5 Books That Shaped My Childhood

I’ve been really grateful in the last few months that my personal library was pretty well stocked pre-covid. It has kept me comfortable knowing I have lots to read in the house pretty much no matter how long COVID goes on (yes I have a bit of a problem with buying books).

I have been making an effort in the last year or so to only keep the books in my library that have really made a deep impression on me, a single shelf of to-be-read titles, and to donate the books that are less special to me.

I’ve been enjoying shopping my library and it got me thinking about some of the books I’ve made permanent members of my book collection (because they are so good I will never give them up) but also all of the books I have read over the years and how they have changed me.

I thought I would share some of them share with you, in case you were looking for books to read, but also just to share how they impacted me. I personally love reading about how books have influenced other people and what they thought of them.

These are 5 titles that shaped my understanding of the world as a young person and that formed my love of reading. (FYI There might be spoilers ahead!)

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

This is without a doubt the book that got me into reading. I read it in the 5th grade, I was the same age as the main character Winnie, and it is what kicked off my love of reading. It really had it all for me: romance, family drama, adventure, fantasy & magic, and deep philosophical discussions about life. This book has profound discussions about the cycle of life and death, living forever, and loss. The moment that struck me most is the discussion that Winnie has with Angus Tuck about the not-so-nice aspects of living forever and the balance of life and death. This conversation helped me to come to terms with the necessity of death, but in some ways also how it can be seen as beautiful and natural.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I read this book in the 9th grade, probably like many other millennials, as it is a common choice in schools. I loved the main characters, two vibrant young children curious about the world around them. I was deeply moved by the discussions about big issues like racism and prejudice, justice, and social exclusion. I also enjoyed the social dynamics of the small town. Atticus provided deep fatherly wisdom and discussed the complicated nature of justice. It is a story that made me angry about the injustices we live with every day but also inspired me by showing how we are all capable of making change.

Skellig by David Almond

This is a strange little book but also one that really marked me. The story follows a young boy and his discovery of a strange creature in the back of a shed in a new house his family has moved to. He is very sickly and the boy nurtures him back to health by bringing him food. It has a fantastical element to it that I enjoyed, and was occasionally frightened by, but it also discussed changes in life and complicated family dynamics. The illustration of friendship, companionship, as well as taking care of others despite being afraid of them or even grossed out by them was quite heartwarming. It also discusses themes of loneliness and isolation and the importance of both connection with and caring for others.

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I read this one, but I think maybe grade 8. The story follows a young teenage girl who is killed by a car while riding her bicycle. The girl journeys to the afterlife, a place called Elsewhere, where you live your life while aging backwards until you are an infant at which point you are sent back to earth. Really, it is an illustration of a kind of reincarnation. The book has powerful discussions on life, death, and grief. This book really impacted my ideas about life after death and what that might be like, but also on living with loss as the main character learns to live with the loss of a life she didn’t get to have.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

I read this book in grade 6 I think. It was another one I read in school. Its discussions about the complicated nature of people, whether or not they are good or bad despite their actions was very interesting to me. It also has discussions of poverty, class divisions, and of the experience of being written off by society early on in life. I was also deeply affected by some of the hard realities depicted in this book, particularly the unexpected death of one of the main characters.

It’s amazing just how much books can impact us especially when we are young. These are definitely titles I’ll never forget and hope to one day share with children of my own. I would also recommend them for adults too!

All 5 of these titles greatly informed my personal philosophy, the way I view the world, as well as my understanding of the nature of people and my spirituality. They really helped me to grapple with some of life’s big questions.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read any of these titles or what books impacted your childhood?

Write soon,

Hannah B.L.

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