A Year in Reading: Caitlin Moran

December 12, 2014 | 3 books mentioned 2

coverThe Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
Townsend died this year, aged 68, and in order to write her obituary I re-read the books I’d loved as a child: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 and The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole, now together in one volume as The Adrian Mole Diaries. Despite my distress at her death, I was howling with laughter within three minutes — if possible, these books have become even funnier since the mid-80s, when they sold 8 million copies, and span off into a TV series.

Mole is a 13-year-old working class boy who is convinced he’s an intellectual, believes he’s destined for better things than everyone around him, writes poetry, and is obsessed with masturbation. In many ways, it is exactly like James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man — but with the benefit of being 100 pages shorter, and screamingly funny. You can quote almost every line: 

“I used to be the sort of boy who had sand kicked in his face — now I’m the sort of boy who watches somebody else have it kicked in their face.”

“There’s only one thing more boring than listening to other people’s dreams, and that’s listening to their problems.”

“I was racked with sexuality — but it wore off when I helped my father put manure on our rose bed.”

More from A Year in Reading 2014

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was named Columnist of the Year by the British Press Awards in 2010 and Critic and Interviewer of the Year in 2011 for her work in the Times of London. Her debut book, How to Be a Woman, won the 2011 Galaxy Book of the Year Award and was an instant New York Times bestseller. How to Build a Girl, is her first novel since the one she wrote at 14, which doesn’t count. You can follow Caitlin on Twitter @caitlinmoran.


  1. I will have to check these stories out. I am always looking for boy oriented stories for my 13-year-old and this sounds funny enough to capture his attention.

  2. Janelle, these books are not ‘boy-oriented’: they are fun-oriented. Your 13-year-old daughter would find it equally enjoyable, perhaps more given the piss Sue T takes out of poor Adrian.

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