genre, as well as Austen, James and Brontes under my own steam (my school texts weren’t classics and I never did English lit).

      Your daughter’s question is an interesting one and I think yes, there will be consequences. Are they no longer readers because they’re now doing other things (social media, games?) or is it because they have so much assigned reading that there’s no time for reading for pleasure? If it’s the first reason, then the outlook is grim. If the second, maybe not so bad (except that people get turned off reading).

      When I was at uni I had a friend who loved reading Mills & Boon. Together with my love of a trashy novel, we found we had lots in common – including topping our respective high schools in English. So although others would tease us about our sub-standard reading material, we were quietly smug!

      Years later, when I was studying PR, and when the ‘Readability Index’ was still part of word processing programs, a lecturer gave us the stats on the ‘reading age’ for various publications (it was based on how many years schooling you needed to understand a text). Interestingly, the majority of best-selling novels had a very low reading age (six years of school??) and the lecturer told us to aspire to simple, straight forward writing like you find in Jackie Collins! All my years of trashy reading paid off 🙂

  5. Yes, Heather, My Brother Jack is a beaut book. One of my favourites!
    PS I never knew that A Wrinkle in Time was an assigned text. I read it as a teenager because my mother bought it for me because she liked the look of it. (She was obsessed by the theory of relativity and the idea that time wasn’t just clock time). I liked it a lot…

  6. Pingback: Six Degrees of Separation – from Flowers in the Attic to The Rules of Civility | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

  7. Pingback: What I Read (And What I Should’ve Been Reading) – Fourth Street Review

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