Some books formed me as a reader and a writer, and I will remember them forever.
Strangely, I didn’t read a lot of the “normal” kid books growing up. I don’t remember reading most of the Newbery or Caldecott medal winners. The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings were sort of off limits (I didn’t read those until college), no Bridge to Terabithia, Roald Dahl was barely a mention (although I found Matilda and wouldn’t let it go because I needed another strange little girl to give me hope), and Harry Potter came out when I was in high school. I’m just discovering some famous picture books as I build my own son’s library.
I was the epitome of a bookworm, but I don’t remember a lot about the books I read in elementary school. I think my middle school reading was largely furnished by my grandmother’s “don’t listen to rock music, swear, or read about magic or you’ll be possessed by a demon and die” books. Those books creeped me out a bit, and I’ve tried to block most of that reading from my mind. So needless to say, my formative reading was strange and pieced together oddly, but I did have books that inspired my imagination and made me want to write.
Here are some of my inspirations.
1. Emergency Mouse by Bernard Stone – My mother got tired of me asking for this book EVERY night at bed time. I loved it for some reason as odd and off the wall as it is.
2. The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop – I wanted that castle to be real so badly.
3. Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar – This book was just plain fun.
4. My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville – I was pretty certain a few of my teachers actually were aliens.
5. The Ghost Wore Gray by Bruce Coville – This book made me want to be a writer.
6. The Ghost in the Third Row by Bruce Coville – And all the Bruce Coville books, apparently.
7. Ghost Cat by Beverly Butler – Ghosts, ghosts, and more ghosts. I wanted all of the ghost books. Oh, and cats. I would read any book that had a cat on the cover.
8. Anne of Green Gables and all the Anne and Rilla book by L.M. Montgomery – A redhead, adventures, romance, and Canada. Yep, I read them ALLLLL, and I fell in love with Anne’s sons.
9. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl – The MOST influential book I ever read.
10. The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery – These books were amazing for a girl who wanted to write.
11. Matilda by Roald Dahl – Matilda understood me.
12. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry – My sixth grade teacher told me about this book. I loved Mrs. Butler, and I would have read anything she suggested.
13. The Stand by Stephen King – My first “grown up” read. I loved pulling it out of my backpack because it was HUGE and my mother wouldn’t even read Stephen King, so I felt like a B.A. bookworm.
14. A Separate Peace by John Knowles – This was in our 9th grade English book, but they had removed all the swear words. I bought the paperback to be rebellious. Ha.
15. Don’t Die, My Love by Lurlene McDaniel – Ahh, teenage sad romance. The sadder, the better. I read this book at least five times and cried every time, and then I decided I could write my own stories.
16. Night by Elie Wiesel – Need I say more?
17. Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters – For some reason, I took this book to Europe with me. I carried it around Switzerland in my backpack. I don’t know what it was about it, but I still flip through the poems from time to time.