The Lizard Queen will be Internet-quarantined from this Sunday to Wednesday, on a mandatory professional development faculty retreat (woo-hoo), so I’ll leave my readers with this question: What books that you read as a kid changed your life such that you wouldn’t be *you* today if it weren’t for those books and, in fact, you can still read them today and still feel what you felt back then and maybe more so?
I read a lot, so it’s not so much individual books but really series that changed my life with some exceptions, and my parents didn’t censor what I read — they were just happy that I read books at all — so some of my choices may not have been exactly kid friendly but were exactly what I needed.
So, in chronological order:
1) Childcraft Books series, all 15 volumes of them, including the “Parent’s Guide”. My mom got this for me when I was seven years old, and it took me two years to read it all. This series got me on the road to being an autodidact, on knowing just a little bit of everything in the sciences, the arts, the humanities, all of that.
2) _The Chronicles of Narnia_ by C.S. Lewis. Oh my readers, I first read an excerpt of _The Lion , the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in a kid’s mag called _Cricket_ when I felt very alone at age 10, flying many thousands of feet in the air on a Pan Am flight from Guam, with my family very far away in the Philippines. Lucy’s meeting with Mr. Tumnus made me forget my own troubles, and I have loved C.S. Lewis ever since. I was lucky enough to read all seven of the Narnia books in school, for seventh and eighth grade Reading classes. I *will* see the movie on December 9; I saw the trailer for it as part of the previews in front of _Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith_.
3) _A Wrinkle in Time_ when I was 12 years old. In fact, I bought the then trilogy (they’re four books now) all with my money, saved up from school lunches not bought, in order to buy the trilogy. Tesseract, kything, mitochondria, Echthroi, and the power of love to transcend space, time, and even death. I still have that trilogy that I bought to this day.
4) Margaret Mahy’s _The Changeover_, when I was 14 years old. It’s the only fantasy book that Mahy ever wrote, and Laura Chant (the sensitive), and Sorenson Carlisle (the male witch whose emotions are broken) in modern-day New Zealand gave words to some odd things that was going on around me at the time and even prepared me for some things when I was in college.
5) Douglas Adams’ _The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy_ and the subsequent books, when I was 15 years old. Being a weird, geeky person is good. What’s the whole point of being angsty and all of that crap when, objectively speaking, it’s all just absurdly funny?
6) Robert Heinlein’s _Time Enough for Love_, when I was 16 years old. This was my father’s book, one of many sci-fi and fantasy novels that kept him sane during his time at Diego Garcia, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Coming home, he gave his copy to me, and Heinlein’s character, Lazarus Long, also gave words to things that I felt but didn’t have my own words to say. Love knows no boundaries. Love one another. Love life. Live.
7) Robert Fulghum’s _All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten_ et al. Just how funny being a human being can be. Just how stupid we can be. Just how much we need each other if we’re to live in this world. All that, and I was 17 years old, it was my senior year in high school, and I just realized I didn’t know *crap*.
Certainly, there were other books, but these are what survived the cull, when I would winnow down my library to make room for more books — these are the books I can’t part with (although my sister has my Childcraft books). And then I went to college, read a lot of required reading, discovered John Milton, Dante Aligheri, Flannery O’Connor, Ursula LeGuin, and J.R.R. Tolkien — but all of that wouldn’t have happened without the seven books/series from my childhood.
So, my readers, while I’m gone — what are yours?