Is anyone else pretty excited over NPR’s book list this year? Because I am. Normally, I don’t pay much attention to book lists, much less ramble-blog about them, but this particular list elicited so much feels that I didn’t see any other way to channel the brimming enthusiasm than to translate them into somewhat-cohesive thought here on the oh-so-welcoming, oh-so-unsuspecting pages of the blog. So here we are. And honestly, I think I’m this excited because the list features children’s books. Or rather, books that I’ve read as a kid. Or a tween. Or a teenager. Basically, during my growing-up years. It’s the nostalgia. It’s the memories. The sheer sense of magic and unadulterated delight that I just can’t seem to replicate now that I’ve grown up.
The House on Mango Street → I’m actually thinking about re-reading this. The feelings I have for it from high school English class was none too positive—too bleak, I think was my verdict—but I wonder if that was because I was still too young then to fully appreciate the book. (Or in other words, too obsessed with Regency England and Harry Potter to care about anything else.) Now that I’m a proper grown-up—or something close to it, heh—I should be able to better relate to and tackle with the social issues that the novel addresses.
To Kill a Mockingbird → Gah. How is it that I like it so much, and yet barely remember anything about it? Due for a re-read, this book is. Perhaps in honor of Banned Books Week?
Poppy → Poppy! You were read to me—well, to my class—by a lovely and wonderfully kooky librarian named Miss D— who drank way too much soda. (I think Pepsi was her favorite.) She read from you every week when we would visit the school library. She would do a different voice for each character. And she was so animated. And I loved that small little library. I remember it dimly-lit, for some reason, although I’m sure the overhead lights were on full blast. I remember certain feelings: coziness, bliss, unadulterated delight. Gosh, I wish I could go back.
The Redwall series → You were introduced to me by my then-good friend, G—. (We’ve since fallen out of touch.) She liked horses, I liked dogs. And she introduced me to you. And I loved you as much as my little heart could love you. I remember a number of characters and places: Martin the Warrior, Matthias (whom I had a bit of a crush on; which I now realize is weird, given that he’s Mattimeo’s DAD; but egads guys, what can I say? I had a thing for mice who were brave and noble and chivalrous and stuff), Swartt Sixclaw, Sunflash the Mace, Mariel, Salamandastron, Redwall Abbey, Marlfox, the moles with their ridonkulously thick accents, and THE FLIPPING BLACKBERRY CORDIALS YOU GUYS I SERIOUSLY WANTED SOME WHENEVER THEY WERE MENTIONED.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl → A very dear book. The one of two books that my parents allowed me JUST THIS ONCE to purchase through our school’s weekly book orders. It’s also what started me journaling.
The Graveyard Book → So… not quite a blast from the past, as I read this a little under a year ago. Ha. But I wanted to mention it all the same. Neil Gaiman, sir, don’t stop being awesome.
The Harry Potter series → If you haven’t yet read this, I just have two questions for you:
1. Why are we still friends?
2. WHAT ARE YOU DOING JUST SITTING AROUND GO AND READ IT GO GO GO
A Series of Unfortunate Events → I remember when the series was kinda sorta all the rage, and my sister would come home wanting to fangirl with me about Violet and Klaus and Sunny and omg Count Olaf that sinister old weasel. And I, too engrossed in Harrypotterland, would shoo her off, telling her I couldn’t care two pennies for her ill-fated orphans. Now, ten years later—and ten years wiser—I am happy to report that I have seen the light, my dear Snicket fans, and regret not getting into the series earlier. I really like Snicket’s writing. It’s smart, ticklish, a masterful blend of dry wit and dark humor that also pulls at your heartstrings. I go into a bit more detail here and here.
Little Women → A birthday present from an old friend. ♡ Loved Jo. Loved Laurie. Irrationally believe—still!—that one day, the plot in the book will magically change and Jo and Laurie will get together like they should have all those many years ago.
Walk Two Moons → Another dear book. I re-read this in the recent past, and actually enjoyed it more than when I first read it in middle school. I think it’s because as an adult, and as someone who understands life just a little more, I could appreciate how Creech could express so much with so little. As a middle schooler, I remember understanding that Sal’s mother left the family, that Sal’s dad had a girlfriend, that Sal had a pretty kooky friend. But I don’t think the emotional depth of it all—the grief, the stigma of being an outsider, the wondering if life will ever be okay again—sunk in properly until recently.
Catherine, Called Birdy → Oh gosh, this book. Made me laugh so much. I think I came across it during junior high. I liked Catherine and her attitude. Her expletives were also quite a hoot. (“Corpus bones!”)
Peter Pan → I read this while in college, actually. And to my great surprise, I thoroughly disliked it. I appreciated it for its legendary status. And hello, how could I NOT at least respect it as the original to the much-loved Disney incarnation? But I didn’t like it as a novel. The pacing was too slow, the overall tone too whimsical, too wandering—as if Barrie was writing the book in the thick of a drowsy haze—and it was so beyond different from what I had come to love over the years.
The Chronicle of Narnia series → I’m on the fence about Narnia. While I enjoyed certain aspects of the series—the humor, the Christian allegory, the adventures—I also think that, in terms of story quality, the books were weak, and too artificial, too contrived; the world of Narnia too shallow, too sterile. But I do have fond memories associated with this series. I used to read this to my sister every night.
His Dark Materials series → HIS DARK MATERIALS, GUYS. I know Pullman meant for this series to be a sort of eff you to Lewis’ Narnia series—and by that, an eff you to Christianity as a whole; or something to that effect—but I still liked it. I was fascinated by the concept of dæmons—totally wanted one—the richness of his alternate world, the mythology, the near-tangible wonder that emanated from the very fabric of the story. Queuing this for a re-read…
Matilda → One of my grade school teachers would reach to us from this after recess every day. I loved her for it.
The Egypt Game → When I was really young, I fancied myself an aspiring Egyptologist. Ancient Egypt fascinated me, and I remember gobbling up as much as I could on Egyptian mythology. (The Eyewitness book was a favorite resource.) Naturally, when I spotted a novel about kids who were into Ancient Egypt, I had to read it. Sadly, I don’t remember a thing about the story. But I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed it.