Snugglepot and Cuddlepie – May Gibbs

If a gardener can be made and not born, then Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are responsible for my green thumb. May Gibbs’s whimsical stories were the start of my love affair with the Australian bush. The Banksia men may have sent me skittering away from shadows, but they also made me look closely at the natural world.

The Margaret Fulton Cookbook

After a disastrous year in grade 8 home economics, Fulton’s simple recipes were a huge relief. It seemed I could cook after all. Her comfort food still makes my dinner guests close their eyes with delight. Those who tasted my early efforts now appreciate the 21st-century spin – bush-tucker berries are perfect with a decadent pavlova. (Those Banksia men have a lot to answer for!)

Puberty Blues – Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey

While my family thought I was destined to be a wife, mother and good cook, I had other ideas. As a surfboard-riding tomboy of the ’70s, reading Puberty Blues was the slap in the face I needed to break me out of my mould. I was incensed by the book’s inference that all young women in the surfing culture made bad choices and allowed themselves to be used by men.

The Fun of It – Amelia Earhart

Since surfing wasn’t a career option, I sought the advice of the school’s guidance counsellor. ”Nursing would be good,” she told me in response to my request for information on flying lessons. She didn’t know that aviation had fascinated me for years. Looking back over my 25-year career in aviation, I wonder where I’d be if I’d taken her advice instead of stubbornly following my dream.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Stubborn or not, at my heart I’m a romantic and Jane Eyre remains the ultimate love story. The wildness of the moors, the threads of mystery, the sense of impending doom, coupled with compelling internal and external conflicts – the heart of any good story – kept me riveted. Jane Eyre’s fortitude and Mr Rochester’s redemption on the road to finding love are examples of beautiful characterisation.

Helene Young is an Australian commercial airline pilot and author of the romantic suspense novels Wings of Fear and Shattered Sky. Her latest book is Burning Lies (Michael Joseph, $29.95). 

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