LLG Literature: The Books that Built Us

by Sasha Wilkins on October 9, 2012 · 33 comments

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When six women gather around a table to eat cake and talk books you can guarantee that it will be an enthusiastic gathering. We called the event: The Books that Built Me, and everyone was asked to bring along a book or two that was formative in their childhood, teens or just generally.  The occasion was a tea party, sponsored by Wedgwood, held at my house, and photographed for Red magazine. (I have a piece in November Red on the link between books, tea and women.)

Red magazine invitation

The guests were: Sarah Curran, founder of My Wardrobe.com, Jenny Lewis portrait photographer,  Maggie Alderson, London-born Australian author, magazine editor and fashion journalist, Philippa Wright, Marketing director at wine merchants Goedhuis & Co., and Tara Spring, Celebrity Producer for network television.

Some people brought two books (I think Tara & Philippa stuck most closely to choosing books that were formative to them as children), others bought a sack full because they couldn’t decide. And we all kept thinking of more books we should have brought. So I volunteered to keep a list, and publish it on here so everyone could buy more books.

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I think we all agreed that bringing books we loved to talk about, as opposed to having a set read was WAY more fun and interesting, so I wholly recommend book clubs that are show and tell in basis, rather than prescriptive.

Philippa’s books:

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
The Pursuit of Love
by Nancy Mitford

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Jenny’s books:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
We Need To Talk About Kevin  by Lionel Shriver
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Book of Dave: A Revelation of the Recent Past and the Distant Future by Will Self

Sarah’s books:

French Children Don’t Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman
The Answer Is Simple…: Love Yourself, Live Your Spirit! by Sonia Choquette

Maggie’s books:

Howards End by E.M. Forster
On the Road
by Jack Kerouac
Down With Skool!: A guide to school life for tiny pupils and their parents by Geoffrey Willans
The Flambards books by KM Peyton
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann
Sex Tips for Girls
by Cynthia Heimel
The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis

Sasha’s books:

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Persephone Classics) by Winifred Watson
The Card by Arnold Bennett
A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley
Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose, and Diary… by Sylvia Plath
Ian Fleming’s James Bond books 
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers

Tara’s Books:

What Katy Did  & What Katy Did at School by Susan Coolidge

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And then there were all the books we kept remembering between us that we wanted to add to our list, for lots of different reasons. We all were disappointed that we didn’t discover I Capture the Castle until our 20s or 30s, so I urge anyone with a teenage daughter to force them to read it tout suite.  (And if you love ICTC, then do try The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice, which Tara & I both love.)

Then there are books that made us laugh: The Fly Girls, for example, is a bonkers novel written in the early 60s about the antics of air stewardesses. What none of our choices were were showy-off-y, pretentious or point-proving. Just lots of excellent reads and a bucket full of nostalgia.

The Fly Girls by Bernard Glemser
The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
A Long Way From Verona by Jane Gardam
Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido
The Damerosehay trilogy by Elizabeth Goudge
Coffee, Tea, or Me?: The Uninhibited Memoirs of Two Airline Stewardesses by Trudy Baker
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
The Madwoman’s Underclothes – Essays and Occasional Writings by Germaine Greer
Coronet Among the Weeds by Charlotte Bingham
Lorna Hill’s Sadlers Wells series

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