Rules: In a text post, list ten books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take but a few minutes, and don’t think too hard — they don’t have to be the “right” or “great” works, just the ones that have touched you. Tag [ten] friends, including me, so I’ll see your list. Make sure you let your friends know you’ve tagged them.
1. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I wrote a good chunk of my BA English Honors thesis about this book but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what I said - what I can say is that this book resonated for me so very much, just the economy of it, the beautiful lyrical spareness of it. So many little stories told so perfectly.
2. East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Officially the book that made me fall in love with Steinbeck, although I love all Steinbeck, even the books I don’t especially like (looking at you, Grapes of Wrath). This book is so epic and meandering and soapy and absorbing, one of few super-long books I’ve read that I felt earned its length. Also it’s so essentially Californian, as is so much of Steinbeck’s work. And biblical! The rivalry of brothers! I love it so much.
3. Speak by Laure Halse Anderson. The book that made me want to write YA, before writing YA was cool! Speak is so raw and real, and years later when I went on to become a therapist for victims of sexual violence, I found I appreciated even more how real it is and how unflinching and brave.
4. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. My parents read this book to me when I was a little kid, this and all 25 of the other Oz books, and I’m sure to the adult me they wouldn’t all seem so magical but as a child they were endlessly entertaining. As an adult I can appreciate Baum as a satirist and a creator of elaborate allegories, but ultimately these are just incredible children’s books. They helped make me a reader.
5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I think, my mom and I took turns reading this book aloud before bedtime. It probably took us a year to get through the whole thing, but it was a wonderful way to experience it. Bronte’s language becomes less dense when read aloud, and with my mom’s guidance I was able to understand it better than I ever could have on my own at that age. (We also did this with The Secret Garden, which should be on here as well.)
6. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. I think the first Dashiell Hammett I read was Red Harvest for a film noir class I took my senior year of high school, but this book is his masterpiece, so tight and smart and brutal. My obsession with mysteries continues apace, but I am still most drawn in by the hardboiled originals like Hammett and Chandler. I can’t articulate it exactly, but I love the way they use metaphor the best. These are mysteries as poetry written in blood.
7. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. I’ve been thinking about this book recently because of watching the silly BBC series The Musketeers, and it still sticks with me as one of the best “classic” books I’ve ever read. It’s great adventure storytelling, and it’s timeless. There’s a reason it’s been adapted a million times.
8. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. I know, I know. I don’t think this is necessarily the best Shakespeare play, but it stuck with me, maybe because I read it when I was about their ages, maybe because the language in it is so beautiful even if everything else about it is ridiculous. That story, too, of forbidden love, is so elemental.
9. Alanna by Tamora Pierce. I love this whole series, or at least the four that are about Alanna directly (I know she wrote a million more about Tortall, etc). These books are just so feminist and exciting and great, and I wish there were more books like this out there now for young girls. This book made me believe I could be the star of my own magical adventure story.
10. Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Just - I was a 13-year-old Jewish girl when I read it, and it made the Holocaust real to me in a way that nothing had before or has since.