Elliott Family

Elliott Family

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Memories of a Book Worm

My cousin, Gretchen, has a very amusing blog that I love to read.  She has always been a great story teller, so when she started blogging I looked forward to reading some of the stories I remember her telling when we were kids.  She has a great memory for details; she remembers way more about her childhood than I do!  She recently did a post about some of her favorite books from her childhood.  I imagine that her mom (my Aunt Kim) was similar to my mom.  My mom could NEVER say no to books.  We always got books at the school book fairs; I remember anxiously awaiting every trip to Hills (Remember the old department store?  It was kinda like a Kmart except it was awesome).  My mom bought me a book almost every time we set foot in that store.  Okay, dad, not every time.  I won't give away all of our secrets.  I remember trekking to the library with my brother and sister - and our wagon.  We would fill the wagon until it was overflowing and haul it back home, then spend the day reading.  Wake up the next day - repeat.  I would also spend afternoons rearranging my book collection on my bookshelf.  My sister and I would read the backs of the books and see if the other person could guess the title.  Doesn't sound too hard until you're guessing the title of 1 of a hundred Sweet Valley High books!

I both spent my high school afternoons working at my local library, shelving books and scoping out all the new titles.  I loved being able to get my hands on them first!  I was always excited when something new would come in that I thought my grandmother would love.  It seemed like every time we visited my grandma she was curled up at the end of her couch with a pile of books.

Those were the good old days, but I still find that a trip to the library ALONE is an extra special treat!!  Taking the kids is fun, too, but in a completely different and chaotic kind of way.  Scotte and I often end up at Barnes & Noble for date night.  I don't care if all of this makes me a nerd, because it makes me totally happy.

I have a serious book addiction for my kids now.  When a Scholastic book order comes home in the backpack, I swear I am only going to let the kids pick one book each.  Fifty dollars later.... I'm a sucker.  They know by now that I will deny toys when we are out shopping, so they eventually grab a book and the rest is history.  Plus, if you saw how many books I purchased at our recent school book fair...Oh, well, I can't help myself.  I figure there are worse addictions.

After reading Gretchen's bookworm post, I almost immediately dug my two dusty boxes of books from my childhood out of our grimy basement.  My only regret - I can't really see my boys reading most of these treasures, and I'm sure no one else will appreciate them.  It was so fun to look through those boxes and reminisce, and it wasn't too surprising to realize that I still read the same types of books I did then, for the most part - just the grown-up versions.

Okay, here is my copycat version of Memories of a Book Worm.  These are my books:
Where the Red Fern Grows By Wilson Rawls

This is the first book I can recall that left me crying hysterically in the bathroom.  Until reading this, I had NO IDEA that it was possible to lose it over some words on a page, and to this day, any book that leaves me crying is a winner.  For some reason, animal deaths always have the end result of me with snot running down my face.

I will always remember how the main character, Billy, had so much determination to succeed.  I hope when I share this book with my boys when they are older that  at least one of them will love it as much as I do.  Most of my books might not interest them, but this one is a keeper.

All Nancy Drew Books By Carolyn Keene
It would be wrong for me to put anything on here next other than Nancy Drew.  When I was a kid I read the original 56 books.  Then, they built on the original with paperback books going well into the hundreds.  I found a new one practically every time we went to Hills.  Plus, there were The Nancy Drew Files, and there are well over a hundred of those.  These books were a serious addiction for me, and I was sure I would be just like Nancy Drew when I was eighteen.  Okay, not really.  They still make new Nancy Drew books and I am always tempted to buy them.  I'm sure they have updated some crucial elements.  Nancy probably doesn't receive telegrams anymore, but possibly mysterious text messages. Perhaps she no longer uses terms like "keen" and "foul play."  I'm not sure, but I am tempted to read one just to find out... I still love a good mystery.

Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley Twins created by Francine Pascal
I still enjoy the occasional chick lit novel just to lighten things up.  These are akin to watching soap operas - when your brain just doesn't want to think too hard.  I know it all began for me in Sweet Valley.  My sister had every Sweet Valley High book and I had all the Sweet Valley Twins books.  The beauty was that we would swap and read both of them.  I always hated Jessica and wanted to be exactly like Elizabeth.  Who didn't?  Eventually they had Sweet Valley University, and I think I read a couple of them.  Recently they released the adult version - Sweet Valley Confidential.  Of course, I had to read that, too.  And it was horrible.  I am so very tempted to read a few of these again to see if they still have any charm now that I'm an old lady.

I am sure that reading these types of books is also what makes me love reading any books now that are part of a series or have a number of sequels.  I often have great remorse when I finish a book and I have to let characters go.  I often don't feel like it's time for a story to end, and that authors just quit books because they are tired of writing them.  Give me a good series any day and I can read about the same characters for months!  Heaven!

Ghosts Beneath Our Feet By Betty Ren Wright

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
 Even at a young age I was drawn to supernatural tales.  The spookier the better.  I devoured anything by Betty Ren Wright or Mary Downing Hahn.  In my high school years I couldn't stop reading Dean Koontz and Stephen King, and I still read both of those authors today.  I think this all stems from the fact that people swear we had a ghost in our house when I was a kid.  We lived in an old yellow house and a lot of scary things happened all the time.  If you ask me if I believe in ghosts today, I will probably say "yes" but it's only because I have witnessed it with my own eyes.  I will not go into the stories here for fear that everyone I know will think we are all crazy, but believe me...

These are the first books I read as a kid where I can recall simply not being able to stop reading them.  They were like an obsession!  How could I possibly put down a book with such suspense, when the story was unfolding right before my eyes.  My favorite kind of book!!

Six Months to Live By Lurlene McDaniel
Technically this is my sister's book, but I read most of hers too.  We both went through a phase of reading about teenagers dying from various causes, but mostly cancer.  I think Lurlene McDaniel is like the queen of teenage illness.  This book is a tear-jerker, and I still can't resist a tear-jerker.  As an adult I have moved past teenagers with cancer and now I tend to obsess over books about the Holocaust.  While these may seem different initially, they are really quite similar types of books - people suffering from things out of their control which may ultimately end in death or a life-changing outlook on life.  And they all make me cry.

Encyclopedia Brown By Donald J. Sobol

I always loved these quaint little mysteries.  Unlike Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown wasn't jetting off around the world funded by her lawyer daddy.  He wrapped up small mysteries quickly and in his hometown.  I remember puzzling over one of his cases for days because the ultimate punchline had to do with when people trim their toenails.  He was sure that toenails couldn't be trimmed after a bath because they would be too soft.  I still prefer to trim my toenails after a bath, so I have puzzled over this for two decades in fear that one day I will be put in prison because my alibi will not stand up to scrutiny.  Seriously, that was too much information, but you can see how his little mysteries had "perfect" solutions.

Animal Inn series By Virginia Vail

I LOVED this series as a kid, but I don't think they made very many - like 12 or so, which pales in comparison to my other collections so it left me utterly disappointed.  I read these when I was sure that I would grow up to be a veterinarian.  The books centered on Valerie, the daughter of a vet, and they were all about her helping her dad take care of injured animals.  Luckily I outgrew the desire to be a vet...that definitely wasn't the future for me!

Just Like Jenny By Sandy Asher
I forgot all about this book until I was looking through my book bins.  This is just an example of my weird obsession with books about ballerinas and/or horses.  I'm pretty sure I collected the ballet books while I was taking ballet lessons; I also had an ongoing desire to go to horse camp just like my cousin, Joanna.  I have outgrown reading books on both of these topics. :-)

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
This book would still make my list of all-time favorite books.  I think I need to read it again right away.  What is more fun than traveling through time and battling evil?

V.C. Andrews
I have shared some of my earliest self-chosen reading titles, but after those, probably during my early high school years, I had a major love for V.C. Andrews.  So good!

Follow the River by James Alexander Thom
Simultaneously, I was going through my love of anything James Alexander Thom.  I currently do not always love historical fiction, but Follow the River and Panther in the Sky will probably always remain on my list of all-time favorite books.

I like to think that my reading tastes have matured over time, but these were my early influences.  I love each of these books.  I am so fortunate to have a family that has always encouraged reading, and to have had lovely English teachers in high school who introduced me to more "refined" books.  Still, I think what matters most is to read what makes you happy.  Happy reading!!

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