In the fifth grade, part of the curriculum for the reading group I was in was to read a book a week and then complete a book report on 5 x 7 inch index cards. I was a strong reader, but not a fast one. I marvel at how easy it would have been for that year to have squashed my love of reading, but fortunately I persevered and moved on to the sixth grade with my love of words and books intact.
That year's demands created a habit that has persisted until just recently. Each week when I chose the new book, I would go home and my mom and I would figure out how many pages I needed to read each day in order to finish reading in time for each week's book report.
I read those books everywhere: in the bathtub, in my bedroom, on the front porch. I remember roller skating and reading once...that's slightly embarrassing to admit, but alas, it happened! I was breathless from the volume of pages I was reading. I wish I still had the list of books we chose from that year, because I remember really loving some of those stories. My imagination was captured week after week. No matter how fatigued I was by the work of reading.
Number twenty-eight on my 4040 list was added to pay homage to the longest pastime I have enjoyed in my forty years. I have set out to choose the forty books that have moved me, challenged me, inspired me, or changed my life in some way. I'm unveiling the list in four installments because I want to write a brief explanation about each book, and honestly, I'd like my readers to get to the end. This could get a little lengthy. So without further introduction, here's the first 10 books. I am presenting them semi-chronologically. Otherwise there's no particular preferential order.
1. Cranberry Thanksgiving by Harry and Wende Devlin. This is one in a series of books. I have always been drawn to the illustrations and love the cozy feel of the characters and story. After all these years, I'll pull it off my bookshelf and read it solo even if my daughter doesn't join me. I have no qualms about reading children's books as an adult.
2. Debbie's Visit to the Countryside – by Gilbert Delahaye. Marcel Marlier's illustrations “drew” me in as a child. They were like comfort food for the heart and mind. He had such a way of making the story seem dreamy and real at once.
3. The Little Old Man Who Couldn't Read by Irma Simonton Black. I was very young when I read this. The pastel colors are what I first think of when I think of this book. I also love the dear, sweet little man and I always was baffled by how he'd made it all his life without being able to read! It was inconceivable to this book lover! I stumbled on a lovely little fact as I was putting together this list: Amazon was selling the hardcover for no less than $149.80 and I've since seen other sites selling it for even more!
4. Crystal's Perilous Ride by Steven and Janet Bly. My Grandma Steele started me on this series the summer I had my wisdom teeth pulled and was out of commission for my recovery. I loved Crystal's smarts with horses and lived vicariously through her ranch adventures.
5. Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I was first introduced to this beloved character in sixth grade. I've already written about Anne here.
Re-reading the series is # 10 on the list. For brevity, let's just say I saw myself in Anne in many ways, and in so doing, I grew confident in the attributes that made me different from most girls my age.
6. Nancy Drew series – by Carolyn Keene. I loved Nancy Drew and her friends particularly in middle school. I loved how smart and sophisticated Nancy was. She was brave and always figuring things out. The stories always captured my imagination.
7. Janette Oke's Canadian West Series – My best friend, Melissa, a much faster reader, introduced these books to me in middle school. I loved reading about the pioneer life and loved the romance. The book covers have changed in the 25+ years since I read them...
8. To Kill a Mockingbird – by Harper Lee. I first read this book in tenth grade English class with Mrs. Deeg's student teacher, Miss Collard. I loved it then, but age, life experience, and multiple readings and listenings have brought a greater appreciation for this American classic. Listening to it is an especially wonderful treat, which I do roughly once a year. Now when I listen or re-read it, I aspire to parent my daughter more like Atticus Finch parented his.
9. A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. I read this book the summer after my freshman year of college. It's one of the first “life-changing” books of my life. Love and Fear – all our decisions come from one of two thought forms. All these years later, I'm still working to set aside my fears and approach everything with love.
10. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. I was an enormous Francophile and reading this book was sheer delight. Peter's voice and storytelling made me laugh out loud before it was called LOL. Oh to have moved to France! That was my dream then.
Have you read any of these books? What were your favorites in your childhood and youth?