The Books We’ll Never Forget
September 22nd is Elephant Appreciation Day, and since an elephant never forgets, I thought this might be a great opportunity to share those books we’ll never forget.
Everyone has at least one. They aren’t necessarily the best books ever written. They aren’t necessarily the deepest or the most popular. But they’re books that made an indelible mark on us in some way, the ones that we thought about for days after we finished reading them- ones that we’ve read more than once- the ones that we recommend because they are dear to our hearts and we want them to be near and dear to someone else’s heart, too. So here’s my list, and I hope in the comments you’ll add a few of yours.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett - Kid’s stuff, I hear you say, but the relationships in this book are complex, and it was only after rereading it as a young adult that I truly understood the depth of Mr. Craven’s heartache and the loneliness of his son, Colin. The wisdom of Ben Weatherstaff was lost on me as a kid, as it was often lost on Mary, but as a young adult I saw it in a whole new light. Dickon’s gentleness and love of all creatures is just as enchanting as it ever was. I still have my first copy of this on my book shelf at home- the front cover is torn and the spine is almost illegible due to the creases left from my repeated re-readings. This one’s a classic for a reason!
The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman - Sure, it’s common now for books to take place during Victorian times because of the whole Steampunk genre, but back when I was a teen Steampunk wasn’t the thing it is now so a book set in Victorian times was a little… well, to me it was weird. I wasn’t sure that my mom was right that I’d find anything interesting about a book that took place ‘in olden times.’ The saying is true, and mother knew best. To this day I credit Pullman with getting me interested in mysteries through his use of a bygone era and characters I could relate to even though they lived a hundred years before me. I often recommend this one to teens looking for a mystery. Sally Lockhart was exactly the kind of girl I wanted to be- interesting, curious, fearless- a Nancy Drew with a much bigger sense of danger and of awe.
Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, a 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten selection, was so good I started reading it again immediately upon completion. It sucked me in and I read like a fiend to finish it only to want to finish it again. Morgan Matson’s weaving of tragedy and romance and discovery was just done beautifully. I’ve repeatedly recommended it to people, I’ve mentioned it in this blog before, I’ve featured it in book clubs, and I have been known to skip over my “to-read” pile to re-read it again. The fact that they start driving across the country together as almost total strangers and become more than just friends by the end of their journey is so romantic, and the self discovery and growth they experience together is so moving, that this book really needs repeated readings to get everything out of it.
Forever… by July Blume I didn’t read as a teen. In fact, I didn’t get to it until after I’d gotten my Master’s degree. But I wish I had read it as a teen! I can remember what it was like to have no ideas about sex and relationships, and no idea what to even ask about even if I’d had the nerve to ask. Forever, which frequently appears on lists of challenged and banned books, was straightforward and unashamed, something that I could have used as a teen. Every generation it’s updated with a new cover and forward and then re-released, and with good reason. I remember sitting at my desk and reading it and thinking, “I wish I’d read this in high school!” and I’m glad that it’s one of those books that keeps going strong year after year.
Here’s where I date myself a little… because there’s a whole series of books that I could never forget, and even though they weren’t well written and aren’t even available outside of eBay these days, I still love them. New Kids on the Block novels were pure pleasure reading when I was twelve, and I still have a few because I can’t bear to part with them even when I don’t really have room for them. I just loved how easy and fun they were to read, and they stick out in my head more than most of the books I read as a teen. At a time when I was reading George Orwell and Jules Verne for school, I couldn’t wait to get home and get back to reading for fun. The enjoyment I had while reading these is memorable on its own, even if now I cringe when I see all the grammatical errors and laugh at the plot holes!
Now it’s your turn! What books made their mark on you? What title still makes you laugh or cry?
-Carla Land, currently reading The Stone Rose by Jacqueline Rayner