If you were the kind of child who took books to bed instead of stuffed toys, then you absolutely MUST read this book. It’s hilarious, so very relatable and a wonderful trip down memory lane!
Sort of like Gogglebox – but for readers – Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm is a memoir of childhood reading, from The Very Hungry Caterpillar right through to Sweet Valley High and Judy Blume.
A card-carrying bookworm, Mangan is the owner of 10,000 unattractive books (she was once interviewed by a bookcollecting magazine about it – they were perplexed that she didn’t collect ‘beautiful’ editions). For Mangan, it’s all about the stories:
For the true bookworm, life doesn’t really begin until you get hold of your first book.
My own mother tells me that her life changed when I learned how to read. By which I infer that I finally left her the hell alone for five minutes at a time.
As a fellow bookworm, I made so many notes while reading this I could fill my own novella. I spent half the book internally shouting ‘YES!’. Like this passage:
Remember hiding a book on your lap to get yourself through breakfast? Remember getting hit on the head by footballs in the playground because a game had sprung up around you while you were off in Cair Paravel?
I very clearly remember spending an entire – wonderful – day in front of the gas heater when I was 16, reading David Copperfield. It didn’t quite fit with my school-time persona – the one with the long, bottle blonde hair, dating the tall musician from an outer suburban boys’ school – but we bookworms often learn to fit into the social strata eventually. It doesn’t mean we stop reading.
On being a bookworm & parenting small children…
My youngest child recently started school and I’m delighting in watching him learn how to read. This is the kid who takes books to bed like other kids take teddies but who, for some reason, has resisted all my offers of reading tuition over the years. Sometimes his taste in books baffles me. On this, Mangan laments:
My own child won’t give [In the Night Kitchen] the time of day. But I read it to him every month or so regardless. Not only is it a Caldecott book, it’s Mummy’s favourite. He should like it. And by God, we will continue until he does.
For my own children, There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake is my torture weapon of choice.
Finding time to indulge your own reading addiction becomes incredibly difficult with young children. With two kids aged 5 and 7, I read snippets of books now between ‘Look at this, Mum!’ and ‘I’m hungry!’ and ‘He hit me!’ but it hasn’t stopped me from reading. When they were still in nappies, I read the entire Hunger Games trilogy on my phone while sitting in front of ABC Kids television. Mangan gets it:
I have great hopes for retirement but for the moment, as an adult of working age and a mother of a five-year-old, life is unfortunately too much with me to allow such gorgeous, uninterrupted stretches of immersion in a book.
AND she even understands the bookworm’s unique confusion on parenting a non-bookworm:
…he is nearly six at the time of writing… I literally don’t know what to do with him. By this age, I didn’t need parenting, just feeding and rotating every few hours on the sofa to prevent pressure sores. I am entirely adrift. Please send help.
Don’t read Bookworm if you’re not a bookworm… or if you loved Twilight
Don’t read Bookworm if you didn’t grow up with a book in your hand. Bookworm is like an introvert’s book club where you’re expected to have read at least a dozen books to join. For example, I’d never heard of (the apparently wildly famous and successful book) The Phantom Tollbooth, so I ended up skipping the whole section because none of it made a whole lot of sense to me.
The saddest part of the whole book was when Mangan completely destroyed the entire Twilight series for me. Although admittedly, it was probably about time somebody did…
Over the course of the book(s) Bella becomes more and more passive, training herself not to respond to his kisses (when she does respond, he draws away and berates her for endangering herself), gradually isolating herself from her friends and family in order to protect his secret, and generally learning to subordinate her every impulse and desire to the need not to upset Edward and his instincts. You don’t have to squint too hard to see dubious parallels between this and the real-life dynamic of abusive relationships.
Disclosure: I received a copy from the publisher for the purpose of review.