Looking back on my reading experience, some books stand out more than others – whether that is for the way they shaped my life, my reading habits, or just for being particularly enjoyable. The following is a few of those books in chronological order, based on the time in my life that I read them.
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner and The Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene
Probably the first series I ever read on my own was The Boxcar Children. My mom had a few of the older copies from her childhood and I checked out the rest from our local library. The Boxcar Children influenced the books I read for years, just about the only genre I was willing to pick up was mysteries. In first grade, I even tried to write my own Boxcar Children book. This isn’t a very well known series, but it’s a great choice for beginning readers.
Around the second grade, I discovered some old copies of the Nancy Drew books at my grandparents’ house. There are dozens of books in the series, something like 60 I believe (pictured to the left is the first volume). Of course, being an 8-year-old, I didn’t read all the books in order so I can’t be entirely sure that I’ve even read all of them. But that’s not what’s really important. As a child, Nancy Drew represented my transition to more grown up books and I still feel some of that today.
Frindle by Andrew Clements
In third grade, my teacher gave me Frindle. I don’t even know if I can put into words how much this book means to me. First of all, it contributed to my perpetual questioning of authority. This charming story of a slightly rebellious boy with a clever new idea shaped my identity a little bit. It also introduced me to Andrew Clements who would be my favorite author for the next two or three years of my life, and I still have nothing but the highest regard for his books. If you’ve never read anything by Andrew Clements I would highly recommend that you do. Some of my other favorites by him include No Talking, The School Story, and Lunch Money.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
I came upon the Harry Potter scene relatively late. Of course, I’m too young to be a part of the original Harry Potter generation, and I didn’t even start reading Harry Potter until the fifth grade. At that point, all of the books had been released. But that didn’t make it any less of a magical experience for me. In fact, as I read, it felt as though I was being let into some sort of secret world that everyone else was already a part of. These books made such a huge impact on me, I vividly remember crying when I finished Deathly Hallows. I was mourning not just for the characters that had died, but also for the series that had come to an end. Sometimes I wish I could read them all again for the first time, to experience the magic of it all, wondering what will come next. I wouldn’t trade the experiences Harry Potter has given me for the world. Harry Potter has given me a way to connect with other readers and make new friends, it’s something so many of us have in common. Harry Potter is such a valuable story, it has introduced so many people to books and has created a community of its own within the book community. One of my favorite things about Harry Potter is that each time you read it there’s something new to find, whether it’s a new meaning you see or an easter egg J.K. Rowling so cleverly placed in the books. Whenever I feel sad, returning to the Wizarding World makes me a little happier.
“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Although I have now read most of Austen’s work, this was the first of her books that I read and is what truly introduced me to classic literature. In the fourth or fifth grade, I read a Great Illustrated Classic edition of Pride and Prejudice. At the time I didn’t quite understand the concept of abridging and figured I’d read the real deal. It wasn’t until sixth grade that I read the actual novel and since then I’ve probably read it three or four more times. Something about Jane Austen’s novels just makes me feel so at home. I absolutely adore the styles of the time period and I have sometimes said that I should have been born in the Regency era (although I’m not so sure I could survive without indoor plumbing). I think the romance is a big part of Jane Austen’s appeal, but I have more recently begun to appreciate the humor that can be found in Jane Austen’s writings as well.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one, I expect most of you know how it goes. Anyways this was one of the first books that I enjoyed because it made me cry. I started reading The Fault in Our Stars one evening and I did not put it down until I finished, which is how I came to be laying in my bed at 1 am in the morning unsure if I was laughing or crying. Before I even started I knew how it ended, but that didn’t stop the tears that began at the gas station scene, and from that point on they just kept coming. Unfortunately, I kind of think TFiOS ruined John’s other books for me because I just haven’t liked them as much.
The Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown
This is an amazing trilogy and Pierce Brown’s books are some of the few science fiction novels I have truly enjoyed. Also, Pierce Brown is pretty dang hot. My friends literally know him as “that hot author guy that Claire met one time”. Meeting him was great, it was on his Morning Star release tour and I got my book signed as well as a picture with him. Anyways, enough about how attractive he is ;). The series follows our protagonist Darrow – a low class red – as he fights against the oppressive golds. He infiltrates them and general chaos ensues. I never would have thought it when I began the first book, but I actually shed a few tears while reading Morning Star (no spoilers, but some sad stuff goes down). Although I referred to it as science fiction, one might argue that it falls more into the category of dystopian, seeing as it’s not really hardcore science fiction.
“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”
-Pierce Brown, Red Rising
Also, here’s a picture of Pierce Brown, because why not?
The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
Last year, my friend and I decided that we should read a series together, eventually, we settled upon the Infernal Devices. The truth is that I never finished all of The Mortal Instruments, but I don’t think that in any way lessened my enjoyment of this series. We had so much fun reading and discussing the books together, the two of us now refer to ourselves as “parabatai”. Recently I haven’t been as interested in books with supernatural elements, but these are definitely an exception. Clare keeps you guessing throughout the entire trilogy and there are some pretty shocking twists. All the books are excellent, but my favorite is Clockwork Princess. Each character’s arc is so well done and the series had a great, bittersweet, conclusion. On a side note, the book covers are all gorgeous.
Wow, that ended up being a lot longer than I expected and I still feel as though I’m leaving books out. If you made it to the end I applaud you, thanks for sticking around. Anyways, this was fun to write, it gave me a chance to really reflect upon the books that have shaped me.