Today is a freebie week for Top Ten Tuesday and I was inspired by this post from I Wish I Lived in a Library. It’s interesting to look back over the different reading phases you go through in your life, and I found myself taking several fond trips back down memory lane while putting this post together. I also found myself wishing that I’d kept more of these books during my six-year-long reading hiatus because now I want to go back and read them all again. Some of them will be hard to find. Argh. Let this be a lesson, fellow bookworms. Even if you’re in excruciating pain and don’t see any relief in sight and you think, “Reading is pretty much over for me as a hobby” … DON’T LOSE HOPE – and for goodness sake KEEP THE BOOKS.
The books I’ve selected aren’t necessarily my all-time favorite books (I covered those in a different top ten Tuesday post earlier this year) and they aren’t even a fraction of the books I’ve read but they are a good representation of the style and genre I was reading at each age that I’m spotlighting. Speaking of which, I’ve divided this into 10 age brackets … but there are definitely more than 10 books here. Do you know how DIFFICULT it is to narrow things down to ONE BOOK that represents your reading preferences for that age range? These are the kinds of mental and emotional sacrifices I happily make for you, my loyal readers, on a daily basis 😉
Oh – and I kept it to really only fiction because the post was getting long enough anyway lol. Because I’m old.
I am blessed to have parents and grandparents who read to me from infancy onward – A LOT. Family friends too. My first word was even “book” – no joke.
They read me the Little Golden Books and nursery rhymes and – of course – Pat the Bunny.
Such an enduring classic – and I love that this is one of my nephew’s favorite books right now too!
By this age range, I was reading on my own and that included the newspaper, the cereal box, the 2nd chapter of Philippians to my dad while he was shaving. While I never formally learned to read, I’d had it modeled so well for me – and so often – that I took to it naturally and quickly. Parents, grandparents, cool aunts (and uncles) – READ TO YOUR KIDS! It makes a difference!
One of my early favorites right at the cusp of learning to read on my own was the Little Golden Book version of Cinderella. I knew if (when) my parents ‘kipped a page and I’m sure none were more relieved than they when I could read this one on my own 😉 Fairy tales are still a huge part of my book list and Cinderella stories remain among my favorites. Prince Charming was absolutely my first book boyfriend. He set a high standard.
I also loved the Muffin Family books by V. Gilbert Beers – a series that featured simplified Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments. Each Bible story was followed by a related application-type story revolving around siblings Maxi and Mini Muffin and their various adventures. I still remember sitting on my parents’ laps to read these books together and can even picture the illustrations.
My love of mysteries began here with none other than Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden and The Boxcar Children and The Bobbsey Twins. Even my grandpa’s old Erle Stanley Gardner Perry Mason novels, which I do still have, thankyouverymuch. I devoured any and all of these books that I could get my hands on. I became Nancy and Trixie and “Carrie Mason” when I went outside to play… you know, until I got hopelessly lost on my bike. But y’all – it’s HARD to spy on your neighbors and remember which street you turned down at the same time!
It was also around this time that my parents read the Little House books with me each night. I’m pretty sure I wanted to be both Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder – if I could have pulled it off simultaneously, that would have been even better. This series is a lifelong sentimental favorite for me, and I still have my original yellow box set! While this isn’t historical fiction, per se, it sparked a love of history in story form that I’ve never gotten over.
AND I absolutely cannot forget to mention The Chronicles of Narnia here. My third grade teacher read them to us each day after recess. I think we made it through book 3 – the original/correct order – in school and then my parents and I read them together after that. Again, I still have my original set and they remain books that I re-read to this day.
Ohhh middle school. I wouldn’t re-live you for all the money in the world. But I do still love the books I read when I was trying to survive you.
My introduction into Christian fiction started with Janette Oke and her Love Comes Softly series (and then her Canadian West and Women of the West series too). This is a series I most regret loaning out and never getting back. One of my bookish bucket list goals is to once again own it because it really is the foundation for nearly everything I read today. Even though it’s a historical fiction romance series, most of the contemporary books I read can find their roots in my love for Clark & Marty Davis and their family because it led me to “Christian fiction” as a genre. And, as I stated a couple of weeks ago, I do so love this genre.
Judy Baer’s Cedar River Daydreams series was another favorite during middle school, even though it was written about a set of friends in high school. I got caught up in Lexi and her crush on Todd (and vice versa) and all the teenage angst that their social group had to face. Interestingly enough, one of the books – Tomorrow’s Promise – prepared me well in advance, even as a pre-teen, for the season of Alzheimer’s we would walk through with my grandmother over 20 years later. The wisdom that God hasn’t abandoned us – or our loved one with Alzheimer’s – that He can speak to them on a level that we don’t comprehend or even see – stayed with me over all those years and really helped solidify my trust in God when I faced those same questions with my beloved grandmother.
I first read Pride and Prejudice in high school, and I can honestly say it was one of the few books I was assigned in that AP English class that I actually enjoyed reading 🙂 It’s also one of the only Jane Austen books that I love from cover to cover, with the exception of Persuasion. There are parts of each of her other books that I love … and parts that I sigh heavily and plod through because … hello… it’s Jane Austen.
Francine Rivers showed up on my radar around this time as well. Redeeming Love, The Last Sin Eater, The Scarlet Thread. All three of these books gave me a deeper love for God because they depicted so vividly the exquisite and persistent tenderness of His love for me. I read and re-read them each many times – all so different from each other and all so different from anything I’d previously read. They are also all books that have stayed with me even though it’s been years and years since I’ve read any of them.
I can’t forget the Glenbrooke series by Robin Jones Gunn either! These were some of the first contemporary romances I read, and I fell head over heels for them! I’ve been slowly collecting these books again when I find a good sale, but I’m unapologetically going for the versions with the newer covers 😉
Now, I did love college … but books stayed a much-needed escape from studying and lesson plans and bulletin boards and papers. (Can you tell I was an education major? lol) I also had a mini fiction library in my dorm room and my friends frequently came in and out to borrow the latest Palisades Pure Romance or Terri Blackstock book.
The Palisades Pure Romance books were a line of Christian fiction contemporary romances that became must-reads for me with the Glenbrooke series that I mentioned above. I LOVED these books and they introduced me to several new-to-me authors, most of which I haven’t seen a book from since the line was discontinued. Which makes me sad. A couple of stand-out favorites for me (besides the Robin Jones Gunn series) were Forget Me Not by Shari MacDonald (set in England – be still my heart) and Newlywed Games by Mary Davis (one of my favorite “fake marriage” stories), both of which I still own. They are well-read copies but I’m glad I hung on to them.
The Heirs of Cahira O’Connor series by Angela Elwell Hunt was another series I inhaled during this time – one of my first experiences with dual timeline fiction. An absolutely captivating story arc that ties all 4 books together – women bound together by their ancestry, their striking hair, and their courageous push against the restrictions of society. Spanning 13th century Ireland to 15th century Prague to a 17th century Dutch colony to 19th century Civil War-ridden America … and the modern descendant who thinks she’s only meant to record their stories.
Terri Blackstock’s Suncoast Chronicles series and Newpointe 911 as well as Dee Henderson’s O’Malley Family series were not only my favorites during this time but they really became the standard for Christian fiction mystery/suspense. The kind with FBI agents and police and crimes… I’m not talking about speculative fiction here. The mystery/suspense genre in Christian fiction is blessed with many wonderful authors now but, at the time, these two authors really were the genre.
I kept reading mysteries here, including Mary Higgins Clark and Maureen Jennings. But my voracious reading superpower met its Kryptonite in the form of a wisdom tooth extraction gone painfully awry. The resulting treatment, further surgeries, depression, and high levels of pain made it nearly impossible for me to continue reading as I had been. Non-fiction became more my thing because I could take it in small doses without feeling like I absolutely needed to know what happened in the story & being frustrated that I couldn’t keep reading to find out.
But I also started teaching English as a Second/Other Language during this age range and in the process I discovered Safely Home by Randy Alcorn – a book that impacted me more than any other fiction book. More than almost any nonfiction book besides the Bible, too. I have bought this book so frequently with the sole purpose of giving it away that I actually do not currently own a copy for myself lol.
I did, however, manage to inhale all of the Harry Potter books. Finally. Years from now, if I’m still blogging, or if someone asks me to name a favorite series of books, these will still be at the top of my list. Always.
Thanks to a miracle from God and my awesome dentist, I finally – FINALLY – experienced pain-free days after 6 years of that nightmare. And then the days turned to weeks and then months and I picked up a book and read the whole thing IN ONE SITTING and knew my superpower had come back to me. <blissful sigh of contentment>
Below is a photo of my very first library haul in SIX YEARS!! I remember feeling like I was meeting old friends again – even though all of these books and authors were new to me (Christian fiction had changed A LOT during my time away, thankfully for the better).
In fact, I still get a bit emotional looking at that picture. Because now? On the upper side of 30? I get to read ALL THE BOOKS again! And so… I do 🙂
What about you? What books define certain age ranges for YOU? Let me know in the comments and be sure to link up your Top Ten Tuesday post if you participated this week!