This weeks topic makes me feel a little nostalgic for all of those books that inspired me, motivated me, and changed me in some way or another. The topic is “top ten ‘gateway’ books/authors in my reading journey.”
1. The first series I ever remember reading is the Babysitters Club series by Ann M. Martin. It was the series that was popular with my friends and I in the mid-late 90s. We collected them, we hunted for them, we shared them, we lived them. As I’m sure many of you who also read this series experienced, we also planned to start our own babysitters club (which of course never panned out because we were too young to babysit at the time we were reading this series). I related to each of the characters in a different way and the expansive and ongoing series of stories really encouraged me to read and to continue to read.
2. Reading the Thoroughbred series by Joanna Campbell is what really got me started on my lifelong love of books and reading. Being obsessed with horses throughout the influential years of my life, of course all I wanted to read were books on horses. I went through a period of time growing up where I wanted to be an equine veterinarian. This series fueled my passion. I owned the first 60 books in the series. Not only did I borrow them from the library, I had to buy them after so I could read them again and again. I grew out of the series before I could finish reading it.
3. Harry Potter has to be on this list. It really got me into reading fantasy/magic novels. I grew up with Harry. I read books 1 and 2 when I was 10 or 11 and from there on out I aged as Harry aged, turning 13, 14, 15, and so on the same year he did. Again this was a book I shared with all my friends. Especially before the movies were made, I remember playing Harry Potter with my friends in our backyards. We made wands out of sticks and picked different characters to be our “boyfriends.” It was silly, but it was a highly influential story for my imaginative development while I transitioned through crucially formative years.
4. Tamora Pierce was an author who really tuned me in to fantasy fiction set in historical time periods. Her Alanna series and her Protector of the Small series although also fantasy, created the launching point for my love of historical fiction. Although I don’t read it often. To this day, I crave the occasional read of a good historically based story.
5. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby may be a cliche book to add to this list. I first read this book when I was 17 years old as a part of an English Literature course in high school. I opened the pages and I was smitten. This really started my love for modern classics. Since then, I’ve read or added to my to-read list, as many Twentieth-Century classics that I know of/can think of. It is an every growing list that I don’t think I’ll ever get through.
6. I read The Glass Castle for the first time in high school. Although, years later, the plot is a little fuzzy in my mind, I still remember reading and loving this book. Its profound and moving story, and Wall’s writing style pushed me towards memoirs.
7. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, is one of my favourite books. Although a very difficult read, it introduced me to literary fiction in a way that I’d never experienced before. I’d read literary fiction previous to this, but not in earnest. After reading Foer’s novel, I moved away from more genre fiction to experience more literary fiction instead. I still haven’t found a book that I love as much as this.
8. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, although a play, sparked a curiosity in me for the absurdist. I’d never read anything like it and I vividly remember being mesmerized by the story. Still today I have to be in the mood for similar stories, and that mood doesn’t come around regularly, but that curiosity remains. Reading this book awoke a desire in me to try to understand stories that perhaps may never fully be understood.
9. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. My mother read this book to me so many times when I was little that I can almost recite it now. Reading this story together led to drawing and creating stories together. It was a starting point for me to begin writing and drawing. We’d recreate the story together and use it to inspire other stories. I can credit this book for my interest in both art and writing.
10. The Last Concubine by Leslie Downer was one of the first books that I’d read that was based in a non-Westernized or European setting and it inspires me to this day to read stories from as many cultures as I can. I love reading books written about and originating from cultures around the world and seeing how the stories and perspectives differ and compare to my own.