Favorite Books from Childhood

The first actual book I ever read was L. Frank Baum’s “Ozma of Oz.” I was in first grade, and my book-loving third-grade brother wanted to introduce me to the Oz books, which were among his favorites.

I turned up my nose at “The Wizard of Oz” — I’d seen the movie, and so I figured I’d be bored reading the book. The second Oz book, “The Land of Oz,” had a boy as the main character — and I wasn’t so interested in that. So I started with the third Oz book, “Ozma of Oz,” and that started me on a lifetime of loving books.

As a kid, I used to make lists of my favorite authors, and favorite books. Ten of each wasn’t enough — so it became “my ten favorite authors” and “my other ten favorite authors” and “seven others who are also really really good.”

At different points in grade school, my different lists included authors such as Edward Eager, Louisa May Alcott (always top ten), L. Frank Baum, E.L. Konigsburg, Joan Aiken, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Carol Ryrie Brink, Natalie Savage Carlson, Eleanor Cameron, Mary Norton, Noel Streatfeild (also always top ten), Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Alexander Key… By sixth grade, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien were on the list, with Diana Wynne Jones to come along just a year or two later. (Hmmm, I see if I go on I shall need more than just a top twenty-seven!)

I read the Nancy Drew books too, and the Bobbsey Twins and Trixie Belden, but my favorite books were any sort of fantasy, or books set in the past.

So — what books turned you onto reading as a child? Which ones did you love best? Which authors stirred your imagination, or inspired you, or drew your greatest devotion?

If you’re a writer, which books made you want to start writing?

All answers welcome!

Cara King, author of My Lady Gamester, and obsessive reader and buyer of way too many books

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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22 Responses to Favorite Books from Childhood

  1. georg says:

    I don’t remember not reading. I learned around the age of two, taught by my grandmother. I remember entering a “how many books can you read?” summer contest as a child and being irritated by the limit to how many books I could check out at one time. I would read three “age-appropriate” books in the library while my siblings and mom picked out books, and then read higher level books at home. I picked a book out of the adult section about the Salem witches too, and I remember thinking Satan was pronounced like Satin. I liked biographies best as a child.

  2. Theresa N. says:

    Trixie Belden was my favorite I liked those books more than Nancy Drew. Grimm’s Fairy Tales where a big favorite with me.I feel like I missed something some where I seem to have gone straight to adult fiction from Trixie Belden with Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney.

  3. I devoured Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames (who was my favorite). I remember falling in love with Little Women, so much so my most yearned for Christmas present was a Madame Alexander doll of Beth. I still have my book of Little Women but I gave up the doll–how stupid could I be!!

    Years later my daughter devoured Babysitter Club books with the same obsessive quality, but she never fell in love with Little Women.


  4. Kalen Hughes says:

    Hmmmmmm, by the time I was in kindergarten I was reading what I guess would be called YA today (Anne McCaffrey, Patricia McKillip, Heinlein, Rosemary Sutcliff). To this day I can happily curl up with Dragonflight, The Forgotten Beats of Eld, or The Star Beast. In fact, one my favorite comfort books is The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. I bet I read that at least once a year. Anne of Green Gables, too.

  5. I think that 90% of who I am as a reader and writer to this day can be explained by my childhood love of the Little House books and the Chronicles of Narnia (both of which I still re-read regularly).

    I would also read anything with a horse on the cover. All the Black Stallion and Island Stallion books. Marguerite Henry–KING OF THE WIND and BLACK GOLD were my favorites, because I dreamed of Arabians and Thoroughbreds, not ponies like Misty of Chincoteague. πŸ™‚

    Hmm…my library had a series of pseudo-biographies of various important Americans focusing on their childhoods. I know I read at least a dozen, but for some reason the only ones I remember in detail were the ones about Tecumseh and Robert E. Lee.

    I didn’t read Louisa May Alcott or LM Montgomery until I was in my 20’s, because when I was 10 or so, I started getting my books from the adult section of the library, disdaining “kids’ books.” After college, I went back to find out what I’d missed!

  6. Kalen Hughes says:

    “After college, I went back to find out what I’d missed!”

    I discovered a lot of children’s lit and YA in college when I took a children’s lit class. I skipped over a lot of stuff. Once I read LOTR (I think I was about nine) I just launched fully into reading Sci-fi/fantasy. I adamantly remember refusing any and all β€œbaby books” as I thought of them.

  7. Cara King says:

    I never stopped loving or reading kids’ books myself, though for a time I was always afraid some adult would come and tell me I was “not allowed” in the kids section, or it was “inappropriate” for me to be reading below my “proper age” or some such thing!

    Kalen, your reading boggles my mind! You are likely the most precocious reader of Heinlein and McCaffrey I’ve met!

    BTW, I love Heinlein’s juveniles too — most of them, anyway. Star Beast, Red Planet, Citizen of the Galaxy…I like them better than his “adult” novels. (Though his later juveniles really seemed more aimed at adults anyway, IMHO!)

    And I love McKinley’s The Blue Sword, too! Didn’t discover her till college (my inimitable roommate Heather, who introduced me to Regencies, also turned me on to McKinley, and Blue Sword is my fave by her.)

    I read some biographies, too, but after Madame Curie and Anna Pavlova, I figured out that biographies always seemed to end unhappily. You know, with the main character dying. πŸ™‚ Wasn’t so into that.


  8. Kalen Hughes says:

    Kalen, your reading boggles my mind! You are likely the most precocious reader of Heinlein and McCaffrey I’ve met!

    I was just reading what was in my parents’ library. Not a romance to be found, though. I didn’t read my first romance till I was 16, and didn’t read another one until college!

  9. Manuelita says:

    Some of my favorite books as a child were the Romona the Pest books by Beverly Cleary.

    And also the Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L’Engle. I kept trying to get my children to read A Wrinkle in Time, telling them that it was a great book. My daughter started it, but was not interested (not a sci-fi fan). My son read it and the 2nd book in the series, then he couldn’t finish the 3rd book. Oh wells, they at least tried.

    My daughter has read some of my romances. But only contemporaries. Haven’t been able to convince her to read a historical yet. *sigh*

  10. Like Kalen, I read what was in my parents’ libary, for better (Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, John D. McDonald) or worse (some weird soft-core stuff that freaked me out, a book on the FBI and counterfeiting).

    I read all the time. We didn’t have TV, and I am an only child, so there was a lot of reading.

    The books that shaped my life permanently were the Narnia books, Andrew Lang’s colored Fairy books, Louisa May Alcott, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    Good topic, Cara.

  11. Cara King says:

    I just never really got into A Wrinkle in Time, Manuelita! Don’t know why. In my fifth and sixth grade class, we had “themed reading” — you picked one of a handful of themes (adventure, prejudice, science fiction — yeah, I know, they’re hardly parallel, but whatever!) and then you read five or so novels in the theme box.

    Everyone doing the theme had to read book #1, then either book #2 or #3, and then another three or so free choice of what else was in the box. (I was the only girl who did science fiction, BTW!) SF book #1 was A Wrinkle in Time, so I know exactly when I read it — sixth grade. I didn’t think much of it… I suspect it wasn’t “hard” enough SF for me! πŸ™‚

    That box also introduced me to John Christopher’s Tripods books, which I liked a lot more! (I really wish I could remember what else was in that box…but I don’t.)


  12. Ooo, I had to comment when I saw Half Magic up there. Loved the Edgar Eager books. And Lloyd Alexander, the Narnia stories, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins (though when I tried to read her to my kids, I found bits rather racist–not all books age well), E. Nesbit (The Children and It, etc.), Mary/Andre Norton, especially the early Witch World books. My tastes definitely ran to fantasy and science fiction. And then there was Betty MacDonald’s hilarious (at least to me then) Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series. And who could forget Georgette Heyer!

  13. Lois says:

    I had a set of the Little House books, but I don’t remember ever actually reading them. Maybe Mom hoped I would. LOL

    Anyway, I started off young with my science books. No, no, no, I was not reading Albert Einstein when I was 5. LOL Science books from the kids section. But I did read at least some Nancy Drew, recently I remembered Encyclopedia Brown (don’t know the author – I should look to see if they even still exist out there!) from like 3-4th grades, I know I had Beverly Cleary, but I’m not sure about Judy Bloom.

    I still have my first Snow White book (that was my favorite movie as a kid, and still was until senior year when I saw Aladdin. Then Sleeping Beauty took over and has been that ever since) and my favorite book from Reading Rainbow – Miss Nelson is Back – still have that.

    I just remembered this other series about this second grade class I liked, they might have been from the James K. Polk school, but I don’t remember the main kid’s name or the author right now. Still have those somewhere. . .

    Then once I got into high school, plenty of Star Trek novels. LOL

    Oh, and I still have plenty of Sesame Street books that feature Ernie. I love him. . . πŸ˜‰


  14. Elena Greene says:

    I was a bit slow to start reading. It may have been because I started school with very little English (we spoke only Lithuanian at home) and I spent kindergarten and first grade catching up.

    I remember starting with those Dick and Jane books and wondering what the whole point was. Then someone gave me The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and I took off from there.

    The Narnia books, the Andrew Lang fairy tales, Little Women, Little Men, etc…, Heinlein, basically everything I could get my hands on. By third grade I was snarfing Georgette Heyers from my mother’s collection and got in trouble at school when the principal found one in my book-bag.

    Elena πŸ™‚

  15. Hi, Sally!! Hey everybody, Sally writes those naked books. Not THOSE naked books but The Naked Duke and The Naked Marquis and soon The Naked Earl. We’re going to interview her in April


  16. Teresa says:

    I also enjoyed the Nancy Drew series when I was younger. Then as I got older I started reading Judy Blume books and from there I went to V.C.Andrews. To this day I’m an avid reader of all genres!

  17. Janet, do you remember the Enid Blytons? Noddy, Amelia Jane, Five Find Outers, Famous Five, and many, many others. I still love to go back to those books of my childhood. I have a huge collection, and I’m hoping our kiddo will glom onto her, too.

    Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Little Women (and other books of the series), Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Laura Ingalls Wilder, sundry “classics” that my mother decreed I read, Barbara Cartland, M&Bs, Heyer of course, Jules Verne, the first sci-fi stories including excellent Russian ones in translation, and so many more that I’ve forgotten now.

    The romance that I loved the most was Three Musketeers that I read in every edition in came in, including a door stopper tome.

    Elena: We hid the books under our regular textbooks and read them during boring classes. I almost got caught multiple times at school. I was busted multiple times at home for attempting the same. Ouch!

    Manuelita: Hi and Welcome back to RR. Hope to see you on the CH bb, too.

  18. What’s the sign that you’ve been reading too much politics lately?

    When you read Baum’s “Ozma of Oz” as Barack Obama. sigh

  19. Manuelita says:

    Yes, A Wrinkle in Time isn’t for everybody. Maybe what made it special for me is that the first time I “read” it, I didn’t really read it. My teacher read a chapter of it after lunch every day. 5th grade, I think.

    Oh, Judy Blume! I remember I was in 7th grade and ALL the girls were talking about “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret” and “Then Again, Maybe I Won’t”. Great coming of age books that we pre-teens/teens could relate to.

    Hi Keira! *waving* I’ve been around lurking … *g*

  20. Cara King says:

    I wasn’t so into Judy Blume because I didn’t care about all that growing up stuff and boys and all that… I just wanted to go to Middle Earth. πŸ™‚


  21. Todd says:

    I started by reading children’s books–I don’t even remember the earliest ones, but some of the ones that stuck with me have already been mentioned: the Narnia books and A Wrinkle in Time. I read some Oz books and Hardy Boys books as well. (Not Nancy Drew, though. Maybe it was too girly for me. Kids, you know how they are. πŸ™‚

    One series that I started reading pretty young was The Boxcar Children. The first book was read to us aloud in class by our teacher; then, a year or two later, I discovered in the library that there were about a zillion more. I checked out all that they had, took them home, and sat in the kitchen reading them one after another. When bedtime came around I was shocked to discover that I’d read them all.

    I really started reading adult books when a friend of my mother’s (Anne) recommended that I read Watership Down. I absolutely loved it, and I began looking beyond the children’s library for books. Then another friend of my mother’s (Aunt Flo–not really my aunt, but close!) gave me The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings, and I was totally hooked on Sci Fi and Fantasy. Which I still am.

    I read a lot of classic children’s fiction for the first time when I was a teen or an adult: Alice, The Swiss Family Robinson, Captains Courageous, and the like. I never completely stopped reading children’s and young adult books. (Though I, too, was never really into books about the angst of growing up. It’s angsty enough doing it without reading about it.) And I first started reading romance when I started dating a romance writer…but that’s another story.

    Sorry for such a long comment, but it’s always dangerous to get me started on the books that I love…


  22. I absolutely loved all the Edward Eager magic books, so much so that I bought them all for my kids when they were little just so I could re-read them. I still have them. When I taught I used a few as read-alouds, too.

    I also read the Judy Bolton mystery series. She was like Nancy Drew but better, I thought. And she had a rainbow wedding with her attendants, which my childhood friend copied when she grew up (I wore yellow)!

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