The challenge was to come up with ten books that have "stayed with you." Doesn't matter what reason, it could have been because they were that bad, that good, that formative, or that traumatic. I tended toward ones that were more formative or that I liked. For traumatic, I should have added Alex Haley's Roots. Not material for a fourth grader, looking back.
Here was the list as it came to me, trying mightily not to go to my Goodreads account or my bookshelves (not that they'd be any help, given that fully half of my collection is still in boxes in my living room floor!):
1. Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson.
I read this for a book review in fourth grade, and absolutely fell in love with it. The sibling rivalry in the story really resonated with me, as I was dealing with those pre-pre-teen emotional rollercoasters and a bratty little brother at home. Books were my outlet, and all my angsty-ness seemed to go right along with Sara Louise's. This was also where I discovered the carol "I Wonder as I Wander," so there's that in its favor.
2. Summer of My German Soldier, Bette Greene.
I read this book during 7th or 8th grade, when we were having a cross-curricular unit on the Holocaust. We read the Dairy of Anne Frank and Number the Stars, but this was the book that I remember best. I think it was because it made me squirm at how much Patty seemed to want Anton to like her, even though it was obvious he was too old and not interested. Then again, that's what I remember. Maybe I should reread the book next time Banned Books Week comes around.
3. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, Eric Kimmel.
This book goes back to when I was in second grade. I have loved it ever since, and was thrilled to share it with my own children. It has a Shalom Aleichem feel to it, and the illustrations are wonderful. Hershel's face when he finally sees the King of the Goblins in true form is just perfect. The humor of the book is worth the read, too. Absolutely love it.
4. Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, Slater Brown.
When I was in sixth grade, I was in awe of our school library. I had loved to haunt the elementary library whenever I could, but the middle school--oh, the middle school library, where I could visit every single morning before school! I was enchanted. Then I discovered the biography room, where a row of old, worn biographies of figures like the founding fathers sat, just waiting to be discovered! For some reason I particularly liked Ethan Allen...so much so that I was going to name our first child after him, if she had been a boy. Thankfully, she wasn't, because Ethan was the number one name in the country at the time. Going with the flow just isn't my style. But I still remember these books, and that I thought Ethan Allen was a wonderful guy. This book is probably why I remember Fort Ticonderoga!
5. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.
I first read this in late elementary school, but it wasn't until rereading it in high school that I really understood what was going on. The night scene where Boo saves the kids was terribly confusing to me, along with the fire. It wasn't until another reread as an adult with the One Book, One Community drive (I now own two copies of the book...one with the current cover, #3 in the above image, and one with a 1960s/70s cover, #9 in the above image), that I really grasped what was going on and the undercurrents running through the book. I have loved Atticus Finch ever since, perfect man or no. It's amazing how books change as we grow, isn't it?
6. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien.
I didn't read The Hobbit until I was an adult, which is apparently odd for most geek/nerd types. What can I say, the cover didn't appeal to me when I was younger, and I had no geek/nerd mentors to guide me on my way. (I also have not read Hitchhiker's Guide, geek friends, so we'll pause while you gasp and gather yourselves...
Ok, so it took two readings before I could really appreciate The Hobbit. This is shocking, I know, but Tolkien is an acquired taste, I think. Hobbit seems to be his most palatable work, because I am still slogging through Two Towers (by slogging, I mean that it is unread and I intend to finish it in my lifetime. I've read plenty in between as it languishes in my Goodreads "currently" queue). That said, the kids and I read through Hobbit together as a nightly read-aloud, and I loved it even more the third time around. We now celebrate Hobbit Second Breakfast yearly in September. Also, my new house makes me feel like a hobbit, with its 9 foot ceilings and high cabinets I require chairs to reach. Quite the switch from our cozy little hobbit hole, but that's another blog post.
7. The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling.
I know, I know, all people of a certain age have read this series. University courses have been created about it, college Quidditch teams have been formed, and that doesn't even include the movie fans (read the book before the movie, nah-nah-nah-nah, nah!).Yes, I devolve into my younger self when I read children's books. I'm sorry. Maybe that's why I love to teach--so I can keep in touch with my younger side.
Although I was a bit older when I began the series, so I can't say I grew up with Harry, something about the books really hit that "great read, great thoughts" chord. Some disagree, and I'll be the first to say that Sorcerer's Stone, while great children's reading, is not high on my picks for "great literature." On the other hand, it is wonderful story-telling, and the fullness of Harry's world is amazing to me, down to the sickles and knuts. I love the Latin and Greek origins of so much of Rowling's mythology, and what can I say...I'm a geek. It has to be on the list.
8. The Scarlet Pimpernel, Emmusca Orczy.
This was a high school read, 9th grade, in fact. We even watched the movie version after reading the book. I think I may have been the only person to read ahead of our class readings (this was in the day of every person reading a section, Round-Robin style, so that we could all daydream or sleep until we heard the person in front of us perk up and begin to read). I read ahead enough that I decided to reread it before we were done with the movie. I'm not sure why I liked it so well, but it's up there with A Tale of Two Cities in my "books about the French Revolution that I simply adore for reasons unknown to man."
9. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon.
When I was in my early twenties, my best best friend in the whole wide world (BBFITWWW) was reading this series. We had always talked about our book interests, both being complete bibliophiles of one strand or another, but frequently our interests weren't quite in tune. She told me about what seemed at the time to be a bodice-ripper, and I tuned it out. I noticed that her shelf was beginning to be populated with some colorful bindings, but as soon as she told me it was part of the Outlander series, I was out. I'm not the romance/bodice-ripper type, especially when I had a little girl toddling around my ankles and getting into mischief as I visited with my BBFITWWW who was single and, in my mind, free as a bird.
Then, nearly 10 years later, another friend started raving to me about how I would love this series. Post-Twilight, I was up for anything. So I read Outlander.Oh, my word, I loved it! I still skimmed the bodice-rippy parts, but the story itself...time travel, knowing history as it's happening, the feeling of a married woman torn between building a new life or trying desperately to return to the old one...perhaps it's not great literature, but it's wonderful storytelling, and I fell in love with the characters. I can tell I love them when I want to throttle them for poor choices, and throttling definitely happens in these books.
And my BBFITWWW glared at me and asked why I hadn't just listened to her in the first place. We agreed it was because I am terribly hard-headed. She loves me anyway.
10. The Stars for A Light, Gilbert Morris.
No list would be complete without mentioning my teenage obsession with all Gilbert Morris books. I received the Cheney Duvall series one Christmas (probably after much begging and list submission on my part) because I was tired of waiting on the library to have my newest books available as they came out. Then I guarded the set with my life, hoarding it like the treasure I thought it was. I didn't even want to let my own mother borrow them, it was that bad.
Gilbert Morris includes religious messages in all his books, but the draw is following the families in his House of Winslow series (I made it through thirty-plus of what seems to be a forty-plus book series), or his other series. The Cheney Duvall and Cheney and Shiloh series were written with his daughter, Lynn, however, which gives them a different tone. Because they're not following a family line, but two particular people, they also don't give in to his normal formulaic approach. Again, not great literature, but certainly a series that was well-loved when I was younger.
Do you have a favorite/most memorable books list? Comment below or blog and share the link with me, I'd love to hear about them!