Yep, it’s that time of the week again! Time for another Top Ten Tuesday book list! This time, it’s a trip down memory lane as I will be listing, discussing my favorite ten books from my childhood. This is a fairly extensive list because, well, reading has always been just about my favorite thing in the world to do. Seriously, the second we’d get everything done around the house, the only thing I wanted to do was crawl in someone’s lap and have a book read to me. I just liked the way words sounded when people said them, the way they matched the letters on the page and could exist both for my eyes and my ears. (I was also a whore for adult attention back in the day, but that’s a story for another blog.)
The result of all my begging to be read to whenever possible was that I could read myself at the age of four. My grandmother heard me reading at the table one day and thought I was merely reciting the story to myself from memory until she realized that the Little Golden Book I had in front of me was brand new and had never been read to me before. 🙂 Once I could do so on my own, the addiction only got worse. I was the kid who hoarded lunch money for weeks before the book fair came to school, whose yearly bookworm always ran around the classroom at least twice, and who was often sent back to the reading corner in class just to shut me up.
I’ve tried to list these books chronologically, from the first one I read to the last in my childhood, but the dates are a little fuzzy. Also, by no means is this list all-inclusive. There are dozens I’m not thinking of or have looked over. **All images, unless labeled otherwise, are from Wikipedia.**
The Tawny Scrawny Lion–The Little Golden Books were one of my favorites when I was little. This one, along with other classics like The King’s Cat, were a source of joy to me because of the rhyming or sing-song text I could hear and the crazy illustrations. This one is about a lion that eats a different animal each day of the week; however, the rabbits are crafty and teach him to eat carrot soup instead of delicious rare hare. 🙂
Are You My Mother?—This one has stayed with my family for years. My kid cousin, who is seventeen years my junior, even read and loved this one. In this book, a baby bird hatches while his mother is out looking for food and goes on the hunt for her. He asks a dog, a kitten, and an assortment of other animals and inanimate objects if they are his mother, each of which says, “No!” Thankfully, the “Big Snort” (a power shovel) drops him back into his nest the moment his mother gets back home to the nest—crisis averted.
Go, Dog, Go!—This one is about a bunch of dogs who can somehow drive cars, wear clothing, and talk to each other. The end goal of the book is for all the dogs to go to a “Dog Party.” From this book, I learned both prepositions and basic social skills (such as complimenting someone’s hat even if it’s ugly.) My family still uses the “Do you like my hat?….I do not like your hat!” line. The good stuff is always timeless, I guess.
Where the Wild Things Are–I can’t think of anyone I grew up with who didn’t adore this book. Max rebels and is sent to his room for punishment where he imagines sailing away to a land inhabited by monsters that quickly realize he is the wildest of them all and crown him their king. His first royal decree is to, “Let the wild rumpus start!”–a line I have used several times. However, when he smells dinner, Max sails home where he belongs, knowing that a few rules are worth a place where’s he’s loved.
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.–This was one of those “tweener books” that everyone should have to read, especially since it’s been banned more than once. Margaret runs the gamut of horrid things that can happen to a child who’s just entered the double-digit age bracket for the first time–questions of faith, moving, new school (in New Jersey no less!), boys, periods, bras. It’s all here. I remember liking this book when I was in fourth or fifth grade because I felt like it was giving me the straight skinny on middle school and what I was in for. It didn’t help as much as I’d planned, but at least I had a road map of sorts.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–Gracious glorious mercy jellybean gumdrops, did I love this book when I was a kid!!! (I loved the entire series to tell the truth, but this is the most easily recognizable one, so I’ll use it for the sake of clarity on this list.) I used to read C.S. Lewis’ books beneath my desk during math, science, and history. I simply couldn’t bear to stop reading and got in trouble more than once for my unwillingness to do exactly what my teacher told me. But how can you blame me when the choice is between long division and Prince Caspian!? Seriously, long division. Solve your own problems.
The Outsiders–This was one of those books that also found its way onto the naughty, banned books list for some time, which is probably why I picked it up. However, it introduced me to two things that have had a hold on me ever since–literary bad and/or brokenhearted boys from the wrong side of the tracks that I want to fix and Robert Frost. I kid you not, I must have read “Nothing Gold Can Stay” a thousand times as I read that book. (It didn’t hurt that there was a film version with such an extensive cast of cute boys ranging from Ralph Macchio to Patrick Swayze that it should have been illegal!) Greasers forever! ❤
The Hobbit–I think this one might have been one of the few books I literally read the cover off of as a kid. I simply couldn’t get enough of Bilbo and his retinue of dwarfs. The stone trolls, the Mirkwood elves, Smaug, Gandalf–these were my friends late at night when I couldn’t sleep. There was just something so entrancing about it. Bilbo was minding his own business in Bag End when the story starts; it just walks in and carries him along with it. In a way, you feel like Bilbo because you are also brought along for the ride. It’s good to see this one is also being made into a two part movie by Peter Jackson who I trust will do this gem of a book justice on the silver screen.
To Kill a Mockingbird–I’ve read this book dozens of times, taught it at least six times, and I never get tired of it. I seriously want to name my kid Atticus for the courtroom scene alone. (I went around for weeks after reading it using the phrase “unmitigated temerity” because I liked the way it sounded. Naturally, I had to look both words up before doing so.) It’s such a marvelously written book with a timeless story that it’s hard to leave it off any of my “Top # Lists.”The writing is clear and direct; there’s no mistaking what Lee wants to tell readers. However, there are lines that just make me smile each time I read them for their imagery-laden beauty. (The line in the opening paragraphs that always sticks in my mind is “Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.”)
The Gunslinger–“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” For me, it’s up there with the great first lines in literary history. I’m putting this one on here because I’ve read it ten or eleven times but also because it marked my entrance into “adult fiction.” I couldn’t believe my mom would let me read a Stephen King book when I was so young, but she did for some reason. I started stealing hers from that moment on. I fell head over heels for Roland Deschain and got to spend most of my adult life reading about his long journey to find the Man in Black and the elusive Dark Tower. (I’d like to say it was my generation’s Harry Potter, but not nearly as many kids dress up like Roland or Cuthbert for Halloween.) I think books one through four came out when I was a kid, book five when I was an undergraduate, and five through seven when I was in graduate school. As an English major, I’ve been taught to disembowel texts, to pick them over like a buffalo carcass on the prairie to glean every possible meaning and interpretation from them, and my growing skill with literary analysis was richly rewarded with these books. They are the thread that holds his entire literary universe together, crossing over at times into It and Salem’s Lot, and King himself (in one of the greatest postmodern literary achievements of all time) not only allows his characters to realize they are in fact characters, but also inserts himself as the author into the work! Perfectly cyclical, rich in design and detail, this has to be one of my favorite series of all time—right up there with Tolkien and Lewis.