In its latest attempt at marketing disguised as just a big ‘aren’t books great?’ love-in, Waterstones is asking readers across the country to submit their recollections of ‘The Book That Made Me…‘. Quoth the blurb: ‘Books are powerful things. They can introduce us to new ideas. Give us the courage to do what we couldn’t do before. Even transform our lives completely. The Book That Made Me… is an ongoing collection of stories about lives that have been changed by books.’ Submissions of 100 words or fewer can be made either in store or, naturally, online via this form, which further elaborates upon the basic idea: ‘What has a book made you do? Maybe it was the book that made you travel the world, decide to get married or take up the ukulele.’ So yes, if that sounds like you, you are probably Zooey Deschanel but also Waterstones would like to hear from you.
A selection of the submissions will be displayed both in Waterstones branches throughout the summer and online presumably for longer than that. At the time of writing, there are 90 stories up on the initiative’s microsite. In addition to those written by members of the public, there is a selection garnered from assorted well-known types, because of course there are. Terry Pratchett, for instance, went for Kenneth Grahame’s immortal The Wind in the Willows, calling it ‘the first book I remember reading for pleasure. Once I had read it I read everything I could get my hands on. It happens like that for a lot of people, I believe. And in any case, I hope so.’
Caitlin Moran far exceeds the 100 word limit to sing the praises of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and describe its heroine, Jo March, as ‘the first girl I’d met in a book who wanted to write – who wrote both because she was poor, and because she had to; because writing was what gave her pleasure, and made her “her” […] I felt I could try and be the teenage Jo March in a way I couldn’t be the teenagers in Sweet Valley High, say, or in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I felt far more affinity to a 19th century American bluestocking than I did with Kylie.’
Alastair Campbell, meanwhile, chose Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, calling it ‘the book that made me love the French language’ before reiterating ‘I really do love the French language, especially speaking it.’ No word as yet on whether or not the inspiration for Malcolm Tucker has realised that when people say ‘excuse my French’, it isn’t actually because they’ve just been speaking French.