Everyone has those books. The books that made them love reading. The books that shaped and changed the way they thought. The books they can’t wait to share with their children, so they bother their friends until the non-believers crack the cover. The books that they can read over and over and over again and never get tired of them.
Here are some of mine.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
My mom was reading us these books before I could read. I remember at least one instance where I curled up in the schrank (German version of a wardrobe) in my room, closed my eyes, and tried to wish Narnia into existence. I had no illusions about Santa coming to my house, but Father Christmas went to Narnia and so did the Pevensies. I wanted to be Lucy, looked up to Peter, loved Edmund, and secretly dreaded becoming Susan.
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
These are like, my under-appreciated babies. You know that band you love that none of your friends has even heard of? This is my literary equivalent. No one seems to realize how brilliant they are. Based on Welsh mythology, Lloyd Alexander’s unlikely but completely relate-able protagonist Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, dreams of adventure, like basically everyone who lives a boring existence. But when adventure comes his way, he quickly discovers that adventures aren’t all about honor and glory. In fact, heroes have to sleep on the cold hard ground more often than not. Along the way he meets Prince Gwidion, his childhood hero who at first glance falls far short of the dashing figure Taran had pictured, as well as the creature Gurgi and the bard Fflewddur Fflam, whose comedic exploits drive Taran almost to distraction. There’s also the Princess Eilonwy, a lovable sorceress-in-training whose skill in metaphor is unmatched, and the much put-upon dwarf Doli, who just want to turn invisible like the rest of his family. These books are about honesty, and bravery, and love, and sacrifice, and kindness, and finding yourself. And, like all good fantasy, the trial of good over evil.
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
And all the rest of the Anne books. But not the last one. Rilla of Ingleside never happened. I refuse to read it. The foreshadowing in Rainbow Valley DOESN’T MATTER if I never read the book where the events happen. Don’t challenge my logic.
I wanted red hair as a child. Also to live on Prince Edward Island. And marry Gilbert Blythe. A girl can dream, right? That’s probably the most important lesson Anne taught me. Follow your dreams, but allow the dreams to change. Just because you grow up doesn’t mean you have to leave your imagination behind. Just because you wanted a tall dark and tragic hero to sweep you off your feet doesn’t mean that you’ll be happy with him. And no matter where you go, you can always find a bosom friend.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
And basically anything else Louisa May Alcott wrote. If it is possible to combine Anne Shirley and Jo March, you’d probably get a fairly accurate picture of me as a child/teenager.
Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter
Never has spending the majority of one’s time in a swamp seemed more appealing than when reading these books. Deadly reptiles, tree-poachers and all.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
This book gave rise to my wildly inaccurate belief that I, too, could go off and live in the wilderness on my own, armed with a pocket knife, flint, and self-confidence.
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Probably the start of my love for history. Specifically, good, accurate, historical fiction and literary non-fiction.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
If you’re my friend and I’ve never bugged you into reading this book, it’s probably because I don’t know you’ve never read it. If everything you know about Puritan America comes from The Scarlet Letter, I’m sorry, and read this book. If you’ve ever felt surrounded by strangers, read this book. If you’ve ever felt different, READ. THIS. BOOK.
I could go on and on and on about books I love, and why. Books that inspired me to write. Books that made me laugh. Books that made me cry. Books that made my world bigger. Books that taught me something. Books that surprised me.
Forget the latest reading trends and the New York Bestseller Lists. These are the books that will be sharing shelf space in my kids’ rooms once they’ve outgrown Winnie-the-Pooh and Dr. Seuss.