It began with a Facebook survey that my mother-in-law tagged me in:
In your status, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They do not have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.
And then the clever Sarah Shotts said she wanted to re-post her own answers on her blog, and I knew I had to do the same! Favorite books are such a special part of any writer’s life (everyone’s life!), I just wanted to share my list of enduring, memorable picks with you all!
I’ve added three more books to the list that I couldn’t believe I left off originally, and all the pictures are the versions of the books I originally read, or a version I own. I’ll also be keeping it as spoiler-free as I can.
1. Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
The entire series. Yes, it counts as one whole story, so there! My dad recommended “The Hobbit” to me when I was little, but I never read it til I was in middle or elementary school. When you go to a Montessori school for five years, everything kinda blends together.
After I read The Hobbit, someone told me, “You know, there are more books in the series, about Bilbo’s nephew Frodo, and the magic ring.”
I remember thinking, “Bilbo is so awesome, why isn’t the next book about him too? Why should I care about this Frodo guy?” And then I read the books. And oh, lordy. The rest is appendices, because this whole series changed my life. It changed the way I thought about fantasy books and writing, and around this time my writing ideas started flowering anew, and I knew I wanted to be a writer, somehow, some way.
I’m not much of a re-reader, even with my favorite books, but this one would be worth it. Only recently I listened to a little of “The Hobbit” audio book, thanks to my father-in-law. Since I’m such a slow reader, I’m more likely to pull out my LOTR Trilogy on tape (ACTUAL tape, yes), so I’m looking forward to doing that in the future. But in retrospect, I’m not sure how little Christina made it through all those lengthy, eloquent descriptions of the fellowship walking all over Middle Earth. But she did, and made a literature friend for life.
2. Hamlet, William Shakespeare
As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I was the literature nerd in high school. Kids would ask me questions they had about plots and themes before a test. It was in one of these classes, Mrs. Turner’s English class, where I was first introduced to the melancholy prince of Denmark. I loved Shakespeare already, but she taught Hamlet so magnificently, with such detail and admiration and humor, I couldn’t help but be absolutely sucked into the story of the prince torn between his fears and his sense of duty to his father. It’s still my favorite Shakespearean tragedy.
3. Catkin, Antonia Barber
I don’t know when I first heard of this book, but I want to solidly say elementary school. It’s a sort of folk tale about a wise kitten who goes to the world of the fairies to rescue his little girl from the fae magic. I was as obsessed with cats and folklore and fantasy as I am now, so of course this would be one of my enduring favorites.
4. Gwinna, Barbara Helen Berger
A book from one of my Montessori days that I found during library time. A long-form picture book fairy tale about a couple who want a child, are given a child, and try to hide her magical origins from her, and keep her with them past the time they are allowed. Gwinna is that child, and she must discover who she really is. I recently found this book at an antique store, and bought it up immediately. The funny thing is, I don’t remember the ending, so I guess I’ll have to re-read it!
5. You Are Special, Max Lucado
I think this book was first read to me at a Christian summer camp. But it wasn’t until I was feeling really overwhelmed and frustrated in college that my wonderful academic counselor gave me this book as a present. She wrote a message in it for me. I still have it, and I’ve never forgotten how sweet and encouraging it is: you don’t have to be defined by others. See yourself as your maker does, perfect the way He made you.
6. Catherine, Called Birdy, Karen Cushman
I honestly don’t remember exactly who bought me this book (I have theories), but they knew me better than I did at the time. I didn’t appreciate it on the first read through, though I liked it because of the time period. Then I realized that it was supposed to be satirical, as well as historical, and as I matured, I came to love the story more and more. I also didn’t appreciate how older characters saw the title character, and how much growing Catherine had to do, until I’d done a bit more growing myself. I still have my original copy, and fully intend to reread this one again soon.
7. Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery
My dad read this series aloud to the family after dinner for many years of my childhood. I don’t know if we got through all of it. I think we stopped after the books were about her kids and less about her being a daydreamy artsy writer. And come on, once she got married the romantic tension was gone and it was ALL over for me. But in the first few books of the series, especially “Anne of Green Gables,” I found in Anne a bosom friend. A funny, thoughtful but impetuous, dramatic and creative girl that I felt a bit of kinship to, especially in the area of writing. Anne will always be my literary spirit animal.
8. Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
Once again, from my Montessori years, though I want to say this one was in Ms. Flake’s class, which would be 4-6 grade. (I told you, it all blends together!) Out of all the choices of books to read, I think I picked it because my classmates gave it good recommendations, and I was tired of apocalyptic, end of the world dystopias. (Our class was required to read “Brave New World” when I was in 4TH GRADE! I was not ready for it, and I heard that “The Giver” had the same grimdark future vibe.) I don’t remember much, except I thought the writing style was wonderful, and it was just a comforting read, like a warm breeze ruffling your hair on a warm, breezy summer day. I’ve been meaning to read this again, to see if it grabs me like it did as a girl.
9. Betsy-Tacy, Maud Hart Lovelace
I’d been hearing recommendations for this series from one of my oldest friends, but I never read it til the recommendations were corroborated by another good friend. And lo, I found another bosom friend in Betsy, who like Anne, dreams of being a writer. Her slice of life stories following her and her best friend Tacy (and later Tib) were such a joy to read, and I devoured them as an adult. One fun thing about the series is that the writing style grows up with the characters. When Betsy is five in the first book, it can be easily read by a younger child. By the time she’s in high school, they’re full-fledged novels! I wish I could have grown up with the series, but I really enjoyed bingeing on them and appreciating their fabulousness from the outset.
10. The Defenders of the Dead (Star Wars: Jedi Apprentice, #5), Jude Watson
This is the odd one out on this list, a Star Wars book. I got into this series because I was obsessed with Star Wars at age 9, and in middle and early high school I was gaga over “The Phantom Menace.” Hindsight is 20-20, but my favorite part of that first movie was Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. So when I learned that there was a novel series coming out about how they met and started going on adventures together, OF COURSE I had to read it! After the first book, the author Jude Watson took over for the previous writer, which I think was an improvement. Not too many spoilers, but this book took me on an emotional roller coaster, and the young girl character Cerasi made a big impact on me.
11. Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis
I read through most of this series before I even heard of “Lord of the Rings,” and got through the series picking them for book reports. What can I say, except MUCH CLASSIC, SO ALLEGORY, VERY MAGIC, WOW. These books were such a huge part of my childhood. Plus my sister and I watched the 1970s animated version of “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” tons of times, as well as the 1980s live action TV series. And later, when I found out that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were friends, and even attended the same writer’s group, it was fandom exploding poetry, that’s all I can say.
12. Skellig, David Almond
Discovered this in college on the recommendation of my Children’s Lit professor, when an old school library was having a giveaway purge. I was glued to it! The atmosphere was so intense and interesting, and I loved the mixture of mystery, magic and slice of life that David Almond wove together. When I tried to read it aloud with Wervyn, it was oddly boring, but maybe I’ll try reading it again by myself. I still think it’s marvelous, I just need to get back to that earlier mindset.
13. Thud!, Terry Pratchett
Oh, Terry. You maniacal genius fueled with pure, dry snark. The same dear friend who recommended Betsy-Tacy recommended that I read Terry Pratchett, another recommendation I should have taken immediately. I believe this is the second I read of his Discworld series. I LAUGHED OUT LOUD IN MY AUTO MECHANIC’S WAITING ROOM. This book was so, so hilarious to me. Terry has the most amazing Python-esque British humor, and after I read this book I started adding him to my list of favorite authors. I have a standing goal to read all of the Discworld books written about the characters in the night watch, which includes this one.
Hope you enjoyed my list! And no, there’s no fourteen, cuz I’m feeling cheeky, and no other books are demanding to be added to the list.
Aww crud, I forgot “Bridge to Terabithia.”
But if I keep going, we’ll be here forever! Of course, I have other authors that I learned about in the past three years that have joined my list of eternal favorites, but I’m planning to give them their own upcoming entries in 2015. And who knows, maybe if I’m reminded of more books than just one, I’ll continue my list of books from my past.
Do we share any common favorites? Let me know in the comments, and tell me some others that would make your list!