Sarah Crompton, writing in the Telegraph, puts very succinctly the way I feel about books and reading and, specifically, that it’s impossible to measure the way that reading fiction shapes your personality. You can read the whole article here. She’s referring to Toni Morrison’s talk at Hay-on-Wye, a Twitter campaign to come up with 10 favourite books and the controversy over English GCSE set texts. But the general point is well worth making.
Both impulses – Twitter’s to list and Gove’s to prescribe - treat books as small objects, capable of being summed up in a sentence, rather than tools for living which enlarge the mind. I haven’t a clue what my favourite book is: Beloved would be among them, but so would George Eliot’s Middlemarch and Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes. To chose one over the other or over the others jostling behind would not reveal anything. Every book I have read has made me the person I am.