I have a pretty great ability to remember almost every book I’ve read enough to synopsis it if I hear the title of it or see the cover. It’s a talent that is mostly useless in the world that we live in as I will never be able to make money off of that, but it’s useful for the occasions of “What Should I read next?” questions that get thrown my way more often than not. I don’t want to brag or anything, but I’m pretty well-known among my friends and family as the girl to go to for book suggestions. All 20 people who like me really trust my judgement.
I have read hundreds of books in my lifetime and I know that to be an accurate statement since my reading challenge last year alone was to read one hundred books in 365 days or less. Book challenges are something else I will be addressing in this blog, but that’s another post for another day. Of those hundreds of books and series, there are at least five that I can quickly remember and say affected my life in a significant way.
- Ella Enchanted -Gail Carson Levine (1997)
As previously mentioned, this book was the book that made me fall in love with reading. It’s the retelling of Cinderella in a way that focuses less on her beauty and more on her spunk. I love that about this book. She is a young girl who was “gifted” the gift of complete obedience by the fairy Lucinda. Funny and serious issues both abound from this very unfortunate gift and causes Ella to go on a journey to find the fairy who gifted her and ask to reverse it. There is love, humor, sorrow. But most importantly for a ten year old girl, it taught me that I can save myself and I don’t need to rely on another person to do it for me. I did grow up in the age of Disney where princes always rescued the princesses and that’s all well and fine as long as we get a healthy dose of “you are strong enough to save yourself” as well.
2. Harry Potter series -JK Rowling (1998)
I am sure that no one is really surprised that this made it on my list. And there isn’t much need to address the plot line for it, so I’ll skip ahead and talk about how it impacted my life. This was a series that we read as a family. Before the movie came out, it wasn’t exactly as easily accessible as it is now. It wasn’t impossible, but this was before online shopping was normal and they trekked themselves around gathering the books for me. Once it became a huge phenomenon, we would attend the midnight premieres of the book release, decked out in our best wizard garb, lightning scars painted across our foreheads. We filled our grubby hands with Bertie Botts beans and chocolate frogs, I collected the actions figures and dolls, and my bedroom was one shining shrine to the wonder that was (and still is) Harry Potter. Rowling did an amazing job in taking a war about prejudice and discrimination, putting it in a world that draws people in, and slamming down the point. We are all humans coexisting. Hatred and fear of the unknown just increases the gap between us. I have read all the books more times than I could recall, and I have every intention of reading them to my son. We’ve read the first two together, but he is still a toddler and doesn’t grasp the magic yet. He just likes being read to.
3.A Wrinkle in Time -Madeleine L’Engle (1962)
I read this book for the first time in sixth grade. Sixth grade was rough for me. I had a teacher who was awful. She picked clear favorites and I fell outside that circle. It actually became so bad that my father stepped in, which created conflict because he was also her colleague. He taught at the same school I attended and her criticism and methods of tearing me down affected me and my self-esteem for several years after the fact. I escaped reality more and more through books and came across the Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle. All the books are great, but A Wrinkle in Time is one I still come to over and over again when I need a comfort read. Meg, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin go on an epic adventure to save their father, who had been experimenting with the fifth dimension of time travel and had disappeared years before. There is a heavy science and “what if” theme that runs through all the books, and one of the best things I’ve found about it is that, as I got older, I understood more and more elements of the book, both on a scientific and mathematical note but also on an emotional note. It really is a book that can grow with you.
4.On Fortune’s Wheel -Cynthia Voigt (1990)
There are some who say that the Lady Fortune
has a wheel, and all men are fixed upon it.
The wheel turns, and the men rise, or fall,
with the turning of the wheel.
This book is actually the second in the “Tales of the Kingdom” series, but it’s a series that can be understood without being read in order. I would put the entire series as my number four, but I didn’t actually read the rest of it until this past year. This novel was also the one that opened the door to the wonder that is Cynthia Voigt. The Tillerman Cycle series doesn’t make my top five, but it definitely makes my top ten. In On Fortune’s Wheel, Birle has agreed to be wed to the huntsman Muir as an escape from the drudgery of life at her father’s inn, but the moment she looks into the bellflower blue eyes of the man she comes upon stealing one of her father’s boats, Birle knows she cannot marry Muir. Even after she discovers the mysterious stranger is Orien, a Lord and as unreachable to an innkeeper’s daughter as a star, Birle is determined to travel with him as far as he will allow.Their travels take Birle to a world far from home, a world where Lords may become slaves, where Princes rule by fear, and where Fortune’s Wheel turns more swiftly and dangerously than Birle could have imagined. In case you click the goodreads link and figure it out for yourself, I absolutely stole their synopsis. I normally love doing my own, but this one was better than anything I could think of, and explains it without spoiling it. I don’t know if I could do that because I love it so much that I just want to tell everyone every detail. I actually bought my sister Rachel this book as a Christmas present because I wanted to force her to read it. She and I have a habit of doing that, haha. This book was very important for me because I read it in eighth grade while I was struggling with feeeeelings. Feelings about boys and there was some chaos going on in my home life and I was just trying to make it out of middle school alive. Looking back, I realize that it seemed like a much bigger deal then than it does now, but I won’t discredit my feelings from then either. Some of the home life stuff I was dealing with was things I would not want any other teen, pre-teen, or child to have to deal with. Luckily I had great parents with great heads on their shoulders who loved me through the entire debacle. This book deals a lot with emotions and actions beyond our control. It also handles love and when that love is appropriate or not. Those were all good lessons to learn, but the biggest one for me was the realistic ending the book had. I won’t spoil it and say if it was happy or sad, but I was satisfied with it and it did the realistic emotional tone of the novel justice.
5.Mr and Mrs Bo Jo Jones -Ann Head (1967)
Told from July’s point of view, football hero Bo Jo Jones and his girlfriend July are in “love.” On the night of the prom, they do what so many couples in “love” do. Soon, July finds out that she is pregnant with Bo Jo’s baby and suddenly the life they once knew is over. Now they must come to grips with the very adult decision that they must make. A little background on this novel, it caused quite a stir for several years after it was published. It, along with books like The Outsiders, The Chocolate War, and Go Ask Alice (all amazing books, go read them) addressed very real issues of their time, such as teen drug use, teen sex, gang activity, corrupt school administration, teen parents and all the other unpleasant nastiness that most parents of the time wanted to sweep under the rug and pretend wasn’t happening. I read this book my freshman year of high school and it did me a world of good. I grew up fairly sheltered. My mum was a teenage parent with me and never hid the fact that she was or that it was hard, but my parents did have very strict rules in place for us kids that prohibited being physically exposed to the sorts of environments that this book addressed. It gave me a peek into a world that looked rather glamorous from the outside, but made me realize how messy and confusing and heartbreaking it can really be. That’s a lot to place on one novel, but I’m the type of girl who can learn lessons from the stories I read without needing them to play out in my real life. I don’t know this for sure, but I believe that this is one of the reasons my parents, with all their strict rules, didn’t enforce very strict reading content. As long as we asked first and made our parents aware of what we were reading, they mostly left us to it to read. I read this book four or five times back to back before having to return it to the library and I checked it out multiple times after that. It was a good kick in the shins anytime I started romanticizing any of the ideas the book addressed.
I realize that this post was pretty long, but my feelings for these books run even deeper than this. The other five books/series that make it into my top ten are :
6. The Tillerman Cycle -Cynthia Voigt (1981-1989)
7.The Mark of the Lion Trilogy -Francine Rivers (1993-1998)
8. The Mortal Instruments Series -Cassandra Clare (2007-2014)
9.Lowlands of Scotland Series -Liz Curtis Higgs (2003-2006)
10. East -Edith Pattou (2005)