Some of these books are on the list because they changed my reading life. Some of them are on the list because they changed the lives of those who mean the most to me. All of them deserve to be enshrined forever in my heart. If I were to sit down to write this post another day, I might have different choices. But I decided to just go with it and tell you about the top ten on my list as of this day in my life.
1) Snowy Day
This is the very first book I distinctly remember. I don’t know what made it catch my eye. I do know that I lovingly read it over and over, and took it out of the library many times. I don’t even think I noticed that the character didn’t look like me. I think I just loved the simplicity of the pictures and the snow.
2) Chronicles of Narnia
Is it cheating to include an entire series in my Top Ten? Pffft, I’m doing it anyway. This series began my journey as a fantasy addict. The messages about love, faith, and family touched me deeply, and I remember hiding under the covers with a flashlight to keep reading. I was about the same age as Susan when I read Prince Caspian, and I think this was the first book to ever make me sob. The fact that she was told she was too old to return to Narnia broke my heart. I vowed to myself that I would never move beyond the magic of imagination. When I first saw the trailer for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I cried again. This series was MY Harry Potter, and captured me forever. When my youngest son got hooked by the movie, and wanted me to read him the first book, I felt the circle closing around me and was content.
3) Wrinkle in Time
Where Narnia was my fantasy starter, I think Wrinkle was my first voyage into science fiction. I’m not going to say too much – since I’ve been tapped to write a “retro review” on this book for the Nerdy Book Club (and can I mention how excited I was to get that email?). This book, though, has been with me for every stage of my life. I’ve read it more than 20 times, and I get something new out of it every single time. This was the very first book I put onto my “Bookprint” on Scholastic (I’m still working on it).
Look for my more detailed thoughts on this book to appear in February to coincide with the 50th anniversary celebration.
4) Moby Dick
Stick with me on this one. I detested this book. I hated every single minute of reading it. So why is it on my list? My beloved 5th grade teacher – Mr. Bateman – made us read and report on a book every few weeks. When I said I wanted to read Moby Dick, he allowed me to do it. He gave me extra time to complete it. I finished it, darn it. Never went back, but I finished it. Would I get more out of it now? Probably. I remember my intense pride when I finished that book, though, and I keep that feeling in mind when my students attempt a book that is really “too hard” for them.
5) Wheel of Time
Another series – Yes, I’m a total cheater. The first book in this series came out in 1990, as I was about to graduate from high school. The last book has still not come out yet (it’s due at the end of 2012). While I adore this series, the reason it is on this list has more to do with my little sister. You see, she’s an intelligent young woman, but had decided to “market” herself as a ditz. (I’m not giving anything away – you can ask her yourself!) I handed her this book after I read it. I didn’t know it at the time, but she has since told me that this was the series that really made her into a reader. When new books came out, we both would scramble to re-read the series to get caught up. (The plot and number of characters in this complicated series made that almost a requirement). So, I guess this book was one of the first books that made me realize the impact my recommendations could have on others.
6) Bridge to Terabithia
I didn’t read this book as a child – or at least I don’t vividly remember it. This was one that I remember reading in college as I prepared for my job as a teacher. Leslie. Oh, god, Leslie. That child resonated so strongly with me. I swear, I cry every time I read this book. I’ve used it as a read aloud several times, and I cry every time in front of all those kids. I don’t mind. I think it’s valuable for students to see how deeply a book can move me. What I love best about this book, though, isn’t how much Leslie’s fate affects me. What I love most is how Jess reacts at the very end, as he brings his little sister in to be the new queen. There I go – I’m crying again. If you haven’t read it…. Do it right now.
7) Time for Bed
A simple bedtime book. Simple, but powerful. I read this book almost every night of his first year to my newborn son, snuggled up with him on my lap. One of the lines in the story reads “the very last kiss is almost here”. That was the year my younger brother died. From that night on, I changed the line every time I read it to “the very last kiss of the night is almost here”. I think that’s all I can say about that.
8) Good Night Gorilla
My second son preferred Good Night Gorilla as his bedtime read as a toddler. I can still hear his baby voice saying “Good Night A-gilla”, “Good night A-Jaffe”. (As an aside, I purchased both of these books for my sister when she recently had her first baby).
9) Harry Potter (Yes, another series. Sue me)
I wasn’t “on board” with this series early on. I read the first book and thought, “Well, that’s cute”. When my students all caught fire with the series, though, I decided to keep reading it. Boy, was I glad I did! They got deeper and richer with each novel. That’s not why it’s on the list, though. My older son has always loved to read, but he was a dabbler. He enjoyed nonfiction, and he would dive in and out of books to get the information he loved. Harry Potter was the first novel that captured his soul. He hasn’t looked back since – and I’m often saying things like “Put down the book while you’re walking or you’ll fall down the stairs” now. I can live with that.
10) Magic Tree House
My younger son “caught fire” with this series. He has since moved on to other fantasy series, but I can still see his little face light up with pride when he finished the last book of the set. Well, the last book that was out as of that date. He still insists that I buy the next one each time they come out.