Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Reading Life, Part 1

I’ve been on such a reading kick lately, voraciously reading whenever I can, that I decided I should make a couple of book lists too.  

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The library where I spent most of my grammar school days was designed so that you walked into the center of the building. To the right were all the children’s books, and to the left all the adult books. Each section was horseshoe shaped. It seemed that there were as many books on the children’s side as there were on the adult side. If you went to the children’s section and started at the left end of the horseshoe there were the books for younger children and as you made your way around the horseshoe you ended up on the opposite side, where there were books for young adults. 

I have so many wonderful memories of days spent in that library, including the embarrassing day I peed on the floor because I didn’t know where there was a bathroom and I was a mile from home.

I also remember the day that I very bravely walked into the adult wing of the building and took out my very first adult book, which happened to be a historical fictional book about Thomas Jefferson.

When I thought about making a list of 100 books, like I did of movies, and songs, I realized that it would be difficult to number a list of the books that touched me as a child because so many of them were book series written by favorite authors, so I thought I would write an entry of a bulleted list of series or single books which I remember fondly from my childhood. Some time later, I will try doing the same thing for adult books (no, not that kind of adult books!)
  • The Bobbsey Twins series by "Laura Lee Hope" may have been my very first "real" books that I read by myself.  I had to laugh, though, at the description given to the series on Amazon and wonder whoever wrote it and which editor let it pass:  This anthology is a thorough introduction to classic literature for those who have not yet experienced these literary masterworks. For those who have known and loved these works in the past, this is an invitation to reunite with old friends in a fresh new format. From Shakespeare's finesse to Oscar Wilde's wit, this unique collection brings together works as diverse and influential as The Pilgrim's Progress and Othello. As an anthology that invites readers to immerse themselves in the masterpieces of the literary giants, it is must-have addition to any library. 
    Wikipedia gives a much clearer description:  The Bobbsey Twins are the principal characters of what was, for many years, the Stratemeyer Syndicate's longest-running series of children's novels, penned under the pseudonym Laura Lee Hope. The first of 72 books was published in 1904, the last in 1979, with a separate series of 30 books published from 1987 through 1992. The books related the adventures of the children of the middle-class Bobbsey family, which included two sets of fraternal twins, Bert and Nan, who were 12 years old, and Flossie and Freddie, who were six.
  • The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sydney.  From Amazon's Book description:  Mrs. Pepper and her five lively children Ben, Polly, Joel, Davie, and Phronsie have had many hard times in the Little Brown House since the children's father died. But no matter how tough things get, the Little Peppers always handle their difficulties with great courage and cheer, They have learned to take delight even in the smallest of pleasures because the children are sure that good times are just around the corner. One day, the Peppers meet a wealthy gentleman and his young son who will change their lives forever. Could this finally be the beginning of the good times the Little Peppers have been waiting for?  I think I loved the Bobbsey Twins and the Five Little Peppers because the families were so happy, I liked the idea of the family working together and everything always turning out for the better.
  • The Black Stallion. I have already mentioned how much I loved all those books in the series by Walter Farley.  It was the first animal book I ever read and I fell in love with the Black, his son Satan, The Blood Bay Colt (Bonfire, who did harness racing), and The Island Stallion. I have been reading animal books ever since!
  • Silver Birch. This was the first book by Dorothy Lyons, who wrote books for young girls about girls who encountered and tamed wild horses. My favorite of her books was "Dark Sunshine," about a girl recovering from polio who was able to help herself and the wild horse she befriended. I found on Amazon that Lyons’ books, if you can find them, are selling for >$75 each. I should have kept my books!
  • Black Beauty.  I remember enjoying this book, but I never quite had the same passion for it that I did for Farley's books.
  • Nancy Drew books. I devoured these as a kid. I remember the section of The Emporium department store where they were kept and the first thing I did whenever I went to that store was to check to see if there were any new books. I didn’t find out until much later that they were churned out of a writing factory, under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.
  • Sue Barton books by Helen Dore Boylston. Sue was a nurse and I followed her through her entrance into nursing school through her retirement to raise her family. Seven books in all. I still smile when I remember that as a first year nursing student the older students sent her to look for a "neck tourniquet."
  • Cherry Ames books by Helen Wells were also about a young nurse.  I read them too, thinking at one time that I might like to be a nurse (until I thought about bedpans, which changed my mind!)
  • Albert Peyson Terhune books. Terhune wrote his short dog stories (he raised collies) for adults, but kids loved them. I devoured them and read them over and over again. I wanted Lad to be my dog. I saw pictures of "The Place" and the Master and Mistress once and, of course, it could not possibly match my view of The Place or its inhabitants.  The picture of the real Lad was a disappointment because he didn't look nearly as beautiful as the TV Lassie.
  • Bonnie's Boy.  I have tried to find reference to this book, which I loved because it was the story of a black cocker spaniel puppy that is trained by his boy (of course) to become a champion.  But it is a book that has dropped off the radar, which tells me how much of a "classic" it was!
  • Jane Eyre.  I did have my "classics period" and loved reading the love story of Jane and Rochester.  I read this one more than once.
  • Wuthering Heights.  I liked Jane Eyre better, but Heathcliff was a more attractive (to me) male love interest than the milktoast Rochester had been.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  I read this book over and over again, always weeping at Beth's death. I still love this story.  I read the sequels too, I think, but never quite took them the way I did to the original.
  • Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk.  I first read this in my teens and fell in love with the book.  I remember when Marjorie got the role of the Mikado in the operetta of the same name, when she was attending Hunter College, and saved the show.   This was long before Gilbert & Sullivan entered my life! In reading the Wikipedia summary of the book, I see that I missed most of the nuances in the plot (which I frequently do!)
  • Toby Tyler, or 10 Weeks with the Circus by James Otis.  What kid doesn't dream of running away with the circus.  Toby Tyler, a 10 year old orphan actually did it, leaving the foster home to join a traveling circus, only to find that life under a cruel ringmaster is worse than being in a foster home.
  • Call of the Wild by Jack London.  There were a lot of dog books I read, but only a few of them stand out.  This Jack London book was one of them.  The story of Buck, a dog living the good life in California who is stolen and transorted to the Yukon where he escapes and has to learn how to make it on his own.
  • White Fang was another Jack London book, where a wolf-dog endures great hardship before coming to trust man.
  • The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss.  How I loved this story of the shipwrecked family that learned to survive on a deserted island.
I know there were lots of other books that I loved from the young people's side of the public library, but I can't remember them now.  There was a big section of "career novels" (as I think of them), each one telling the story of a young girl starting out in a certain career (that's where the nurse books were).  I remember being taken by one of a girl who became a survey taker.  Don't know why I liked that one so much or what the name of it was, but I remember it having such an impact that I thought it might be fun to go door to door with my little clipboard and ask people questions about their likes and dislikes.

There were also a lot of religious books that I read from the school library.   My favorite books were always about St. Terese of Lisieux, "The Little Flower," whose story made me want to enter a cloistered nunnery.  I was very suggestible as a child!!!

Some time later, when I can't think of another topic to write about, I'll investigate the books I've read as an adult that I remember fondly, or that had an impact on me.


Harriet said...

Someone would give me one series book, and I would be stuck. The library never carried the Stratemeyer series, any of them. But I learned to look for career books.

Adele de Leeuw was the author I remember best. All of us read a lot of fiction back then, and learned from it.

Kwizgiver said...

So many books shaped me as a reader. And as a person.