Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading (Lucy Mangan)

I had a big Christmas party at work – and me being me, I decided to make a fairy dress and not tell anyone until the day. It was a roaring success, but as it involved lots of pinning and cutting and trimming and pleating, I had a lot of time without the whirr of my sewing machine. In this time, I listened to a significant bulk of Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading on audible.

If you’re curious, my dress is up on my Instagram here.

Title: Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading
Author: Lucy Mangan
Published: 2018
Format: Audiobook (Narrated by Lucy Mangan)
Length: Some Seven Hours of reminiscing fun

While I’m not usually one for memoirs, I decided to read this for two reasons. The first is that I bloody love books, the second is that I’ve met Lucy Mangan, and she’s awesome. This is a book about the stories and books Mangan read growing up in the 70s, with some hilarious commentary about the characters, authors, children of a certain age, the dark times before the internet, and the various nefarious attempts of her parents to get her to engage with the world around her (And now her attempts to convert her son with the books she adored when she was his age).

Quite simply, it’s gold. I am not sure how much of my enjoyment is derived from Lucy’s narration of her own opinions with all the derision and wit as required. It’s great. If you get a chance to listen to the audio book, I would recommend! This is the kind of memoir I can get behind – what book was I reading when x, y and z milestones were being attained?

I confess I didn’t really know that many of the picture books she seems to have adored, but I remember reading The Tiger That Came to Tea by Judith Kerr to my younger sister, and various others like Mog the cat. I laughed out loud, however, at the section devoted to pony books, and another on Enid Blyton, recalling with fond memories my own years scrambling in car boot sale boxes for the sixth Mallory Towers book, and for further adventures of the Famous Five.

The great thing about this book is that I can relate to it, and half of the humour was my humour. I too was a child that hid in spaces just big enough for myself, a book and the cat (sometimes tussles over space between me and my ever-beloved Chocolate Cat emerged but they were usually swiftly rectified). Bookworm is witty, and it is relatable and that is what makes it so enjoyable and fun to listen to.

I was one of those children that adored fantasy, and animal books, whereas Mangan seems resistant to both until her discovery of Charlotte’s Web in the prepubescent years. It’s entertaining hearing her perspective of books that I adored or slid into oblivion, and the little girl buried (not very deeply) inside me keeps raising her pigtailed head (like a baby meercat) with every book that I have read.

And I’ve picked up a few childhood books that I didn’t read as a child and was worried I would lose the magic by attempting into adulthood. However, I am perfectly baffled as to how The Phantom Tollbooth passed me by as, from Mangan’s description, it is very much a book I would have adored then and now. This, amongst others, has been added to my kindle to read as soon as is possible (which means as soon as I get home for Christmas and can curl myself up in the nearest approximation to my childhood airing cupboard – for effect you understand).

If you were also a child that repelled reality with a near constant diet of words, then I recommend this for you! The cover is also gorgeous, so if you aren’t a fan of audio, then read it by all means instead. We are, after all, bookworms.

I am still in the thrall of Lucy’s memoir, I feel oddly bereft now it’s finished!


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