Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten "Gateway" Books/Authors In My Reading Journey

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

I've had a long "career" in bookishness. I started reading when I was four, and never stopped. I kind of wish I hadn't skipped right to chapter books (I was a precocious child), but my reading journey has been an amazing one.

1. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko
I made my mother read this book over and over to me as a kid. Looking back, it was absolutely a bad-ass feminist kid's book. Princess Elizabeth plans on marrying the "practically perfect" Prince Ronald, but when he's kidnapped by a dragon who burns all of her clothes, she has to rescue him in nothing but a paper bag! She challenges the dragon and saves the day, but Ronald is a whiny manchild. So what does Princess Elizabeth do? Dump his ass and sets off into the sunset to live her own life. This was definitely a seminal book that changed my perception.

2. The Candlewick Book of Fairy Tales by P.J. Lynch
This simply beautiful book of fairy tales was at turns dark, thrilling and very well-written. I tried to copy the illustrations almost every day after school, and it started my incredible passion for both fairy tales and illustration. They're definitely not just for kids! One of my favorites was the Candlewick version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, which included the scene about the corset laces - look it up, it'll leave you breathless with its intensity. And then come back and bludgeon me for the terrible pun. I have it open right now, and I'm getting sucked in all over again. Dammit.

3. The Magic Attic Club series by Multiple Authors
I had to look up the name of this series, because honestly I'd forgotten the name. Basically the premise is that a group of tweens (including a Keisha, damn that name was popular in the 90's) that visit a neighbor's attic, and find a magic trunk full of beautiful clothing and a mirror that transports them to different worlds and different lives. This series was just full of imagination and inspired mine - I came up with so many stories about my own magic "closet" (we didn't have an attic, much to my chagrin).

4. The Babysitter's Club series by Ann M. Martin
I was obsessed with this series in late elementary and middle school. Despite the fact that I'd had more than a taste of babysitting my own sibling - and hated it - I still fantasized about being in a club of close girlfriends with entrepreneurial spirit and bad 90's hair (seriously - Mary Anne's bowl cut? Truly tragic). I imagined I was a hybrid Claudia and Dawn, an utterly cool New Yorker with fantastic style sense and the ability to make funky jewelry out of clay. Needless to say, I was not. I was really more of a Mary Anne, before she left her shell and got a boyfriend. Still, it had me dreaming, and I looked forward to getting those books in the mail every month. Hell yeah, I was in the subscription club! You weren't?!

5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
Do not even get me started on this book - it was brainy, fantastical, and oh-so-exciting. Meg was my dorky hero - the outcast, didn't do all that well in school, frankly an ugly duckling. She's got a genius little brother named Charles Wallace, who is more than a little weird. Then she meets Calvin (my childhood dream man - and let's be honest, if I met a modern day Calvin I wouldn't turn him down), a basketball player with a killer intellect. After Meg finds out her father has disappeared after his experiments with travel, she's determined to track him down.With the help of some wacky strangers, they fight against the most incredible evil the universe has ever known. Meg and Calvin's determination to be themselves is something I really loved.

6. The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I probably acted out the story line of the Little House on the Prairie series with my Barbie dolls a million times or more. I even made them dresses out of "calico" (handkerchiefs, which honestly worked fairly well) and built little cabins for them. The series taught me history, values, and expanded my imagination. When I reread them, I was slightly disappointed because they didn't hold up as an adult read - but they still had a very important impact on my childhood.

7. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
This series was a pivotal part of my book journey, as I think it was for a lot of book bloggers, honestly. I have a feeling this will show up on many, many Top Ten Tuesdays today. I've never been so similarly invested in something - I wrote fan fics (Draco/Ginny, Ron/Hermione), drew fan art, and read those things cover to cover. I loved those characters like family. Still do. The series helped me get through some hard times as a lonely teenager, and helped me make amazing, book-minded friends. I even went to the premiere of Prisoner of Azkaban and took home a banner. I look forward to the day I can read this series to my kids - and I know they'll love it as much as I do. I was a little bit of angsty Harry, brainy Hermione, and resentful Ron. Yeah, my teenage years were rough.

8. The His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
The story of a girl named Lyra Balacqua (what a great name, seriously) who lives at Oxford in a fantasy steampunk world where humans possess daemons, creatures that reflect their personalities. Her uncle Lord Asriel (sooo many great names) and a terrifying woman named Mrs. Coulter make her life more complicated -and as she grows, she falls into the most beautiful love story I've ever read. A combination of suspense, fantasy, a little bit of sci fi, and romance makes this one of the most intriguing stories I have ever read. I also have never sobbed so much at the ending of a series - even more than I did at the end of Deathly Hollows. Something like that changes a person.

9. Neil Gaiman
Starting with The Sandman series, Neil Gaiman has lit my literary world on fire. This was the first real series that got me into comic books/graphic novels - and I love the dark, gorgeous setting of the series. Then came Neverwhere, which is one of my favorite books. The idea of people who fell through the cracks and become invisible was so intriguing. Then there was American Gods, The Graveyard Book, Coraline, Stardust, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane...and Neil Gaiman is now one of my favorite authors. His works were an obsessive gateway to all of his other books, and a world of creepy horror and fantasy.

10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
There is no book that has been more important, or a more thorough gateway experience in my reading journey. A classic novel about a girl's coming of age story in Brooklyn, it spoke to my own childhood. "From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived." I think that says it all. I took that deeply to heart.

Are any of these books/series/authors on your Top Ten this week?