Do you remember the first book you really connected with? The book that made you feel something? Made you disappear into another world, whether it was one of joy or adventure or fear or depression?
Some of those books were the ones your parents gave you, the classics of their childhoods that are still being read by kids today. (Gen Z, right? That's a thing now apparently? Makes me think of zombies, but whatever. I guess the next generation will go back to A again?) Then there were the other books — the ones that really defined our experiences while we were living them.
Maybe these books weren't "cool," or heralded as the most influential of lit, or whatever. But screw cool, 'cause any book that made you a reader should totally be treasured! Reading is the most magical thing on this planet! There's more fairy dust between the pages of books than there is in all the body glitter in the world! OK, these exclamation points are getting exhausting, but you get where I'm going with this one.
You may love your longform.org stories now, and possibly read your books digitally, but don't forget that you learned to love the written word on the page. Remember these books that made you fall head over heels for reading?
The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Of course you remember these. Everyone remembers these. I know I'm not alone in having these books be my real gateway into bookaholism.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Feisty redheaded little brat (we're big girls now, we can admit she was insanely spoiled, OK?) learns to love and to be kind even after being dumped by her dad in a strange land (England). Because she finds a garden and helps a boy to walk. And the garden is just too beautiful to be true, and it makes you want to jump into the page and be in that garden with them. And let's not forget...
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This one is sort of similar in concept (English girl raised in India dumped back in England) except this time there is kindness right from the start, and there is a Dickensian feeling of unfairness up until the very end and the happily ever after. The descriptions of everything (dresses, dolls, exquisite furniture, dank attics and playing pretend) are so pretty, and the friendships between Sara and everyone else are so believable. And there's a mouse and monkey and sparrows she makes friends with! Sara isn't a real princess. But you know who is?
The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot
I never really got the appeal of other girls wanting to be princesses. Which is why I really really got the appeal of not wanting to be a princess, ever, not in a million years, especially when you feel like a dork with a weird body and strange desires and an obsession with cats and lists. Also, there's something about Mia and her mom that always reminds me of Gilmore Girls, and you know you want to read anything resembling that show.
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
Maybe it was Gossip Girl for you, but in terms of blunt awesome girls fumbling their way through life, this was one of my faves. It's ridiculous and hilarious and revealed a lot of what everyone was thinking about all the time anyway (sex, our bodies, dating, our pets). Because, well, French kissing (aka snogging) is a big deal when you're 10 and think it's super-gross (and it's also super fascinating to read about for the same reason).
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
I know a lot of kids thought her story was a big yawn, but some of us really liked Anne. Or, well, we liked her plump blonde friend who was super nice (and also plump, which was considered more beautiful than Anne's skinniness, and for some of us that felt pretty awesome and was a good factor to make us keep reading).
The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce
Were you a nerdy kid and into fantasy? I know I was, but only after I started reading Alanna, the first book in the series. It was also the first book I read in 24 hours (not that's it's so long, but for an 11-year-old who wasn't yet a huge reader, finishing 200-plus pages so fast was a really big deal). And then, of course, came the inevitable Tamora Pierce addiction, and I read her books one after the other... and yes, I'm still reading (and rereading) her books today.
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Adventures, a redhead, treasure, oh my! Pippi was such a role model for so many of us because of her sheer wildness, and her stories were just insane. Maybe she was the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl? (Or am I crazy?)
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
If you were a late bloomer (or read Dessen just a bit too young... *guilty*) this book got to your core. First of all, there's swearing and alcohol and sex in it. It's like Heathers, but waaaay better and more relatable. And if you're a die-hard Dessen-reader, you know that the protagonist, Remy, and her adorable Dexter stay together for quite a while, which is pretty comforting.
His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
Another series of books that found its way to the hearts of little geek kids, the His Dark Materials series features intelligent children, complicated adults, and the idea that none of those who read these novels has ever given up on: that people have demons, spirit-animals of sorts, who are with us all the time but in the flesh. I'm still waiting for mine to show up, but then again... I'm also still waiting for my letter from Hogwarts.