In the May 2018 newsletter I asked the readers for their feedback on the most memorable books from their youth.

Here are the responses:

pkitty1: I read a children’s version of Robinson Crusoe when I was grade school. I was so awed by Crusoe’s self reliance and survival skills. It started a lifelong love of books with self reliant protaganists. And…of course, zombie novels

Judy: Most remembered books for me include the Nancy Drew series. I waited breathlessly for each new one, and if there was extra money, my dad would buy it for me at the local drug store (which also sold a few books). I believe the new books cost between 25 and 50 cents! Also, all the 6th grade girls eagerly awaited each new Anne Emery book, as 6th grade girls then were notoriously full of romantic notions. Now, romances are my least favorite genre. I would finish with my all time favorite book from childhood which I read it several times: Gene Stratton Porter’s Girl of the Limberlost. I’m afraid to reread it now for fear it will seem hokey and charmless. But once upon a time, I loved it.

Lily: Like Graeme, I became addicted to the library at a VERY early age. The first author that “stuck with me” through a lifetime was “Andre” Norton. (I was young enough to be amazed when I found out Andre was actually Mary Alice!) The worlds she painted and the virtues her characters espoused carried me through a very tough early life and eventually saw me to sane adulthood in my 20’s.

Norton’s “helping heroes” in my life were Madeline L’Engle, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov – and on and on. I’m not a fan of romance or dystopian fiction, although I will admit to a fondness for Neuromancer. Tthe “best reading” for me is that which illustrates the finest qualities of the human spirit, whether it’s Louis L’Amour, Tony (and now Anne) Hillerman, Tom Clancy, Roger Zelazny, Jim Butcher or Clive Cussler.

As I got older, of course, my reading horizons expanded – but I still revisit the “good guys in white hats” section of my personal library whenever the current news gets too grim.

I’m still an avid reader and now am at the stage of life when I have enough time to read all I want. Good books helped me get here

Christine: MOST FAVORITE BOOK – My Sister Mike by Amelia Elizabeth Walden. I consider this book a classic that every young girl should read. As kind of a “tom boy” myself at that age, I really could feel the emotion this girl went thru.

Shelia: There are two books that made a lasting memory from my youth, the first was Angel Unaware from Dale Evans and the next was Nicholas and Alexandria. Both true stories were written in a way that captivated me and I wanted to know more.

Jan: We just got back from our “epic RVtrip”….finishing the last of the lower 48 on our map. A journey that started 6 years ago (and was another of your mind nthly thought questions…what book inspired you to DO something. ) Anyway, when we got to North Dakota we celebrated! All 48 and Alaska. Will we travel to Hawaii! Will there BE a Hawaii?

So, when I was in 6th grade, I read Thor Hyerdols “Kon Tiki”. (I hope I spelled his name correctly). It fascinated and intrigued me. It had pictures of whale sharks, the raft, the Easter Island Giants, and things I had never seen or even dreamed about. And how could people even make this amazing trip?
And survive!!! Remember, this was back in the 60’s. I was thrilled to see an episode on the TV show Destination Unknown that had the whole story!

And…don’t wait to be empty nesters. Rent or buy a good used RV amd hit the road!!!!! Adventure and memories await!

Carole: When I was twelve years old, I was sick a lot of the time. I usually got stuck at home for two week stretches at a time, got all of the assignment my mother brought me from school done in the first few days and was then bored out of my mind. About the third or fourth bout of illness, my grandmother introduced me to Agatha Christie and turned me into a bookaholic. Fifty years later, I still love Agatha Christie (among a huge number of others) and am a confirmed and unrepentant bookaholic.

Liz: The most memorable books are books I got on my 4th birthday, 73 years ago, and still have on my bookshelf. These were read to me over and over. They are Mother West Wind’s Children, Mother West Wind’s Neighbors, and Old Mother West Wind by Thornton W. Burgess. The other favorite was Bambi. As I got older and went to the library all the time, I read all the biographies that were on the shelves at the library. They were easy to find as they were all orange. Always read all the Nancy Drew books. Still an avid reader loving history, fiction, mystery, and recommendations from friends and sites that I belong to.

Carol: My favorite book as I was growing up was “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett (I still have my copy) I am also a sucker of any book that has “garden” in the title..just read “The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell…

Veronica: I mostly read fairy tales like the Hans Christian Anderson books as a child.
I was 13 when I read the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene. I read everyone and loved them. That hooked me on mysteries and I have been hooked ever since.

Katrina: The earliest books I can remember reading were collections of Mother Goose Rhymes. I loved them! Later I remember really liking the Beany Malone series by Lenora Mattingly Weber. I went to a Catholic school that had probably the smallest library in the world but there I read all the Father Francis Finn books which took place in a boys boarding school. I also read Farley Mowat’s animal books. Growing up in the 50s and 60s I do not recall there being much available that was specifically written for tweens and teens. One read the classics.

Sam: My “youth” – that is pretty general.

Well, from when I was a little kid, I’d have to give it to a book called “Dear Mr. Henshaw” by Beverly Cleary. Somehow the character in this book really caught my attention. It starts when he’s about 5 years old and moves on until he’s pre-teen, I guess. His parents get divorced and he’s living with his mom. He misses his dad as he doesn’t see him that often. Mr. Henshaw is an author who he starts reading at a young age and the book consists of this character’s letters to him that go into his life, feelings, reactions to things, etc. You sort of have to read it to really get a feel for it.

Other than that, I was unfortunately not much of a reader until I got into high school. My favorite book from that time period was without a doubt Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard. This was one of those books that I finished reading and was still “mentally gyrating” on it for months after. It’s an epic sci fi novel, but if I had to sum it up in a few words – it’s message is that people and mankind are actually capable of anything, and that no matter what the odds you can always fight back and win against oppression. The book has action, suspense, comedy, satire (a lot of satire, I had to laugh out loud on more than one occasion). And the scientific aspects it gets into are really intriguing.

I’ll give honorable mentions to Catcher in the Rye. I read that in high school to and identified with the protagonist – Holden Caufield – so well, it was scary. Also I’ll mention The Dark Half by Stephen King. This was the first “grown-up” novel I read for pleasure (I was on a long bus trip and a friend of mine loaned it to me).

Elizabeth: I loved all the Nancy Drew books. My favorite single book was Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes.

At 14, I read Murder Takes The Veil by Margaret Ann Hubbard and it blew me away. I was being taught at a school run by nuns and this book was a gripping page turner.

Kenicia: I have several memorable novels from my youth. The first one is “Through the Years with Henrietta” by Irene Turnbow. My first mystery was “The Westing Game.” I read all of Louisa May Alcott’s, but my favorite was “Old-Fashioned Girl” rather than “Little Women.”

I also have several series that I cannot omit: “The All-of-a-Kind Family” by Sydney Taylor, the Anne of Green Gables series, and the penultimate–the Chronicles of Narnia.

Linda L: Books I read in my youth: The first book that I remember that inspired me was a little book called “Mimi’s Hat Box”. It was about a model and made me want to be a model. Then earlier years , I loved and read all of Marguerite Henry’s animal books. Loved all of them. Then as a teen, I read every Stephen King book I could get my hands on. Loved being scared. In elementary school there was a series of books about 4 or 5 children on these adventures, one I remember was in caves. Cannot think of the name of them and wish I could so I could read them to my granddaughter as she loves mysteries and adventure at her young age of 7. I, too, highly recommend the Gray Man books and the Berenson books. You can’t get much better than that. I am now reading the Joseph Finder books, one series and the stand alones He is excellent. Never read him before and cannot imagine why. I am always finding a new author that I somehow missed. The phrase “So many books, so little time,” comes to mind. Thank you for the excellent recommendations and love all the readers ideas, too. Happy May.

slej179: I did not read much as a child, but when my own child entered preadolescence, I read everything she read. My favorites was a Judy Blume “Dear God Its Me Margaret” and also “The Secret Garden” by ‎Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Tom: The novels that really stuck with me — I read them at just the right time — are the four books of Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet. I read the Quartet the summer I turned 16: my summer job fell through and my parents asked me to stay with my very aged grandmother who had a habit of waking up in the middle of the night and wandering around: they figured I could raise the alarm if she fell (she never did, thankfully). Anyway it left me alone with my late grandfather’s library and the Durrells were right there. I picked them up first because I recognized the name, having loved My Family and Other Animals and many more by Lawrence’s brother Gerald.

The Quartet was just right: a little sex (maybe it was a lot for the Fifties), a lot of exotic color, some World War Two history, and some writing that I now look at as way-too-purple but did a great job of elevating the sensibility of a young reader. Durrell’s genius in these books is to begin in the first person perspective of Justine and get you to feel what he’s feeling alongside him. The subsequent books take other perspectives (Balthazar is an “interlinear” commenting on the first book, and Mountolive a traditional third-person narrative) but you read them differently having launched from the first person. When that first-person narrator returns for Clea, the last book, the reader understands how, through the books in between, the narrator has matured into the writer and the artist you now meet again. For someone teetering between “youth” and “early adulthood,” the sequence is unbeatable.

Thomas: Hello…trying to think of books in my youth, which was some 50-60 years ago. Other than high school standards back then like “The Oxbow Incident” or “Catcher In The Rye”, I don’t recall many. I know I often had to do book reports, but what books they came from I don’t remember. My favorite reads were often dinosaur books or especially astronomy related. I probably read more magazines like “Popular Science” than novels. I really didn’t get hooked on reading novels and paperbacks until the 1990’s and now I read several magazines and have 3-4 books going at one time.

Richard: In my younger days, my favorite author was Jim Kjelgaard and his stories about dogs and living in the wild. I would go to the library at school and check for new releases to read and, during the summer I would wait for the bookmobile to come down our country road. Recently, I started reading the all again, with the books obtained through Amazon. Great memories!

Stephanie: You asked about books which had a huge effect on me as a child and their were two, actually. The first was “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri. I don’t know why the story about the love of a grandfather for his granddaughter grabbed me as it did, but I loved it and identified with it on an emotional level that I did not then, nor now, fully understand. Also, as a young child I loved animals of every stripe and read every animal story I could find, “Black Beauty” was one of my favorites and in reading it I began a life long love affair with horses”. My mother would drop me off at our local (and only) library while she ran errands and I sat on the floor and read and read until she returned. I always had an armful of books to bring home. I’m sure there were many other favorites, but these two come to mind.

Ray: Thanks for the update on “The Flight Attendant”.

Yep, I agree about Alex Berenson’s books. I always look forward to the next one. I’ve actually started reading them all over again.

To my knowledge, I’ve never read an historical fantasy novel. Maybe I’ll give one a shot.

Have you read any of the Tim Tigner books? Looks like my genre of likes.

As for “memorable novels” of my youth, easy to remember. As a youngster, it was the OZ books.

I loved them and devoured them!! Later it was the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys books. I thought the Nancy Drews were much better, but, of course, I never told my buddies that. My first memorable heavy duty novels came a little later with Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, and The Count Of Monte Cristo.

Thanks once again for the news letter! I look forward to them every month!!

Keith: One of the most memorable books from my early childhood was “The Dam Busters” by Paul Brickhill. Although technically not a novel since it was nonfiction, the book read like a novel and fit in well with the other war stories and mysteries I was reading in the fourth grade. I loved the fact that the hero and unifying force behind the story was a “boffin” (an engineer/scientist). In fact, this book was one of the main reasons that I went on to pursue a 40+ year career as an engineer in the aerospace industry. I think that is a good return on the $0.25 investment I made buying the paperback from the “My Weekly Reader” Book Club.

Pam W: I loved the Beverly Cleary novels, and especially her character Ramona. I was very shy and thought it would be wonderful to be so outspoken and transparent.

Also, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. The kids are just so adventurous and brave. Along the same line is My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. Loved it!

Pam: My, oh my, what turned me on to books? I grew up surrounded by books and the public library was a favorite site even when it was eight blocks away and I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike that far. Digger Dan was a must read by my parents when I was really little so that is the first book I remember. We had Little Golden books as well so those were a must as well. I think I still remember the look of the first book I checked out of the library when I was old enough to have a card – it was something about a crow, was missing the book jacket, and had been rebound in a plain red cover. After that there was no stopping me. As I got older, our library had a policy that you had to be a certain age to check out materials from the adult section, but they let me do it so I was happy. Once I decided to read all of the books in the classics section that started with the letter A. That worked for several months, but then life distracted me so there are still several classics that remain untouched. Lorna Doone still stands out as one I would not have picked up except for that goal.

Smoky the Cow Horse by Will James still is my favorite. I loved horses and it just struck a chord in me. I always recommended it to my students over my forty year career in education if there was a chance that they were “horse” people. Teaching and living in a rural area, that was a lot of children. I also enjoyed the movie version.

Black Beauty, Pippi Longstocking, Dr. Seuss, Scholastic books when I was old enough to buy them from school since my town didn’t have a bookstore as such all contributed to my love of books and reading.

Trixie Belden was a girl detective and her books were available in the five and dime so I could afford to add them to my collection.

I never knew you could walk into a store and buy paperbacks until I was ten or eleven and my family was on a vacation when I found a newsstand with tons of paperbacks. We didn’t have one of those in my hometown either. Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan and his Martian series entered my life at that time.

When I was sixteen, we went to Atlanta, Georgia, for Christmas with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. My cousin knew where there was a bookstore in the mall, and I’d been a carhop for over a year and had my own money. My dad was perplexed at how thirty or forty paperbacks had migrated from Georgia to Kansas in the trunk under the luggage. My cousin had been a big help in that endeavor and she still likes to go to bookstores with her slightly older cousin to see what is new in the book world. Another set of cousins, now a college professor still makes sure I am aware of bookstores where ever he lives so when I visit we can stop by them as well.

The format of a book matters not. Tablet, hardback, paperback, audio – it matters not – just don’t try to separate me from my books.

Thanks for the great information you provide.

I’m glad to see you added John Conroe and Michael Z. Williamson, as well as reminding folks of Mary Kay Andrews. I have the paperbacks under Trochek since they were set in Atlanta and I’d been there to visit my cousins. I always enjoy visiting places that are the settings for many of my books. It adds to the joy of reading.

Nicky: I, too, grew up with Enid Blyton.

Also loved Katharine Hull’s “The Far-distant Oxus” series.

And Arthur Ransome, of course…”Swallows and Amazons” etc.

Steve: I wanted to respond to this month’s question of a memorable novel from my youth.

The one that sticks out for me is “Sounder” by William H. Armstrong. I read this in middle school and it still remains one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. It especially hit me as a10yr old! It’s about a very poor, black family in the south and the main character, a young boy, gets a dog named Sounder. His father goes through struggles to work & support the family, and it is a daily struggle just to have food for the table. Well, it culminates in a very sad ending for this father, family, and Sounder. A hard look at the struggles of African-Americans in the South back in the rough years in the 19th century.

Thanks Graeme!!!

Max: An excellent reader’s question this month! It made me think waaay back to what got me started. When was a just little guy — grade school — I read every “Classics Illustrated” comic book I could get my hands on. Those books introduced me to much great literature — Robin Hood, The Last of the Mohicans, Treasure Island, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers etc. etc. So I owe a great debt of gratitude to the Classics Illustrated comic book publishers who got me going in the right direction. The first actual novel I can recall is “Lad, A Dog,” one of the thrilling “dog novels” by Albert Payson Terhune. That was a terrific read and really taught me what books could do for your emotions! When I was about 12, I read “Outlaws of Ravenhurst” by M. Imelda Wallace, which made a big impression on me. The first “serious adult” book I can remember was Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” which remains one of my all-time favorite thrillers! I read that in my mid-teens, and it is a book I will never forget. By then I was truly hooked on reading, and I’ve never looked back. Thank you, Graeme.

One more comment on something you mentioned in the newsletter: “Dirty White Boys” is indeed one of my all-time favorite thrillers but it is one gritty, down-and-dirty book! I read it as a mature adult, and really can’t imagine handing it to a 15-year old boy to read! So your father must be a truly enlightened fellow to give you that book, and good for him!

Mary: Hi Greame, I love your emails. I open you first when I see it arrive in my ebox. I have discovered my new authors because of you and for that I say a big THANK YOU.
You asked about books in my teen years. I remember the day I picked up my first Nancy Drew. From that moment on I was hooked on reading and especially mysteries. My Mom told me I read through the 35 all ready published like lightening and couldn’t wait for new releases. In fact I wrote the publisher trying to get a schedule of when more books were coming out. I became a fan of Carolyn Keene and am one today for the contribution she made to my life.
I admired Nancy for her fierce independence, outspoken nature, her keen sense of adventure and respect for her father. She was a great role model for me during the turbulent times of the 60’s.
I use to wish she was my neighbor and I could join her on her adventures.

Marcia: I enjoy reading your newsletter as it helps to keep me up to date with series, authors, and new releases. My book club appreciates it too! It makes it much easier when we make our selections every 6 months. During my childhood, I was raised by my mother, an avid reader. I would read the encyclopedia Brittanica at home when I had nothing else to read. My favorite reads were biographies. I believe I checked out every biography we had in the library at my elementary school. I read those over and over. My librarian knew me by name and I always took an extra book home on weekends. My favorite was Abigail Adams and I am currently reading a “grown up” version about Abigail. I became a history major and love most parts, I wonder why?

Amy: My earliest favorites were two lesser known books, “The Terrible Mr. Twitmeyer” (about a lovable dog and the feared dog catcher) and “Willie’s Pockets” about a little boy and his new coat with lots of pockets. Literally wore them to pieces. (I didn’t own many books.) I have obtained copies of them in recent years, because of my fond memories. As I got older and discovered the library, HEIDI became my all time favorite. I could read it right now for the thousandth time. Loved the Shirley Temple movie. Other favorites I read over and over were classics: Charlotte’s Web, Wizard of Oz, Little Women, Black Beauty (still cry when I read it), Swiss Family Robertson, and Robinson Crusoe. As I hit middle school, I became a huge mystery fan when I read all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, moving on to Agatha Christi and Sherlock Holmes books. Mysteries are still my go-to books.

Linda O: Anything by Walter Farley, some Nancy Drew and oddly, anything by Louis L’Amour.

Marie: I, too, thought the ending of The Flight Attendant was ugh!
My most memorable book of my youth was probably A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. Another author I loved was Mary Stolz. One of her memorable book was The Day and the Way We Met.

Linda Tu: The earliest memories I have of reading (on my own) are from about age 12. Victoria Holt. Sweeping landscapes, romance within a mystery, starting my love of the mystery genre. I am 69 years old and, back then, women writers were certainly not as common as they are today.

As for my background, neither of my parents even finished junior high school. There were no books in my home growing up. Reading came natural to me and I think I can honestly say that I have never, in my life, been without a bookmark in a book that I’m reading. It’s one of the things that made me choose my husband of 46 years…..our voracious book appetites were in line with each other.

Linda Te: I actually have two most memorable novels from my youth:

Where the Red Fern Grows -(Also made into a movie I believe), unbelievable tear jerker!


Watership Down – about a colony of rabbits.

I would read them both again!

Kathleen: The novels of my youth. To me, that means childhood. Like you, Graeme, we were poor and there was no library in our neighborhood. My parents considered our few books very special and would only allow my brother and I to look at them on special occasions (usually when we were sick and cranky). Then I learned there was a bookmobile that came near our neighborhood once a week. It was a ten block walk one way but worth every step. I borrowed an abridged copy of Little Women and totally identified with all four of the March girls. Also The Jungle Book. I wished I had really cool friends like Bagheera and Baloo and Kaa. Then I found King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry. Read that two or three times and asked my grandmother to buy it for me for Xmas. Like you, I still have that book. This led me to more stories about horses, including the Black Stallion series. These are some of my favorite childhood books and I’m not ashamed to say that at age 69, I still reread them every few years.

Karen: My favorite books growing up were The Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew. As a teen, I remember reading Victoria Holt Novels, Jane Eyre, and books by V. C. Andrews (I guess it was my goth period). When I became an elementary school teacher, I always read Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White every year to my class for 30 years. Although not in my youth, it was my favorite book of all time.

Judith: Laughing. When I saw your question of the month several books immediately flashed, including an Enid Blyton series my sister and I, now both in our 70s, still re-read every few years.

There were eight books in this adventure series, two sets of siblings – Jack and LucyAnn, and Philip and Diana, who go to a all kinds of strange places with Jack’s parrot Kiki.

We also still re-read the Anne of Green Gables books and the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace.

That these books are all still being published and are available says a lot about their excellence.

Hazel: The Secret Garden, The Incredible Journey, All the Green Year, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe – to name just a few.

I still have most of my original copies and still read them occasionally. Then at about age 13 I sneaked an Agatha Christie from my sister and have been hooked on who-dunnits ever since.

Janice S: Hi Graeme, Just read your latest e-mail and wanted to tell you my favorite book series to read when I was young. I started reading Nancy Drew mystery novels and got hooked on them! I guess you could say that was the beginning of my love for reading mystery suspense novels and true crime books as an adult.

Also would like to thank you for reviewing the book “The Flight Attendant”. I’ve been thinking about reading it but after you expressed your dislike for the ending, I’ve decided not to read it. I like a book with a good ending!

Janice L: Two books stand out in my childhood reading, and I’ve read them both more than once since childhood:

Harbin’s Ridge by Henry E. Giles (The ending still stuns me.)

American Captain by Edwin Marshall

Janet: Hi Graeme,

You didn’t mention baseball in your sports lists, that is the only game I where I understand the rules well enough to play.

I grew up reading, I lived in N. Central California in the mid-1960s and had the worst allergies to anything that grew, so for a few years didn’t spend a lot of time outside. Those early years were anything Dr. Seuss. My Mom says I read every book in the library. Most of the books that come to mind are from a few years later but you can find many in the library a block from my house today. These are the ones I would read again now.

Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH by Robert C O’Brien. This one is imagination on steroids.

James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Ronald Dahl. These aren’t all smiles and roses but the stories will carry your imagination away.

The Chronicles of Narnia – the whole series by C.S. Lewis. Fantastic storylines make it so you can’t put it down.

Then the librarian turned me on to Old Yeller, Tom Sawyer, Little Women and other classics. I think I was 12 when I moved on to adult books. Agatha Christie, Danielle Stelle, Arthur C. Clarke. Isaac Asimov and Stephen King.

Over the years I have read just about every genre at some point in time. The western genre only lasted a short time when I was hooked on Louis L’Amour.

Reading Allison Brennan right now.

Craig: The first one that comes to mind automatically is My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George. We used to vacation in the Adirondack mountains, and this book had me ready to head back to those mountains and live there forever. Loved it so much that when I had kids of my own, I recommended it to them and they all shared the same feelings. Then, in a very different genre, I remember discovering The Executioner series by Don Pendleton at a used book fair. Devoured all of those-and was told by several teachers that they weren’t “appropriate” for reading at my age (I was somewhere in my early teens).

George: I grew up on the Hardy Boys mystery series. I couldn’t wait to read the next in the series. Then I started Science Fiction after reading Asimov’s I,Robot. And I embarked on a whole new area of reading and imagination.

Elizabeth: The most memorable novels of my youth would be David Eddings – The Belgariad and The Mallorean, and Brian Jaques’ Redwall series. They really shaped my reading taste.

Edith: Definitely got hooked on female detective/mystery genre by Carolyn Keene writing the Nancy Drew series. I loved the idea of girls being confident and competent outside hearth and home.

Mongoose218: Favorite books of my childhood: by far, the “Black Stallion” series of books by Walter Farley. I used my allowance money to buy each one, and they were so exciting to me…..!!!

Also, many many years later, loved the movie “The Black Stallion” which (for once!) followed the book very closely!

Highly recommend, even now, to any kid who likes to read!

Debbi: Favorite Book(s) of My Childhood: Although I’ve very fondly remembered these two good reads as outstanding in my memory, only one of them did I explore and try to find as an adult as a result of a discussion at work one day with a fellow bibliophile. It is, “The Mirror”, which I read when I was about 12 years old about a girl/young woman who had a large (I believe antique) floor-standing mirror that gave her a look into the past where she was pulled in and became the girl of that era, while the girl of that era was pulled into the mirror into present day–their lives exchanged for those periods they were in the mirror. Nothing really sci-fi’ish, but really thought provoking in how these two young people learned about living in each of those different times. My fellow bibliophi le said she ordered it for me but for whatever reason the book was not mentioned again. I searched for it myself superficially and saw several of the same title, but never went further.
The second most memorable book I often think of, again author unknown, is “Giants in the Earth” which I read at about 14. I just remember thinking it was an awesome book when completed, and that it was the thickest book I’d read, and turned in my book report. Lifemoved on. It is on the ilk of Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” (if memory serves me correctly).
I will now make an effort to look up those two memory makers–worth the effort!

Angela: There are so many books from my childhood. I just devoured books. Nancy Drew books, Narnia, The Hobbit and then the Lord of the Rings, of course. Andre Norton led me to Anne MacCaffrey and then into the Star Trek books. I still haven’t stopped, though I’m more into mysteries and history now.

Dawn: I agree with your comments on Lilian Jackson Braun’s “Cat Who….” books. I fell in love with them years ago, now own all of them. I even have her “Short and Tall Tales”, “the Private Life of the Cat Who….”, and “The Cat Who…Quiz Book”. When I was acquiring them, I corresponded with other fans who agreed that the last half dozen or so were different. We couldn’t decide if maybe someone else was writing for her (sort of ghost writer), or if perhaps Miss Braun was getting tired and running out of ideas. Hopefully without giving too much away, we also agreed that the last one “….Had 60 Whiskers” was very disappointing. I personally was hoping that “…Who Smelled Smoke” would be a redemption–that it would “fix” what I thought needed fixing. Alas, it was not to be (lol). Still loved them, and would whole-heartedly recommend them to anyone who likes cozy mysteries.
Another good series of cozies are the “Aunt Dimity” books by Nancy Atherton (yes I have those too, all but the last couple).

Chris: Hi Graeme,

Another interesting, informative newsletter. Although I read and enjoyed many books growing up, I think that the Anne of Green Gables series had the most impact on me. I enjoyed reading about a beautiful part of the world (Prince Edward Island) but the main character of Anne really touched me. She wasn’t a cookie cutter person who had a perfect little life–she had a rough beginning and struggled to be accepted as her own unique person. My best friend and my daughter also loved Anne of Green Gables and I’m hoping to get my granddaughter interested in her, as well!

Anna: I’m a new subscriber, and I stumbled over your website while looking for a listing of Mercedes Lackey books in series order. By the way, that book of hers that you have listed as Red as Blood actually ended up being titled Blood Red.

I also admit that I subscribed originally because I saw there was a chance to win an Amazon gift card, which I covet. Money is REALLY TIGHT in my household. But now, I’m glad that I subscribed because it’s interesting to read, even if I’m not interested in most of the “popular” authors. I’m a fanatical book worm, and it’s so hard to find talk about real books, rather than social media.

Since you mentioned that you like to talk books, I thought, as an exercise, that I would go back and answer some of the previous mailbag questions, as well as the one for May.

Memorable books from your youth: How do you expect me to choose? I suppose I have to say A Little Princess…I read that one so many times I had it memorized. Heidi was the same. And I adored a book by Kate Saredy called The Good Master. I borrowed it from the library so many times, and I was overjoyed to find a thrift store copy of it when I grew up. I also loved the Baby-Sitter’s Club series. My attraction was always to books that had female protagonists who led very different lives than me. And I always wanted a happy ending.

Genres you hate: westerns…I have a huge dislike for cowboys and the western setting in general. I loved romance when I was young, but now, I despise it. Incidental romance, when not graphically described, is fine, but I avoid the genre on the whole. It bores me. Horror frightens me too much to read, and “chick lit” is as vapid as it’s characters and not worth my time.

Mailbag Ideas: What about favorite “guilty pleasure” books? I’m sure lots of us have books/authors that we love to read but, for one reason or another, feel embarrassed to admit to others. Also, what about “comfort food” books, the books that you turn to when things go wrong, you’re said, depressed, need reassurance, etc…like a security blanket or chicken soup.

Short story recs: I love short stories, and it amazes me that the “classics” that I read in school have become my favorites. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s stories “Young Goodman Brown,” “The Minister’s Black Veil,” “The May-Pole of Merry-Mount,” and “The Grey Champion” are amazing. Then there is “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber, “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, “I Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olsen, and any number of stories by Edgar Allan Poe.

Worst Book to Movie Adaptations: Oh dear, hands down, the movie version of Susan Cooper’s book The Dark is Rising. It was called “The Seeker,” and it was HORRIBLE! Even the author admitted that she was dismayed. The company stripped all religious/mythological aspects from the movie (thus stripping the foundations of the plot) and created several romances for various characters which were NOT in the book at all. Also terrible was the recent movie version of A Wrinkle in Time written by Madeline L’engle. Take a beloved children’s classic novel and give it over to pure politics and make it into a tool to advance social agendas and you get the travesty of a movie that doesn’t even deserve to bear the title. Needless to say, every scrap of Christianity was stripped from the plot and the characters were cast in complete contradiction from their descriptions in the story.

Best Book to Movie Adaptations: Three come to mind, “The Nun’s Story,” “The Shoes of the Fisherman,” and “Joshua,” all three based on excellent books of the same title. Also, honorable mentions go to the movie versions of the same titles of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “The Help.”

Series You Can Reread: Mercedes Lackey’s Collegium Chronicles as well as her Elemental Masters series. And any Star Wars series, though I prefer the Legends Universe instead of the Disney canon.

Worst Book You Have Ever Read: Laurell K. Hamilton’s Skin Trade in which Anita Blake participates in an orgy that includes a sixteen-year-old boy…but of course, sixteen is legal in Las Vegas, where it happens. Yeah, I had been on the verge of dropping the author anyway. I did finish the book, but I was so disgusted that I not only disposed of the book, but the series and the author as well. Adults should not be in relationships with sixteen-year-old children, and supernatural mumbo-jumbo DOES NOT make it okay.

Dead Authors Series Being Revived: Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series was great, but once her son dropped in and then took it over…it was like a whole different series and nothing I wanted to read.

Memorable Scenes/Personal Memories: I lumped these together because they overlap for me. First, when I was in AP English in high school, I read “Bastard Out of Carolina.” There is a scene where Bones and her sister are at their aunt’s house, waiting for their mother to return from a night out. When their mother arrives, their uncle looks at her with an angry expression that Bones does not understand. Neither did I. I was a very sheltered teen because my teacher had to explain to me that Bones’ mother had gone out to prostitute herself in order to get money to buy food for Bones and her sister. That little revelation shocked me to the core.

Even before that, when I was in the ninth grade, my class was assigned to read Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising. There is a scene where Hawkins, Merriman’s human servant, has gone over to the Dark and is calling the Dark powers to attack the Light. Merriman offers Hawkin the chance to return, and he refuses. At the very end of the story, when Hawkin is lying paralyzed on the ground, Merriman attends Hawkin as he dies. Even though Merriman is supposed to be on the Light side, he has brought about the death of Hawkin for the sake of the “greater good.” That was the first time that I truly realized that, just because someone is “light” and “good,” that doesn’t mean that they will always make the best or even the right choices. They can use and abuse and manipulate and be as cruel as any “darkness” ever is. The only difference is, they usually get a pass.

Last Book You Couldn’t Put down: It’s a tie between A Scandal in Battersea and Steadfast both by Mercedes Lackey. They’re part of Lackey’s Elemental Masters series which is set in an alternate universe England in which magic and mental talents are real…and they are always set in the past. This is not urban fantasy. I’d call it historical fantasy. The amount of true historical detail that she includes in the books is amazing, and, until recently, I hadn’t realized how much I was actually learning in regards to historical details of particular time periods. The books are not so long that you get bored. Frequently, her books are classified as young adult. But trust me, they’re adult books though appropriate for older teens as well.

Order of Books » Newsletter » Reader Mailbag: Memorable Books From Your Youth

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