As a person who writes about books for a living, I try to read only the ones that are substantive, current, relevant, or pretentious. It’s pretty easy for me because I’m a nerd who likes to lecture other people about the importance of reading (and never admits to binge-watching 1990s sitcoms on Netflix). But now I’m home for the holidays and it’s cozy as all hell and I just can’t do it.
I tried to pick up my substantive, current, and pretentious book. I really did. But a voice from within called out and said, “Screw it.” So when no one was looking, I crept up to the attic where we keep my childhood library on dusty bookshelves. And I secreted away a Young Adult thriller I loved when I was 14. Promise not to tell my friends.
I curled up in my old chair. I wore plaid pajama bottoms and one of my dad’s old sweatshirts. There was a cup of tea and a pile of Oreos and mystery about a teenage girl being haunted by her evil twin. I had recreated my only good memory from adolescence (without the pimples, frizzy hair, braces, and all those fun things.) It was awesome.
Sure, regressing back to puberty probably isn’t super healthy. But what the hell? I’m not reading Freud today, so he and his opinions on the defense mechanisms of the ego can bite me. You gotta try it. Creep up to your attic and see if you have any of these titles on your shelves. I promise you, they’re still fun.
Stranger With My Face by Lois Duncan
Lois Duncan is the queen of the my-sleepy-home-town-is-as-creepy-as-fu... hell genre. If you thought I Know What You Did Last Summer was scary, you ain't seen nothing yet. This one is about Laurie, a teenager in a sleepy town who discovers her doppelgänger is an INSANE ASTRAL PROJECTION. It's up to Laurie, her moody boyfriend with half his face burned off, and a spunky kid sister to kill the evil astrally projected doppelgänger. Think about that sentence. It may be the best one ever written.
The Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene
My only problem with Nancy Drew is that she friggin' knows how to do everything perfectly and she gave me a real inferiority complex as a pre-teen. I was like, "I gotta learn to be a crime solving, ballet dancing, horseback riding, haute cuisine cooking, bag-pipe playing, spelunking (I may have made this one up) genius by the time I'm 18?! Crap." But you have to admit, she has style. And now when I read these books I just keep waiting for George and Bess to figure out where the anger is coming from.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
You know why. You know why.
An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L'Engle
One of favorite things about the epic series reread is that you can skip the starters and go straight to your favorite. Of Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet, this one is the one I love most.It involves time travel, Druids, adorable Connecticut grandparents, and a redhead who means business.
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
I still fantasize about boarding a ship a passenger and docking as its captain. I mean, I don't want to sleep in a hammock, eat that disgusting food, climb those slippery ropes, or work that hard, really. But everything else sounds fantastic. Charlotte Doyle gave me that dream, and made it so I could live that life without having to eat anything gross or do anything scary.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
The YA books we never forget are the ones that addressed kid fears in a not condescending, non-sentimental way. Island of the Blue Dolphins didn't coddle us. And it was about the worst fear; that our families could go away and never come back. But this story is filled with hope, too. It said, "Yes, it could happen. But you'll get by." This was the first book to suggest to me I might be stronger than I thought, and for that I am grateful.
Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
There are few truly great dads in fiction. Mostly they tend toward your King Lear crazies, your John Cheever drunks, or your Humbert Humbert gross-outs. Among the truly good dads are Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, and Danny's father William in Danny the Champion of the World.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
This is the book that introduced young nerds to our love for historical fiction. After reading this World War II adventure of capture and escape, I could not, for the life of me, figure out why my history teachers insisted on ramming textbooks in our faces. Oh, they wanted to teach us specifics? Truth? Dates? Well I don't remember when we had the War of 1812, but I remember the soldiers standing on the street corners in Number the Stars.
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Do you really think you keep visiting the Met because you just gotta see that Temple of Dendur again? Hell no. The truth is, in a back corner of your brain, you're looking for places to hide when the musuem closes, so that you can finally (Finally!) live this book for yourself.