I’ve had to think long and hard about this as it’s not always obvious how a book has influenced my intentions and/or dreams.
- A Degree of Mastery: A Journey Through Book Arts Apprenticeship by Annie Tremmel Wilcox
I’d always been vaguely interested in the art of book-making and book restoration, but reading this book made me want to acquire the skills. I actually attended a one-day workshop in book-making and wish there was a longer, more serious and substantial course I could sign up for. However, I suspect I don’t have the patience or attention to detail required to be a really good book arts practitioner.
2. The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff
This beautifully-written novel about a young girl, Allegra, preparing for a violin competition led me to listen to Mozart’s violin concertos. They are now some of my favourite pieces of classical music. This is the first movement of concerto No. 4, which is what Allegra plays for the competition in the book:
3, 4, and 5. End of Term and Falconer’s Lure by Antonia Forest, and H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
I first learnt about falconry and hawking in an A level lit class, reading the poem Tamer and Hawk by Thom Gunn. The line ‘You seeled me with your love’ and its explanation by my tutor Mr Whitby both fascinated and horrified me.
Shortly after that, I read End of Term by Antonia Forest, and, about fifteen years later, Falconer’s Lure, the book that preceded it. Both offer tantalising glimpses into the sport of falconry.
H is for Hawk is Helen Macdonald’s description of how hawking became her way to work through the pain of losing her father, interwoven with accounts of the life of author T. H. White, also a hawking enthusiast.
All three books (and the poem) make me wish I could learn about falconry firsthand, but only if it doesn’t involve large sums of money and spending time with snobbish white people in the English countryside (there are falconry retreats one could attend, but one won’t unless one receives a windfall).
Tamer and Hawk
By Thom Gunn
I thought I was so tough,But gentled at your hands,Cannot be quick enoughTo fly for you and showThat when I go I goAt your commands.Even in flight aboveI am no longer free:You seeled me with your love,I am blind to other birds—The habit of your wordsHas hooded me.As formerly, I wheelI hover and I twist,But only want the feel,In my possessive thought,Of catcher and of caughtUpon your wrist.You but half civilize,Taming me in this way.Through having only eyesFor you I fear to lose,I lose to keep, and chooseTamer as prey.
6. An Omelette and a Glass of Wine by Elizabeth David
This collection of articles about food and cooking was my introduction to Elizabeth David, made me a lifelong fan and turned me onto the pleasures of simple, but high quality food and drink, and the joys of farmers’ markets. It also made me want to eat and drink my way around France.
7. New Habits: Today’s Women Who Choose to Become Nuns by Isabel Losada
I love novels set in convents, but this book looks at real nuns, and the convents they belong to. Reading the interviews made me want to visit some of these establishments, which are open to members of the public who are interested in going on retreat.
8. On Pilgrimage by Jennifer Lash
The author takes the pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compostela. Of course, it made me want to go on this journey, not for religious reasons, but because I think it would be a moving and spiritually meaningful experience.
9. The Slow Train to Milan by Lisa St Aubin de Teran
This autobiographical novel about young Lisaveta’s train journeys to Bologna, Milan and other parts of Europe with her exiled Venezuelan husband and his friends made me want to visit Bologna with its three leaning towers. I have been to Rome and Florence, but Bologna still remains a dream.
10. The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia by Paul Theroux
Theroux is my favourite travel writer and I especially love his journeys by rail, as this is my own preferred mode of travel. I would like to explore the world by train. Who knows, I may still do so one day.