Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Top Ten Books I Wish I'd Read as a Kid

1.  To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  I'm the one:  I was not forced to read this in high school.  But on some level I wish I had been.  I think that Lee's prose would have beguiled me even then, and what teenager couldn't use an Atticus, a Scout, a Boo, a Jem, a Tom Robinson, a Mrs. Dubose, a Miss Maudie, and a Heck Tate in their lives?

2. The Tree of Life, and so many of Peter Sis's books.  I would have fallen in love with drawing and Darwin.  Who knows where and what I would be today?

3. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. P & P annoyed me, so I simply stopped Austen.  I suspect, had I sampled S & S first, I'd've stuck with her.

4. Night by Elie Wiesel.  A slim, jolting volume.  The one book to shape your youthful vision of the Holocaust.   And methinks you would likely be compelled to spend a lifetime thereafter exploring its complexities. Spare = powerful here, and Wiesel's descriptions of his craft in subsequent interviews and books would have helped me to curb my verbose tendencies toward intensity.

5. The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak.  Integration of illustration w/in a longish text for a tween.  Not only does this provide an unusual perspective on events during WWII in Europe, but it also offers a model of form within a form.

6. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie AND books on tape/CD (didn't really exist when I was growing up, and I adore this form now).  Sheer joy of language play coupled with a clear allegory about the power of free speech would likely have kept me on the path as a writer from elementary school through middle school, where I lost opportunities to write creatively and instead switched over to theater.

7. All the Madeleine L'Engle books after A Wrinkle In Time and A Wind in the Door.  I adored AWiT and AWitD, yet didn't continue after early elementary school.  Shoulda kept on apace.

8. Harry Potter. A classic hero's adventure that the current generation gets to hold as central to their shared cultural canon.  Plus Rowling's helped train a generation to adore 'the series' (thus committing to a cast of characters as increasingly well-known imaginary friends) and to anticipate long, indulgent hours of reading.  We had nothing of the sort.

9. Olivia.  What?  A strong-willed and almost blindingly vibrant female protagonist in a best-selling picture book? How might she have shaped my wee psyche, given that Kitten Nell, a far less developed heroine, directed much of my early journeys without my knowing it?

10.  Twilight. (not)  I am so pleased that this typical Cinderella-esque/lady-in-distress series did not infect me and my peers as it has this generation of young women.  Clearly, this myth persists due to some inherently inescapable drive toward submissiveness and passivity.  But that doesn't make it a good thing.

FYI:  For the purposes of this post, I'm defining 'kid' as a young reader, all the way up through her early teens.  I would NOT recommend Night or To Kill A Mockingbird or Sense and Sensibility or The Book Thief for elementary age students, or even for most middle schoolers. 

And if I could have an eleventh, I'd probably add Leaving Gee's Bend  below: it's a lovely tale that would have piqued my interest in the 1930's American South - a good primer for TKAM...


Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

Like you, I wish The Book Thief was already published when I was a kid. It would've been an amazing part of my childhood. :)

Teacher/Learner said...

#10 made me laugh :D I think Night and The Book Thief would have been too much for me to handle as a kid but I definitely want to read them as an adult (if that's what you want to call me *ahem* ;)

Christina said...

You have so many good ones here! I LOVE Peter Sís- he deserves a place on many more lists. And Olivia is on steady rotation around here (the books AND the excellent TV show). My 3-year-old daughter loves her, and I do too. Haroun and the Sea of Stories is another gem that I wish more people knew.
Great list!

Laurie said...

T/L - Glad you got a kick out of 10; I'll bet some folks had the opposite reaction - that book tends to inspire intense feelings!
C - Glad to know that books I adore as an adult do indeed have a similarly joy-producing effect on a wee one! Haroun is one of my all-time favorites, and I've read it out loud w/ninth graders and they admired it as well!
D - Glad we share our admiration for The Book Thief.

Anne Bennett said...

Laurie, I read Misty of Chincoteague (and sequels) to my daughters when they were young and then we went to see them when we were in Maryland/Virginia one summer. I shared my list with my oldest daughter who is now an adult and she told me that that trip to see the ponies after read the books was a huge highlight in her life, too. I love it when books help us make happy memories.

Happy reading!
My Head is Full of Books

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