The books that shaped my life

People often talk about the publishing industry in terms of numbers – declining sales and falling profits. So it's easy to forget about the magic dust that books can spread. I’ve been surrounded by books my whole life, and today I pay homage to six books that have shaped me.

1. Every Girl's Handbook, edited by Roger Coote

Now I know that I read hundreds of books as a child because my mum used to take me to the library every week. But this is the one that really stands out. I read this when I was nine. It had sections on sports and fitness, and I even started doing a bit of yoga at home because of it. It was full of tips on health and beauty and even had a calorie counter. Yes, I know! But this was the 80s. I also loved the section on hobbies and it made me want to DO stuff.

2. Get the Job You Want in 30 Days, by Gary Joseph Grappo

When I started out as a journalist, I had no journalism qualifications and no real experience. There is no way I would have taken a gung-ho approach and knocked on so many doors if I hadn’t read this book. It’s pretty dated now, as so much of networking takes place on social media. But back then (in 1999) it got me pounding the pavements and literally dropping off CVs at the places I wanted to work. Plus, the 30 days thing actually worked. The first time I used it, I got my job in Fashion PR in 7 days.

3. Why Good Girls Don't Get Ahead... But Gutsy Girls Do: Nine Secrets Every Career Woman Must Know, by Kate White

I read this around the same time as I read the ‘Get the job’ book, as a fresh graduate not knowing how to make it in the world. This book was another eye-opener, which taught me how to go after what I wanted. I also loved the fact that Kate was a journalist at women’s magazines as it gave me a unique insight into the industry I wanted to work in.

4. The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron

In 2002 I picked up a copy of The Artist’s Way. As I followed the lessons in the book I got inspired to do professional acting training, go freelance as a journalist and pursue a childhood dream of being a songwriter. In short, the book helped me to live a creative life – something I’ve been doing ever since. Last year, I got to meet the author. You can read all about what I learned from Julia Cameron here.

5. Finding Your Own North Star: How to Claim the Life You Were Meant to Live, by Martha Beck

The funny thing is that I don’t actually remember any of the content of this book. I read it around 2006, when I was taking a new direction and had just started tutoring and doing writing coaching and training. I just know that it helped to centre me, and gave me hope that I was on the right path.

6. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Finally, this is a new one. I read this in the summer of 2016 and was blown away. The stories, examples and inspiration it contained made me want to create, to write, and to celebrate creativity. If you haven’t got a copy, I highly recommend getting one.

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