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Friends and books

Do you have any books which you think of like friends? Perhaps you have known them for a long time, and, reliably, they bring you comfort and support. Or maybe they give you just the advice you need without shoving it in your face. There are many ways in which books and friends are similar and here are just a few; I'm sure you can think of many more similarities.

Take the books you loved as a child... just like a childhood friend, they take you back to a simpler life. When you reread one of these books and I do recommend that you do so, as an adult, you can re enter that world of your childhood imagination. You will enjoy the story just as much, I am sure, especially if you allow your inner child to emerge while you read. Some of my favourite childhood books are Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery, The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis and Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster.

Books with good advice on how to help yourself deal with difficult situations are also like good friends. We may not all be lucky enough to have a friend who unfailingly gives us good advice - we may not always want to share our struggles with our friends, either, but a book which helps us to think in another way or which reframes the world for us can become that friend. Of course, just as in real life, you may have to try the advice of several books/friends before you find one which clicks with you. Some of my own advice book friends are: The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.

But sometimes we also 'make friends' with characters in books - they are so well written that we come to know them through a series and we look forward to making their acquaintance again, like meeting a friend at a party. These characters become very familiar to us as we learn and understand more of their journey in life and the choices that they make. I hope that some of the characters in my books will become like that to you, my readers. I would love for you to feel like you know them and yet know that there is still more that you can learn from them or about them as they grow older and pass through their lives. I have lots of favourite characters and its hard to choose between them, but Mama Ramotswe from Alexander McCall Smith's Number One Ladies Detective Agency series, Harry Hole written by Jo Nesbo and Jack in the eponymous book by Marilynne Robinson are all beautifully observed and lifelike.

There is, of course, the other side to all this. We all have that person(book) that we have tried really hard to get on with because friends have suggested that we will love them and then we just don't. There's the friend(book) that we once thought was amazing but that now we meet/read again we realise that they were patronising or judgemental or just plain wrong. There's the friend/book who was perfect when we were going through one stage of our lives but who now seems demanding or maybe irrelevant. But don't be hasty to make a judgement on a book - or indeed a person. I am amused and exasperated in equal measure by people who assure me that they just know that my books are 'not their thing', much as some people decide they couldn't possibly be friends with someone based solely on what they look like or what class they are or how wealthy they are. Give a book - or a person - a chance and get to know them before you decide; you may find a new and much loved friend. I hope that there are those among you who enjoy getting to know my characters and my stories and who will develop a real and lasting friendship with them. Spend some time today with a cup of coffee or tea and a book friend!

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