But there are those books for all of us that make a huge impact. The ones we can’t forget and that become somehow how we view the world as adults, the standard by which we judge our future best friends, future boyfriends and more. I mean, who doesn’t judge all men by Laurie and Gilbert Blythe? Who didn’t look for besties like Kristy and Claudia from The Babysitter’s Club?
In light of all this reinventing canon nonsense that JK Rowling is spewing, I got to thinking about that generation that literally grew up with the Harry Potter books. I was a teenager when they were first written, but what if Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone had been the first book I willingly read in the 3rd grade? How would it have changed the kind of reader I became … or even the person I became?
Let’s take some timeless advice from Kathleen Kelly on how books you read as children become an indelible part of your identity. GOD, this movie. The Best.
“It wasn’t just that she was selling books; she was helping people become whoever it was they were gonna turn out to be.”
Ignore how cute late 90s Meg Ryan was, and just dwell on that statement for a minute. SO TRUE. So, here are the book that made me the slightly geeky, hopefully intellectual, rather cynical, voracious reader, mother, wife and friend I am now.
The Boxcar Children
This is the first book I remember voluntarily reading on my own just for fun. It’s saccharine and improbable, but as a kid I just remember the tiny details, the sense of family and the sense of adventure. Sure, it would probably be terrible for four children to lose their parents and essentially be homeless for years. But I loved the details of their little makeshift home and how they kept their milk cold and foraged for berries and stuff.
How did it shape me? I have a real proclivity for family stories and series, and I once smoked a whole pack of cigarettes with my friend Jeremy in a caboose. It was hot in there.
The Chronicles of Narnia
I still remember where The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was located in my elementary school library. I checked it out for the first time in the 3rd grade and begged my mom to buy me the rest of the series. I’m gonna guess but this was probably my first foray into fantasy and the elements of magic, curses, prophecy and well, talking hybrid animals became something I would never cease to love. Fantasy novels are still most of my favorites.
How did it shape me? When I was in the 7th grade I played “The Fox” in the Narnia musical, and sometimes I still break out with a “Hot and Bothered” remix.
(This is NOT me FYI, and she sucks).
Round about 4th or 5th grade I started reading my older sister’s Mandie books. Mandie’s dad had just died, and she was forced to live in the backwoods of the Carolina’s with only her dear old Native American Uncle Ned to make her feel at home. (Um, what). But there was a secret tunnel in her new home, and it was mysterious and awesome. Each book had a new mystery for Mandie, and I’m pretty sure some new Christian value it was teaching me. I just remember Joe and Tommy always butting heads.
How did it shape me? Do I need to mention Joe and Tommy butting heads again? ie SLASH
The Spirit Flyer Series
These are one big ball of WTF. Magical flying bicycles sold at some kind of special toy store, a prepubescent biker gang, black snaky smoke dragons. It was pretty terrifying, and in the end kind of heavy handed with the imagery. It’s one of those kids’ books that you can’t help but remember reading, but when you go to look for it in the library, good freaking luck. It’s like it never existed.
How did it shape me? It made me start collecting books. I remember not being able to find it in the library once, and I was so disappointed I promised myself that I would always PURCHASE the books I loved. Years later, I don’t have a dining room, but my book room is gigantic.
There are so many more: Anne Frank, Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, Lord of the Rings, Anne of Green Gables, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. So I want to hear: what books shaped you?