Reading didn’t come naturally to me. When I look at my nieces and nephews with their noses in a book since the moment they could read (some even before then) I regret that I wasn’t more like that as a kid. When I discussed this with one of my sisters recently, she observed that reading seems more popular for kids and teens today than it ever did when we were kids and teens ourselves. It’s hard to objectively comment on that idea since I clearly wasn’t in a circle that read often, so I decided to do a little research on the topic. I have discovered that reading was on a decline among children and teens throughout the 80s and 90s, which sort of makes sense when I think back to all of the reading programs in school and the amazingness that was Reading Rainbow (created in 1983). It wasn’t until a certain wizard appeared on the scene in the late 90s that this trend started to move in a positive direction making reading more prevalent again. It’s pretty amazing to think the impact a book or a series of books can have on the world. This has had me thinking about books that have changed my own reading trends and trajectory. What are those books that made me turn a corner, or summit a mountain on my reading journey and shaped me into the reader I am today?
Title: Dear Mr. Henshaw
Author: Beverly Cleary
I would classify this as my first favorite book. I read this book over and over. It is actually sort of a sad book, but I can remember this being a big part of my elementary school years and the subject of many book reports.
Title: Harry Potter Series
Author: J.K. Rowling
Like so many others, Harry Potter was a series I grew up reading and contributed greatly to my love of books. I started reading this series in 1998 or 1999 (right before the 3rd book was released) after my sister, who was a new elementary school teacher, heard about this series. As you can imagine and as most people experience, I was utterly transfixed by the world Rowling created. It was completely unlike anything I had ever imagined. I was 12 or 13 when I started reading these and the final book came out when I was in my senior year of college, so it really felt like I grew up with Harry Potter. Additionally, these books always released right around my birthday, if not on my birthday, so I always looked forward to getting the newest one as a gift. I could go on and on about this series, but just know that this series is very important to me, even if I don’t discuss it much on here.
Title: Memoirs of a Geisha
Author: Arthur Golden
This might seem like an odd book to be here, but I read this book when I was 16 (~2002) and it is the first book that turned me into a consistent and constant reader. I remember loving reading about the eastern Asian culture and an experience that was so different from my own. I think this may have been my first experience with historical fiction. Perhaps a little mature for my teen-self, but an important book in my reading journey.
Title: Pride & Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
Oh Pride & Prejudice! I can’t remember exactly the first time I read this book, late high school (probably around the 2004 movie release), but I know its impact on me. This was the first classic I ever read and introduced me to a period and genre of literature that has been a staple in what I read and watch ever since. I have read this book multiple times, viewed every adaptation (2004 movie is my fave) and expanded this to other Austen works along with her contemporaries. BBC Masterpiece is my everything, and I owe it all to Ms. Austen.
Title: Bastard Out of Carolina
Author: Dorothy Allison
I read this book in college during my first semester, so fall of 2004. I took this great introductory English course that I loved that also introduced me to one of my all time favorite books, House on Mango Street. It was one of the few classes I did well in during my bumpy first semester. This book in particular stands out though because it was the first book that ever made me cry. I can remember staying up late into the night with my reading light on trying not to wake up my roommate while I was sobbing. This book taught me how powerful stories can be and what a great emotional book can do for the soul.
Title: Twilight Series
Author: Stephanie Meyer
I know, I know…you are probably rolling your eyes at this one, but as cheesy as it is, this series made a big impact on my reading journey. This is the first time I binge-read books. I read this series the summer after I graduated from college (2008) before I had secured a career and in the middle of juggling two, miserable jobs. I was living with my sister’s family while I tried to figure out my next step and amidst that meandering summer when I was questioning my place in adulthood, I discovered this delicious teen romance with no basis in reality. I also learned how expensive books are. I can remember borrowing money from my sister (that I probably never paid back because I was BROKE) to get my fix of Twilight. Ugh…but that 4th book was so bad, right?
I had so much fun walking down memory lane with you for this post. I would love to hear of books that defined your reading journey! Please feel free to comment below…