The books we love most passionately are often books we discover in late childhood or adolescence. Books we read at that age can have an enormous influence on us, too, can’t they? This isn’t a comprehensive list, by any means, but I’d just like to note down here a few books that influenced me.
The first couple of titles will be no surprise at all to anyone who knows me.
1. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Of course! I’m one of many thousands of people who have lived in Tolkien’s world in their imaginations. As to The Hobbit, I’d like to point to an extraordinary review on Goodreads . It is by Matt, who wrote it on August 26, 2008, and it beautifully sums up just how extraordinary a book The Hobbit actually is. Here is the link to his review.
2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. Now that I’m an adult, I can see why some people don’t like Lewis, and Till We Have Faces has supplanted this one as my favorite Lewis novel. But I still love Lucy and Edmund Pevensie, and I would still love to visit Narnia!
3. The Children of Green Knowe, by L.M. Boston. I have a long review of this book on my livejournal, here: http://mary-j-59.livejournal.com/21192.html
4. The Little Lame Prince, by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik. Okay – people slam this book for being sentimental and didactic. I loved it deeply as an 8-year-old, and still do today. It’s a quiet, gentle story with surprisingly deep undercurrents, and still one of the better depictions of a differently abled child in children’s literature. As a little girl, I loved and admired the lost little prince, Dolor, who could not use his legs, but could use his senses, his imagination, and his mind. This book has a lot to say about dealing with loss and injustice. I still love it today. It’s a beautiful story.
5. The Forgotten Door, by Alexander Key. This book, on the other hand, really is didactic. But it’s also truly a tale of ideas. While watching the stars one night, little Jon falls a great distance — from his peaceful alien world to the Great Smoky mountains in the 1960s. He’s lucky enough to be discovered by a good, kind family. But the Beans soon learn that Jon has special abilities — and that he may not be safe on Earth. Key is more famous for Escape to Witch Mountain. If you loved that book, you’ll love this one, as well.
6. The Singing Tree, by Kate Seredy. This is a sequel to the rollicking Good Master. It is, however, a much more serious tale. Jansci and Kate are now 13 and 12 respectively. It’s the summer of 1914, and their elders are worried; the children pick up on those worries without being terribly impressed by them. Then war comes, and the men are called away. The children and Jancsi’s mother must manage the farm alone, all the while wondering if the men will return–
If it’s dated in some ways, it’s still human, humane, and lovely in its language and in its illustrations. And the message of the brotherhood/sisterhood of man affected me profoundly when I was 12, and still does today.
Oh, and how could I forget?
7. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. I read this book at ten, and for the first time I identified strongly and consciously with a protagonist. It showed a heroic girl whose mother was a Nobel prize-winning scientist, and did so in the 1960s. I love the wacky humor and the imagination in this book, as well - those are aspects I appreciate more as an adult than I did as a child, when they flew over my head. As a child, I simply thrilled to the idea of a girl like me having all those adventures and being the hero who did the rescuing.
What about you? If you had to name 7 or 8 books that shaped your world view, what would they be?