Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Morning Coffee - Reader's Edition

A brief history of books, 1980-1995.
I have read, read, and re-read an infinitely countless number of books in my life.  I was a wormy, wormy kid. And it all started with: The Adolescent Series.

When I was in 1st grade and read Francine Pascal’s first book in the revolutionary new  ‘The Sweet Valley Twins’ series. I remember it well, as I had probably read it once a month for a three year period. It had a soft pink cover with a picture of  blond haired and blue eyed twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield: ‘Best Friends’ was its title. I read the second book ‘Teacher’s pet’ in rapid succession. I was hooked. This extended into a love for all pre-teen series new and old - the Sleepover friends,  the Babysitter’s club, anything Ramona Quimby, the Little House on the Prairie, The Bobbsy Twins. And of course, for that super sleuth Encyclopedia Brown.

 The content of the books matured with me. To my repertoire, I added RL Stine’s Fear Street books and Francine Pascal’s next-generation series, Sweet Valley High. Fear Street was a gateway series to creepy Christopher Pike and a bit later to Dean Koontz and John Saul (not to be confused with John Ralston Saul, the great Canadian author and philosopher).

At some point in my life, I have probably owned every volume in each of the above-mentioned series, and I’m certain I have read each book at least 5 times. I remember the way they looked, classed among their clans, all lined up along the long bookshelves that ran across my wall from one end of the room to the other. I remember how well I knew those collections, and what each individual name and number meant to me. Which characters I wanted to be. Which characters I identified with. Which characters I wished were incarnate, so I could befriend them. I remember, too, how I would go to the bookshelf every evening and pull off a book that fit with what I wanted to feel, because I somehow knew how to do that. Funny – I didn’t know that that’s what I was doing, but I was.

It’s also funny to think that though I have in my lifetime read many thought-provoking, challenging, clever, and intelligent books, I owe my love of reading and writing to cheap adolescent novellas. The kinds of books that I now steer clear of. But without them, I would not be the person I am today.

But I do want to mention that aside from the different series I have mentioned, there are a number of individual books that have been etched in my memory as being significant landmarks along my childhood journey.  If you have read these books, you will probably let out a little ‘YES!’ as you identify with the significance of them in your life as well – as the books in this list have an extra ounce of lasting power. And if you haven’t read them – do at least read the ones I have marked with asterisks!!!

This list is not a complete list of all the awesome books that were available when I was a kid – or that were necessarily entirely popular – but of the ones that I remember reading over, and over, and over….

A Doll in the Garden
King of the Wind**
Little Women
The Secret of Nhymh
Island of the Blue Dolphins**
The Secret Garden
Charlotte’s web
Charlie and the Chocolate factory
The Little Prince**
Are you there God, it’s me Margaret (on the fringe of my pre-teen into my teen years – I’ll conclude this list with it, and kick off the next list from here next time.)

Consider how a good book can affect your attitude, your mood, your outlook on life. Consider how a book can inform your worldview.  Consider how a well-written or well-concocted story can make you appreciate the unique gift of another person to bring a story to life. Consider how remembering a book you loved as a child can make you burst out in a fit of joy as you reminisce with friends, as though you have rediscovered something you had lost. It happens to me all the time.

Stay tuned for a Brief History of Books, 1995-2010.


  1. yes, i relate to this! I read many of the books in your list, and you're right, they were something that sculpted my personality, my love of antiques, animals, music, etc. what about Misty of Chincoteague, did you read it? that one i got in a school book fair along with "King of the Wind"....

  2. I did! Same author, if I recall correctly -Marguerite Henry??

  3. I loved Hatchet and Island of the Blue Dolphins!

  4. even though i dont want to increase my bust any more, i look at the orange cover of that paper back and i remember exquisitely and precisely when getting breasts was the most important thing in the world to me, and how i found comfort in a character that wanted what i wanted.