When I was in elementary school, I honestly thought that I hated to read. I have no idea why I believed this; probably it had something to do with the utterly boring “see Spot run” stuff we were forced to read in school when we were first learning. But eventually I discovered the magic of reading, and I’ve certainly never turned back! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is those “gateway” books and authors that introduced us to a new genre or to the love of reading in general. Here are ten of mine, in no particular order:
1. The Hardy Boys mysteries by Franklin W. Dixon — These are some of the first books I remember reading and loving; I’d check out at least two or three every time I went to the library. Yet for some reason I never really got into Nancy Drew…
2. Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman — I think I had to read this one year in school, and I think it’s responsible for my ongoing interest in the Middle Ages. It gives a lot of great details about what life was like during that time from a young girl’s perspective.
3. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh — This is the book that introduced me to the idea of keeping a journal. And for a brief period in my childhood, my best friend and I totally used to “spy” on the neighbors!
4. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley — This wasn’t my first encounter with Robin McKinley, but as far as I can remember, it was the book that introduced me to the fantasy genre as something more than kiddie fairy tales. It also made me realize that I needed to read all of McKinley’s other books IMMEDIATELY.
5. Pierced by a Sword by Bud MacFarlane, Jr. — Looking back on it, this book isn’t terribly well-written, but it’s one of the few books I can genuinely say changed my life. It presented my religion (Catholicism) in a way that made sense to me, and I’ve become much more serious about my faith because of it. Obviously not a book for everyone, but it definitely resonated with me!
6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen — This was the book that really catapulted me from the youth section of the library to the adult section. (Seriously — I went directly from the Sweet Valley Twins to Jane Austen!) Not only did I discover my new favorite book of all time, but I quickly fell in love with the classics of English literature, which have given me countless hours of enjoyment ever since.
7. Murder in Retrospect by Agatha Christie (a.k.a. Five Little Pigs) — My first Agatha Christie, which then sparked an enormous reading binge in my early teens as I plowed through ALL of her mysteries. Though I’d read and loved mystery stories before, Christie became (and still is) the gold standard for clever, well-written whodunits.
8. Shards of Honor and Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold — I honestly think these were the first science fiction books I ever read (aside from required school reading like 1984). Spaceships, aliens, light sabers…they just didn’t seem very interesting to me. But these books from the Vorkosigan series showed me that sci-fi can be just as moving and character-driven and emotionally resonant as any other genre.
9. Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James — This is the book that convinced me that not all romance novels are terrible. I used to wander through the romance section of a a bookstores with my friends and giggle at the melodramatic cover blurbs and embarrassing cover art. (And I have to say, that’s still fun to do sometimes!) But this novel is not only sexy; it’s also funny and clever and a lot of fun! So while I’m still not quite a romance novel lover, I’m much more open to reading and enjoying some authors in this genre.
10. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson — This novel introduced me to a whole new literary world that I never knew existed: female British writers of the 20th century. It’s a weirdly specific niche, but I have found so many LOVELY books fitting that description. Sometimes you just want a sweet, wholesome comfort read that evokes a simpler time, and books like Miss Pettigrew absolutely fit the bill.