There aren’t many classics on this list but an early choice was A Room with a View by EM Forster. When I was in Sixth Year my inspired and inspiring English teacher Mr Stephen gave me a period a week to browse in the school library and read whatever I wanted. I was the only person studying CSYS English that year and I already knew that I was going to study it at university. It was Ken Stephen’s considered opinion that reading widely was the best thing I could do in preparation. So, along with Shakespeare and Shaw, John Donne and Hugh MacDiarmid, Jane Austen and Neil Gunn I read randomly and in a completely unguided way. And A Room with a View was one of the books I thus discovered. It’s a perfect study of manners and character and a wonderful sideswipe at Edwardian society.
I don’t remember when or how I came across Jennifer Crusie’s books but it would certainly have been in another library. Bet Me is by far and away my favourite. It’s a contemporary American romance full of punchy, witty, sharp dialogue and quirky characters. Minerva Dobbs is a risk-averse actuary with a love of food, a domineering mother, a beautiful, thin younger sister and an inferiority complex. Fortunately she also has two loyal, supportive but honest best friends. One crazy evening she bumps into Cal Morissey in a bar with his two friends and colleagues. And so begins a roller-coaster definitely-not-love story. It’s clever, funny and fast-moving and my go-to book when I want something not quite demanding to read.