nine books that (pretty much) defined my childhood

Here’s a new one for you: #throwbackthursday, literature style.

Anyone who knows me probably realizes that I’m a bookworm. You might even say that was an understatement. My friend Lizz, for example, made me this bookmark for my twenty-first birthday:


These are all stories that have meant something like that to me–stories that have made me think, made me laugh, made me cry. These are books that have made me want to run up to the nearest human being and thrust a copy into their hands. Here, I’d say. Hi. You have got to read this one.

And so, without further ado, may I present my take on #throwbackthursday:

Nine Books That (pretty much) Defined My Childhood–or, nine books you should probably consider reading if you haven’t already.

01. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

 picture book
32 pages

why this book? 
 In the evening Alice sat on her grandfather’s knee and listened to his stories of faraway places. When he had finished, Alice would say, “When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.”


“That is all very well, little Alice, “said her grandfather, “but there is a third thing you must do.”


“What is that?” asked Alice.


“You must do something to make the world more beautiful,” said her grandfather.

02. D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

d aulaires book of greek myths
genre: mythology
length: 192 pages
why this book? Do you have any idea how often I’ve read this book? A lot. It’s incredibly fascinating (especially when you’re seven or eight and just discovering how awesome and ridiculous mythology is) and the illustrations are absolutely beautiful, to boot.

03. Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

genre: play
length: 129 pages
why this book? I read this book for a middle school English class and I still think about it at least once a week. The plot is a retelling of the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925–a teacher is being tried for teaching evolution. If you’re thinking, hey, I don’t agree with evolution–then you need to read this play. If you’re thinking wow, I hate it when people disavow scientific fact–then you need to read this play.

04. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

genre: young adult
length: 211 pages
why this book? This is the first in an amazing series by Madeleine L’Engle. It’s not even my favorite (the third, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, is my favorite), but I absolutely adore this book. It’s a Newberry Medal winner (and basically a modern classic). Think… approachable science fiction meets an anxious teenage girl with glasses who, with her brother Charles Wallace and new friend Calvin, goes off to save her father, who has gone missing due to his research on tesseracts (the so-called wrinkles in time).

05. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

to kill a mockingbird
genre: classic/coming-of-age novel
length: 324 pages
why this book? If you don’t understand the importance of Atticus Finch, then I don’t know what to say to you (other than please go read this book right now).


06. The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill

genre: middle grade
length: 96 pages
why this book? To be honest, I don’t even remember why I read this book in the first place. It was probably one of the many books I read when mom homeschooled me (yes, that’s right. I was homeschooled for two whole years: second and third grade). I do remember being fascinated by this young entrepreneur and the idea that kids can have an impact–and I completely agreed that math was awesome. Plus, Rufus and the protagonist (Kate MacKinestry, or “Mac”) have an awesome friendship and basically start a company together. In middle school. What’s not to love?

07. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

scarlet pimpernel
genre: adventure/historical fiction
length: 204 pages
why this book? The Scarlet Pimpernel is widely regarded as the very first hero with a secret identity, and therefore as the original inspiration for characters like Zorro and Batman. Think it can’t get any better? Think again. Witty dialogue, thrilling adventures, the French Revolution. There’s a reason my blog’s URL is pimpernels, and the reason is this book.

08. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

westing game
genre: mystery
length: 182 pages
why this book? The Westing Game is the first novel I ever tried to actively solve. I’ve always loved reading mysteries–murder or otherwise–but this one follows sixteen people as they try to solve the mystery of Samuel Westing’s death… in order to inherit $200,000 and his company.

09. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

Harry_Potter_and_the_Sorcerer's_Stonegenre: fantasy/young adult
length: seven books (1st book being 320 pages)
why this book? Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of Number Four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. (Come on, you recited that. You barely even read it.) These characters, these settings–they’ve shaped a whole generation at this point, and are well on their way to shaping the next. My writing professor once told our class that she thinks J. K. Rowling should win a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing the world together over literature. There’s something to be said for that–bringing together millions of people over this story of friendship and good versus evil.

That’s all for now, folks. Tune in next Thursday for… well, I’m not entirely certain, but there might be something like this again at some point. It may or may not be Thursday. It may or may not be a throwback. It might be movies, or Princess Bride quotes, or Magic School Bus episodes, or field trips, or even favorite adaptations of fairy tales. Time will tell.

Until then, I’ll leave you with this quote from Dumbledore in the very first of the Potter books: It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.


3 thoughts on “nine books that (pretty much) defined my childhood

    1. well, I was thinking of doing another one next week… there are at least five books that should’ve made this list that, you know, I forgot about temporarily. Like The Witch of Blackbird Pond, for example. Hmmm…

  1. Pingback: five more books* | the facts and the fictitious

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