I feel like I have been a reader my entire life. Literally, some of my earliest memories involve books, and the role they have played in my life has been IMMEASURABLE! Not only do I think my passion for reading has served me well in my academic/professional life (excluding the obvious – the fact that I became an English teacher – it has also given me valuable vocabulary, writing, and communication skills), but it has also expanded my world view, allowed me to experience things and “meet” people I would NEVER otherwise, and been an escape for me through some of my hardest, busiest, and most stressful times. When I think about Sam’s future, I firmly believe that one of the greatest gifts I can give him is a love for reading.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a little list of the 10 novels that made me fall in love with reading…
In the order in which (I think) I first encountered them:
My dad read almost every single one of these books to me. Although I know I read a lot of picture books as a young child, The Babysitters Club comes to mind immediately when I think of my earliest reading experiences. I love that these were something I shared with my dad – my poor dad who only had two girls – and to this day, we sometimes joke about Kristy, Stacy, Mary Anne, and Claudia. Our family dog growing up was even named Mallory.
These were the first “Chapter Books” I read by myself. I vividly recall being in first grade and skipping recess with another girl to sit inside and read these books. I’m pretty sure that’s part of the definition of being a nerd, but I think I turned out ok. 😉
I read this book in third grade and connected with Anne right away. I LOVED her. I think this was also the book I did my first book report on, and I still remember the poster I drew of a big yellow house with a girl wearing two read braids walking on the roof. I’ve probably re-read this book more than any others on the list, and I love it every time.
Sixth grade. BLEW.ME.AWAY. My first exposure to “dystopian societies” and way better than any of the thousands that have come sense. This was also the first book that really introduced me to the concept of symbolism and something being deeper than it appears on the surface – I saw a lot of Jesus in it and was totally fascinated by that. Still one of my very favorite books of all time… I CAN’T WAIT for the movie this summer!
Eighth Grade. One of the first books that really challenged the way I thought about people and the world. This made me want to be a better person.
Eleventh grade. I had the biggest crush on Nick Carraway and developed a strange obsession with the Roaring Twenties and the “lost generation” of writers.
Twelfth grade AP English with Mrs. Dinkins. We read this book and kept journals of significant quotes to talk about in class. It was the first book that was taught in a more discussion-based format, and I really learned how to “analyze” and “dissect” literature for the first time. I think this class made me want to be an English teacher.
Freshman year at Clemson. Contemporary Literature with Professor Swords. This was a young teacher that wore superhero t-shirts and converse sneakers, and sat on his desk to lead discussions. In Cold Blood was the first “nonfiction narrative” work I’d ever read, and I was completely enamored by the style (still one of my very favorite genres). I stayed up all night in my dorm room reading this and was scared out of my mind. This book allowed me to acknowledge/admit that really prefer contemporary literature to classics – and that’s OK.
I read this on a road trip with my girlfriends in the fall of our senior year of college. Devoured it. I’ve read probably twenty books by Jodi Picoult since this one, and – mainstream/”pop” or not – she is my “go to” author for a powerful, but easy read. I love her voice as a writer and the way she researches her topics. I always know what I’m going to get with Picoult, like an old friend. (I did NOT love this movie at all.)
I did my final project on this for my master’s degree at Radford and still credit it for my passion for teenagers. Anderson really got into the minds of adolescent girls for this one, and it struck me in SO many ways. This book made me really value YA fiction as literature and has introduced me to many other fantastic writers in that field. More than any other book, this one has influenced me as a teacher and given me a desire to “connect with” my students and impact their lives through books.
This was, honestly, a TOUGH exercise. I feel like there are so many other books that I love that didn’t make the list, but it is a pretty accurate reflection of my reading life. Will I make Sam read all of these? Absolutely not. Will I encourage him to read many of them? Sure! BUT, if this list does anything, it proves that you don’t have to be an English scholar, you don’t have to read Faulkner and Twain and Dickens, you don’t have to read anything in particular to become a reader, you just have to READ. You have to find what makes you love reading, and read that. That is what I will teach Sam.
So, what would be on a list of “My Life in Books”? What made you fall in love with reading? Please share! I can’t wait to see what you pick! (And, I’m sure, probably remember fifteen other titles I forgot all about!)
P.S. If you haven’t already, check out this post I wrote about The Most Important Book I Teach.