I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t in love with books. In elementary school, I brought the Scholastic book order form home covered in my black circles. The day the order came in, I’d be the kid with a stack higher than my head while other kids walked away with one or two books. The smile on my face would be as bright as Christmas morning. My parents supplied with me enough books to wallpaper the world twice over during those years. My wish lists then, much like now, consisted mostly of books.
I was never without a book. Family gatherings, I’d be off in a corner, reading. I’d pack for a week-long vacation and have a separate bag just for books. I won awards for the number of books I read. Several awards.
The first books I recall reading on my own were the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary and many by Roald Dahl. I read most of The Babysitter’s Club series by Ann M. Martin. I moved onto Goosebumps and Fear Street by RL Stine as I got older, then eventually, it was the works of Dean Koontz and Stephen King.
I recently retrieved a box of some of my old books from my mother’s basement. This is a very small sampling (I think most of them were yard-saled or swapped), but I was thrilled to find Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls and The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (which I never did read).
But some books stand out more than others. Some are powerful enough to change you for life. From my childhood, 7 of those books were:
1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – This was the first book that I ever called “my favorite book.” I recently found out it’s actually book one in a series of four, and I never did see the movie. I now own a copy and will very soon be re-reading, then reading the next three. This book opened my world of imagination and took it to extremes.
2. What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson – I was a little older when I read this, but I was still a teen. This book quickly became my new favorite and elicited many, many tears. The movie wasn’t much better in that department. The story is maybe my favorite love story, and what an incredible way to think of heaven! I still think of it regularly and regret lending out my copy, which I have not seen in many years. Time to repurchase!
3. One Last Wish: Let Him Live – This book is the reason I became an organ donor. To read as a preteen, a story of a boy who dies because someone refused to give away a perfectly fine organ, is a revelation that has haunted me for years.
4. The Secret Garden – What kid doesn’t love the idea of the ultimate hiding spot? And one filled with beautiful flowers and friendly birds? Whenever I walk through areas with lots of flowers, I pretend that I am exploring the garden. My visit to Blarney Castle in Ireland, where there are multiple brilliantly amazing gardens, was so inspiring that I re-read the book when I returned from trip.
5. The Westing Game – I honestly don’t remember much about this book besides it was a Clue-style mystery and that I loved it. My original copy from many moons ago now sits on my shelf, awaiting a re-read. It made me believe that even a child was capable of doing important things.
6. The Diary of Anne Frank – I remember being slightly bored reading this as a kid, but I can still recall details of the story in my mind and I don’t think of the Holocaust without thinking of this book. I loved the part in The Fault in Our Stars where Hazel and Gus visit the museum. I hope they still make kids read this in school. It’s important. I’ll re-read this eventually!
7. Harold and the Purple Crayon – Not much to this book compared to the others since it’s for younger kids, but the idea of drawing my own world and living in it… well, that’s pretty much what I do now, except I wield a pink keyboard instead of a purple crayon.
Some of the others I recall that make me smile: The Chocolate Touch, How to Eat Fried Worms, My Teacher is an Alien.
Most of my writer friends have a specific book that they say made them want to become a writer. I do not have one of those, sadly, but then I think I always was a writer on some level. I wrote silly poems as a kid. I had two “books” “published” in my elementary school library. I went to a Young Author’s Conference when I was in 4th grade.
There was a specific moment where I went from dabbling with stories and collecting ideas to realizing that I AM A WRITER and THIS IS WHAT I WAS MEANT TO DO. It wasn’t the result of a certain book, though. It was the story of an author who had a similar past of dabbling in stories and never really doing anything with them, who then one day got THE IDEA and wrote it into a best seller. Sounded a lot like me and I had recently gotten THE IDEA that became my first novel.
My love for books has somehow grown even more over the years. It’s safe to say at this point, that’s it’s a lifelong obsession.
What books have been impactful in your life?