Maybe it’s the coming holidays, or maybe it’s just the cooler weather slowing my life down and giving me time to think, but around this time of year I always start feeling all nostalgic.
Today I entertained that feeling by going through my old books and dusting off some of my absolute, most-favorite-ever books that, in my opinion, every child (and anyone else who hasn’t read them yet or who wants to escape adultdom for a while) should read. Most of the titles are actually books in a series, so this is far more than just 10 novels. I read most of these around the middle-school age.
Ranking my dear childhood memories would be far too difficult to accomplish, so don’t mind the order. Just read them all!
1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (7 books)
Oh, Aslan. Escaping into Narnia was a regular occurrence of my childhood. So much so that I had not one, but two sets of the books fall apart because I read them so frequently (and I am careful with my books, thank you very much!). It is my dream to create a Narnia-themed hidden room in my house someday. I tell people it’s for my future kids’ playroom, but in reality, I want it to be the only way into my library.
Narnia, a land with magic and talking animals, teaches that it doesn’t matter how young you are or small you are (I’m looking at you, Reepicheep!), your choices can impact the world.
C. S. Lewis remains one of my favorite writers (for a more real-world, albeit heart-breaking piece, investigate his collection A Grief Observed in which he reflects on the loss of his wife).
2. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede (4 books)
This one is lesser known, but truly is an absolute favorite of mine. Strong-willed princess takes charge of her own destiny and brokers a deal with a dragon. Wrede plays twists fairytale stereotypes and challenges assumptions while creating a world decidedly magical.
You know, I just bought this set for a friend’s daughter… I do believe I need to review it before giving over her Christmas present…
3. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling (7 books)
Like this one wasn’t going to be on here. Who were you kidding? Haven’t heard the basic premise of HP (where have you been living lately, if you don’t mind my asking)? Harry Potter is a young orphan who learns of his magical heritage at 11-years-old, initiating him into a fantastical world, but also exposing him to dangers—primarily dangers centering around Voldemort, the man who murdered Harry’s parents.
Long story short on Rowling’s creation? I’d drop everything but a few select people and head straight over to live in the Wizarding World (the real one, not the amusement park one… though I’d stay there, too, if I could) immediately if I had even the slightest opportunity. Who’s with me?
4. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (4 books- or two, if you ask Tolkien)
Much like the Wizarding World, I’d also head straight over to Middle Earth if I could only find the way. Tolkien was a genius at language (he invented several languages, including the tongues of Elvish and the Black Speech of the orcs), and his main character, who Tolkien likened himself to, showed this trait in his skill at riddles. As a child and reading The Hobbit, I loved the ability of little Bilbo Baggins to outwit the bad guys and overcome obstacles with his wit and his words.
5. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Hurray for reading banned books! I read this as part of school work (good job, former English teacher, on combatting censorship!), but many schools have placed this book on their banned list because it addresses death and, gasp, uses “Lord” outside of prayer.
6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Who doesn’t love a little Alice? Delightful though Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter is, reading Alice’s adventures lets you connect with young Alice and see the world through a different set of eyes. Cough… Oh yeah, and makes it easier for the child to connect to a character who is closer to his or her age. Because this blog is about books kids should read. Right.
Look. Just go read them, okay?
7. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
I am seeing a trend here about magical cupboards morals revolving around the importance of all people, no matter how small. I first read The Indian in the Cupboard because it was assigned reading in school, but I ended up rereading it several times over the years.
So excited! I definitely just learned that there are four sequels to this book! Back to the bookstore I go! In an unrelated note- I really have to get more bookshelves.
8. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene (56 original books, but more have been written since the classics were so popular)
Who doesn’t love a good mystery? I adored Nancy Drew stories, and I still have most of them (packed up in boxes, sadly. See above note about additional bookshelves). The Nancy Drew books were definitely my favorite of the two, but we can add the Hardy Boys in for good measure here.
9. Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey (23 books, with Todd McCaffrey writing some of the more recent pieces)
Pern is a planet where humans have genetically engineered dragons, which bond with a human upon hatching. Together, humans and dragons coexist and defend the colonies from the fall of Thread- a sort of fungus that falls in cycles over the land.
A word about content: some of McCaffrey’s books have sexual scenes / implied sexual scenes. That said, I started reading them around 11 or 12 years old and came to no real harm (though I suspect my mother hid the copies that had the racier scenes until I was older- I probably read them all out of order and didn’t realize!).
10. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
This novel is based off of Juana Maria’s story. As a young woman, she was stranded on an island for 18 years before being rescued. The character representing Juana is named Karana. I particularly remember a scene in which she hunts an octopus; even all these years later, O’Dell’s writing brings clear pictures to my mind!