Before hitting 50 next year, former SNJ news editor Sandra Ashenford has compiled a bucket list of 50 goals to achieve before her birthday.

The aim is to do one every week.

List item no 11 - read a classic work of fiction.

IT HAS been noted in an earlier piece that I was a studious child who worked hard at school.

It is not unknown for such children to subsequently leave education and go rather wild, abandoning their books in pursuit of a rock and roll lifestyle.

I wasn’t one of them. It took me 20 years to get to university, but once I was there I proved to be an equally studious adult, amassing a B.Ed and an MA, and being currently midway through a PhD. It will be a life’s ambition achieved to have the title Dr Sandra Ashenford embossed on my Tesco Clubcard.

So it will come as no surprise to anyone that books have always had an important place in my life, and take up a huge amount of space in our very small house.

But there are two confessions I need to make. Firstly, my reading of choice is detective fiction and action thrillers. Secondly, I own an e-reader.

For many years I felt slightly guilty about my preference for popular fiction over rather than something more critically acclaimed, and would try to deflect criticism by pointing out that I particularly liked historic whodunnits, such as Ellis Peters’ medieval Brother Cadfael chronicles about a sleuthing monk, and the excellent Victorian Murdoch Mysteries series, by Maureen Jennings.

However, I have to admit that I’m currently reading my way through the Jack Reacher thrillers by Lee Child, which are completely formulaic and enormous fun. Reacher travels around America, punching, stabbing and shooting his way out of trouble, and eating far too much red meat and not enough vegetables.

My friends felt I should make more of an effort and tackle something weighty, like Tolstoy’s War and Peace, but somehow it just didn’t appeal. So I thought about the other stories that I know well but have never read the original text., which includes most of Dickens, and anything set in Russia. In the end, though, I decided to read Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, though in translation rather than the original French.

The language was a bit heavy going (even in English), but the wonderful spirit and humour of the story, which translates so well to modern film and television interpretations, made it worth sticking with.

I did buy it as a real book but it was the size and weight of a house brick, and , fine for at home but difficult to transport. So, dear reader, I downloaded it onto my e-reader too. A man in a café gave me a lecture on the villainy of such electronic gadgets and how they will destroy real books, but I think there is a time and a place for both.