Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Family Library

Books are my great passion- the one non-work and family related hobby I refuse to give up, and my love for reading is the trait that I most hope my children will inherit from me. Since my big case settled I've been a little more immersed in books than usual. Work has been light and I feel almost aimless. I'm happy for the easier load, but I miss the sense of purpose that comes with being deeply involved in a large matter; now I'm on the periphery of several and it's been an adjustment.

But back to books. I read The Endless Forest, the final installment in Sara Donati's Wilderness series, the week my case ended and it was great. Very easy and enjoyable- I highly recommend the whole series and I'm sad it's over. After that I read Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, a Lord John book by Diana Gabaldon that made her 7th Outlander book make SO much more sense that I had to re-read Echo in the Bone. And let me tell you, it was so much better the second time around. I now knew the background stories on several of the "new" characters, and since I knew the main plot points in the book, I could better enjoy the voluminous meanderings through Revolutionary Battles.  I'm still annoyed by the ending, but less annoyed with the book as a whole. After that I re-skimmed a few of the earlier books in the Outlander series, but I needed something new.

Enter Percy Jackson. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan and just generally love books that are written creatively and tightly enough to truly transport you to an alternate world. To me, that is where the Twilight series failed- there were aspects to the plot that I thought were good or at least creative, but by book four Stephenie Meyer was failing to stay within the bounds of the world she'd created that I was too irritated to care much about the end of the book (not to mention the fact that I still find Edward controlling and creepy and Bella too bland and directionless to have any place as a heroine for teen girls). J.K. Rowling was great at this- the world of Harry Potter could have been real as far as I was concerned and I loved the interraction between the magical world and the regular muggle world. Percy Jackson is a lot like that. The Greek gods are still around and still occasionally hooking up with mortals - this results in demigods, or half-bloods, and they get a few of the traits of their immortal parents and fight to save the world from various evils. Good fun. I LOVED Greek mythology in school and loved the way Rick Riordan worked so many of the stories and myths into his novels.  I also thought he did a great job with dialogue and telling the stories from a 12-15 year old's point of view. The books are fast, easy reads - I read the first one during Landon's unusually long nap on Saturday and the second one after he went to bed that night. I finished the fourth yesterday and am awaiting the fifth in the mail, already sad that the series is nearly over. I look forward to introducing them to Landon when he's a little older- the recommended ages are 9-12 (and 26).

Once I got on the Percy Jackson kick I started thinking about all the other books I loved when I was younger. Books my mom would find during our weekly visits to the library and praise until I finally opened it up and started reading. They were always good. I've decided I want those on our study bookshelves for my daughter to read, and more immediately, for me to re-read. There's something so comforting about curling up with a book you've read and loved before- it's my favorite thing to do before bed. So I've been making a list of the books I want to order or otherwise procure over the next few years (a trip to Half Price Books is planned for this Saturday) - let me know if you have any other suggestions, both for adult books to occupy me until Gabaldon publishes book eight in the Outlander series, and kids/young adult books for my family library:

- Anne of Green Gables: The whole series - love them.

- Laura Ingalls Wilder: Starting with Little House in the Big Woods, this is one of my favorite series ever.

- The Betsy, Tacy, and Tib books: The series starts with Betsy and Tacy and ends with Betsy's Wedding, and I think it is one of the best series out there for girls. Betsy is such a bright heroine- even though it takes place in a different time, Betsy has dreams to be a writer and pursues them. Her friends, specifically Tacy, take a more traditional route through life and that is portrayed positively as well. I adored these books and look forward to re-reading them more than any other. (The Wall Street Journal recently featured an online column on them)

- The Noel Streatfeild Shoe books: Ballet Shoes, Dancing Shoes, Skating Shoes, and Theatre Shoes. All classics, all will be on my shelves someday.

- Little Women: Another favorite, along with Little Men and Jo's Boys. I already have these as a gift from an aunt when I was younger and I look forward to retrieving them from my parent's house the next time I go home.

- A Wrinkle in Time and most other Madeleine L'Engle books. They captivated me in middle school.

I know there's several I'm missing - I read a lot as a kid. It was the only thing that got me grounded (staying up past my bedtime reading under my covers with a flashlight) or made me have to sit out at recess (I got caught reading a Babysitter's Club book inside my Social Studies book in 4th grade and got a demerit). I was such a nerd. There's also many that I enjoyed but feel less of a need to own (like the Trixie Beldon books- a great series and one I'd love to find at a garage sale, Roald Dahl books, and others), but for some reason my brain is freezing on other titles. I'll add more as I think of them!


  1. A favorite set of mine as a kid was The Borrowers by Mary Norton and Beth and Joe Krush. I think there were 4 or so books. Super cute story about a family of tiny people that "borrowed" items from the humans living in the house (like match boxes, thimbles, etc.).

  2. Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume? I loooved all of the Ramona books and the Fudge/Superfudge books. I can hardly wait for my 2 y.o. to be old enough to read them with her.

  3. I actually grew up in a bookstore (my mom managed one until I was 6), so this is one of my favorite topics. I love recommending new books to people and I especially love recommending books for children (I'm pretty sure that comes from my pre-law school self, the preschool teacher). Anyway, here are a few of my favorites:

    - For a slightly younger audience, but which is still highly entertaining for adults is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I found this in college and can't wait to share it with my kids one day.

    - Half Magic by Edgar Eager absolutely enraptured me as a kid.

    - All of The Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis.

    - The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I had all of these books when I was a kid and loved to read and re-read them.

    - The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.

    Hope you enjoy at least some of these as much as I did! Good luck with building your library! I think it's a fantastic investment choice. :)

  4. I'm not sure how you feel about the theology, but I loved Chronicles of Narnia (both as an adult and as a kid).

    Some other ideas:
    Pippi Longstocking
    Anything by Judy Blume, but Freckle Juice in particular
    Misty of Chincoteague

    I know there are lots more, but my mind is mush.

  5. Oooooh. I love this game. I love YA fiction (and I collect children's books), and I love all the books you've mentioned. There's a great series, The Dark is Rising, suitable for older children or tweens, by Susan Cooper that I'd add to your list. Based in the Arthurian mythology (but contemporary setting). A very bad movie adaptation was made of the first (but really second, chronologically) book but don't judge by that. :)

    (Oh, and I'm reading A Breath of Snow and Ashes right now after several years away from the Outlander series. Thanks for the tip on the Lord John books -- I didn't realize she'd done those.)

  6. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.

    This is such a fun adventure for a girl to go on! This is also one of the first "chapter books" I picked out for myself at about age 7. (My first experience being the LHotP from Wilder, which you already mentioned. But, those were read to me by my grandmother, so as wonderful though they be they are still a different milestone.)

    Also, don't for get Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden.

  7. I LOVED "Betsy-Tacy" when I was little! I had no idea it was part of a whole series. I might have to go find the rest of them now...

  8. I LOVED the Anne of Green Gables series growing up. I used to wish I had red hair so I could be more like Anne Shirley...I'm still waiting for my Gilbert. :) L.M. Montgomery has lots of other good books too - I particularly liked the Emily series. There are just 3 of them. The first is called Emily of New Moon, but I don't remember what the other two are called.

    I read all the Little House books growing up - my sister currently has the tattered copies that my mom and all of her siblings read. As soon as I "settle" (if I ever do that is) I full intend to claim those. There's also a series about Laura's daughter Rose and another about Laura's mother Caroline.

    I actually just reread Little Women. Another blogger recommended March - I don't think it's meant to be a young adult book like Little Women, but I could be wrong. It's by a different author - about the Civil War from Mr. March's perspective.

    I also read and loved the Ramona books and the Boxcar Children series growing up. Those are great suggestions.

    Another young adult series (although I'd say definitely for older kids than Ramona or Boxcar Children) is the Tillerman Cycle by Cynthia Voigt. The first couple of books are Homecoming and Dicey's Song.

  9. I must ask this - I loved A Wrinkle in Time when I was a kid but I could swear there was a whole series of books by the same author with the same characters. And yet when I looked for them for my daughter, I could only find A Wrinkle in Time. Have I lost (what's left of) my mind??

  10. My mom is a childrens librarian, so I had a constant supply of wonderful books when I was younger. In addition to the books you mentioned, I loved:

    -The Song of the Lioness books by Tamora Pierce which tell the story of a young girl who dreams of becoming a warrior maiden. She switches places with her twin brother (who doesn't want to be a knight anyway) and has adventures training to be a warrior.

    -Dealing with Dragons (and following books in the series) by Patricia C. Wrede. Hysterically funny books about princesses who run away from home to become dragon assistants and the knights who try to "rescue" them.

    -The Sue Barton books by Helen Dore Boylston, like Cherry Ames but better.

    -The All-of-a-kind family books by Sydney Taylor, stories about the life of an immigrant family living in New York City just prior to WWI.

    Sadly many of these books are out of print. Time to visit the library and revisit some of these favorites!

  11. Not surprisingly, we have a lot of the same YA favorites! I was obsessed with the Anne of Green Gables series as a kid! Have you read Emily of New Moon and some of the other Avonlea books?

    Olivia is now reading, so I just got her the entire Ramona series by Beverly Cleary. I'm rereading them too. I loved them when I was in elementary school. We're also working on Little House, though Ramona has her more captivated.

    We'll probably do the Judy Blume "Fudge" books soon...

    In Junior high, I really enjoyed Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Gone With the Wind. I must have read each of those 25 times.

    It's so much fun to revisit old books!

  12. Forgot about The Secret Garden - that's on my "read with Olivia and Sophia" list too!

  13. Next time you're in Houston, you should stop by Quarter-Price Books on Shepherd (or maybe Greenbriar) near 59. It's an amazing store. Last time I was there I bought a 3-in-1 set of The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and Little Lord Fauntleroy for six dollars.

  14. Hi LL!

    Did you ever read Lurlene McDaniel as a young girl? I loved her series, although it was somewhat depressing. I also read a book "Eighth Grade Changes Everything" so many times that I can still recite all of page 1. I was a book nerd too - in 5th grade, we had a reading raceway, and I lapped it 4 times. The teacher told me I needed to stop. Seriously.

  15. I second:

    The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Turtle is perhaps my favorite female character in all of literature...)

    The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce (who also wrote other series that are supposed to be good)

    Patricia Wrede's Dragon books

    I also have to add:

    kids books:

    Nearly anything by Bruce Coville, particularly his "The AI Gang" trilogy; Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher; Dragonslayers; his short story collections; and his "Aliens Ate my Homework" series.

    James Howe's Bunnicula series


    Night World series and Dark Visions series by L.J. Smith

  16. I second the Boxcar Children series. I'm 27 and still collect them! I would also recommend the American Girl collections. Very easy reading with lots of historical information.

  17. I was the same way as a child and loved recommending these kinds of books to families when I worked in a library. I'd second most of the ones already mentioned here, as well as "Strawberry Girl" by Lois Lenski, and The Giver by Lois Lowry.

  18. I loved the Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman - don't be put off by the films, they're excellent. If you can get hold of it the transcripts of the interviews with Philip Pullman and Rowan Williams (The Archbishop of Canterbury), published by the National Theatre.

    You'd also like Philip Pullman's Sally series too I would think.

    And you haven't mentioned CS Lewis, and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Narnia 7 books.

    And Roald Dahl, whom you've mentioned. I got a box set for my 8th birthday, that my nephew is beginning to enjoy now.

    Plus Charlotte's Web.

    As a child I loved the Famous Five by Enid Blyton and all her boarding school series at Mallory Towers and the Twins at St Clares, but they're very dated now. I did love The Chalet School series too - dated too!

    I also loved Trixie Belden (and reread over and over the parts where she and her boyfriend, whose name now escapes me, were close - when he gave her a bracelet. My 11 year old self swooned!)

  19. And what about Flambards, and the Pennington series by K M Peyton - I loved those. (Can you detect an English bias here... although I grew up in New Zealand.

    Speaking of which, as a swimmer you have to read Tessa Duder's Alex series.

  20. Amelia Bedelia!!

  21. My husband and I aren't even pregnant yet and I am already accumulating books for the baby! Some of my favorite books as a kid were Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia and Island of the Blue Dolphins, to name just a few! I got more free pizzas from the Book It program!

  22. I loved so many of those series that other people mentioned before me! Unfortunately, though they have reissued the Betsy-Tacy books (I was thrilled!) most of the Noel Streatfeild books are out of print. (OMG I just checked Amazon and they reissued Skating Shoes! I spent about $15 getting a British copy over the summer. Perhaps they're going to reprint more now!) I've found many of them by haunting ebay though, and I also found a publisher who is reissuing a lot of the older series like Sue Barton that someone wrote above. www.imagecascade.com
    I have a set of Tobey Heydon books from them and though they aren't cheap, I love that whole sets are available so everything matches, and the artwork of the covers seems to match the period of the books. I will probably pick up the Pam & Penny Howard books soon.
    I've read all of Tamora Pierce's books (I'm 26) and I actually buy them all too! They have really captured my interest, and she has created two separate worlds in her series that are very different.
    I've also really been enjoying Diana Wynne Jones. She has written some YA and some elementary age level books, and she wrote Howl's Moving Castle (the book is far better than the movie).

  23. Not apropos of the current post, but if you have a chance sometime, I'd love your comment on this post regarding having a baby in law school.


    Anne of Green Gables = win!!

  24. I loved the Trixie Belden series too, and have found many of the books in antique stores over the years.

  25. I loved Shel Silverstein as a kid - A Light in the Attic, Falling Up, and Where the Sidewalk Ends, ... not to mention The Giving Tree.

    And I'd like to be the 4 to propose The Chronicles of Narnia.

    Sooo, when do we get to know her name!?

  26. A lot have already been mentioned - Misty of Chincoteague, some of the other LM Montgomery books like the 3 in the Emily of New Moon series, The Secret Garden. Louisa May Alcott also wrote Eight Cousins which I loved, and I think it may have had a sequel. I'm too tired to go hunt in the basement to see. Also some classics fit in well with these - Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Madeleine L'Engle also wrote a bunch of other books that are great - some about the same family, and some that were not.

  27. Silly Little Lawyer2/17/10, 9:31 AM

    I just read the whole Percy Jackson series while I was on vacation in January and I loved them. I just couldn't put them down.

    I'm a sucker for books like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter that pull you into their world.

  28. Ohh the Baby-Sitter Club. Did you know they're re-releasing those? I guess they haven't been on the shelves in years. Good thing I have Nos. 1-100something at my parents' house still.

  29. Looks like somebody already reminded you about the Secret Garden... if you like Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, that and The Little Princess have got to be on your list as well.

  30. Girls' books:
    A Little Princess
    The Secret Garden
    Nancy Drew books
    I also liked The Boxcar Children, but those weren't as good as Nancy Drew.

    Adult books:
    I really liked One Hundred Years of Solitude, much more than Love in the Time of Cholera. The first time I read it casually every now and then, but had a hard time remembering the characters and who was related to whom. The second time I read it nightly and enjoyed it much more.
    If you want a long read (really long read), I loved The Story of the Stone (or Dream of the Red Chamber). It is really long, but there is great character development. You meet tons of characters and learn so much about them that it feels like you know them. It is also pseudo-autobiographical, so it's a period-accurate historical fiction. I would recommend getting the first volume from the library to see if you like it before buying it all. Don't be scared of the publish date- it reads like a modern novel.
    Also enjoyed Anna Karenina, Gone with the Wind... my list of favorites keeps changing, so it's hard to give recommendations!

    I was just given a book to read:
    Gender on Trial: Sexual Stereotypes and Work/Life Balance in the Legal Workplace. It looks interesting. There are excerpts available online.

  31. Swallows and Amazons is the first book in a series by Arthur Ransome. It is a british children/young adult series. I have just read the first one and it was wonderful! A family of children in England who sail to a small island and camp there, having all sorts of adventures.

  32. I have several series of books by various authors that are still being written, which I love. I enjoy mysteries and also sf/fantasy, and I think you would like some of these authors. I will try to put the name of the first book in a series, or the series name if I can remember.

    J. D. Robb (a/k/a Nora Roberts) Naked in Death - set 60 years in the future, a New York Policewoman kicks butt . 31st book just released.

    Mercedes Lackey - Valdemar Series, or really any series that she writes. They are excellent, and I tend to reread them at least every couple of years or so. There are 30 plus books.

    Anne McCaffery / Dragonriders of Pern - beautiful imagery and there are probably more than 20 books now. Her son Todd has taken over writing them, and he is just as good as his mother.

    Elizabeth Peters / Amelia Peabody Mysteries / There are more than 20 or so now, I think. These are set in turn of the century Egypt / England. There is a great female protagonist.

    I read voraciously, and could give you hundreds of other authors, but I hope you will give one of these a try. Enjoy.


  33. I'll admit I'm a huge dork for admitting I recognized the connection - but I am pretty sure that whole list of your favorite childhood books is mentioned at some point during the movie "You've Got Mail". Specifically the Noel Streatfield shoe books during the scene where Meg Ryan is in the Fox Books children section being tearfully more helpful than their idiot employee. As you know, LL, I was more into movies as a kid than reading books like you did. :)

  34. I love books! For adult reads, "The Magicians", a new book that just came out is really really really good. It's by the same author that wrote "The Codex", another excellent read.
    For YA fiction, the one book I always loved is "The Forgotten Door". It's one of those books you can read over and over again. And I like the Artemis Fowl series - those books are pretty fun.

  35. The Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix is a superbly unique world and story. I think you would probably still like it. To me it was as imaginative as His Dark Materials, but more fun to read. My wife is having a girl in June in the middle of studying for the Texas Bar and I've been thinking of all the books I'll read to her since I read this post yesterday. Have fun!

  36. Oh, I had all the "shoe" books. I think you're the first person I've "met" who read them as well.

    My personal favorites? The Frances series of books by Russell Hoban. They're for a younger age - 3-4 - but still awesome thirty years later.

  37. One of my all time favorites as a kid, and I still have a copy today, was "The Neverending Story". The movie(s) sooooo did not do justice to the book; and I heartily recommend it for both Landon and your soon-to-arrive bundle of joy.

  38. I am sad no one mentioned the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor...they follow Alice from when she's in middle school and will end when she's in college. I think it starts with Alice in Agony...I still buy them and read them! Alice is spunky and fun, a MUCH better heroine than someone like Bella, and she got me through a lot of my teenagerhood (they're pretty realistic books, but not graphically or inappropriately so).

  39. A tree grows in Brooklyn is a must along with To kill a Mockingbird. Can re-read these anytime, anywhere.
    Oh and for when she's a bit older, there's always Gone with the Wind. I think I'm one of the very few who didn't like the movie version at all. Nothing can compete with Margaret Mitchell's written word in that book. (Oh and the sequel, Scarlett? Do.not.read.it. It's written by some half bit writer and doesn't even come close to encapsulating the magic of Gone with the wind).

    Also the Anastasia Krupnik books by Lois Lowry. Oh and you cannot NOT introduce her to Roll of thunder, hear my cry by Mildred Taylor. Amazing book that has me cry every time I read it. There's also a prequel and some sequels to this one as well which I can't recall right now.

    Ok, I'll stop now :) I'm so glad you'll be inculcating your love of books to your children - there is nothing like it!!


  40. I still love the Anne of Green Gables books! Anytime I've had a rough day or feel a little down, I sit down with one and instantly feel comfortable, at home wherever I am (works great for business trips!) and content. I suggest every book that L.M. Montgomery has ever written.

    When I was in junior high, I loved all of the sweet young romance books written in the 50s and 60s. I suggest:

    Anything by Betty Cavanna, but particularly Going on Sixteen

    Barthe deClements - How Do You Lose Those 9th Grade Blues? and all of her other books!

  41. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konisburg

    Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

  42. I'd forgotten Betty Cavanna! I was introduced to her writing by our lovely gray-haired children's librarian who had the grace not to smile when I told her I had read everything in the children's section, much of it several times over. I had never noticed the YA section.

    Oooh, Sue Barton,Cherry Ames, Trixie Belden, NANCY DREW, has anyone said Nancy Drew? That's were my allowance went for several years! Caddie Woodlawn, about living on a farm in the 19th Century.

    Lots and lots of these books you loved at available at Chinaberrydotcom. It's a great source, especially for those "first books" like Goodnight Moon and Jamberry. I just checked, and the wonderful detailed reviews by the moms who owned it are gone, but still very helpful. They often have the same version of the books that I loved. (Like the Beverly Cleary books with the original illustrations: I LOVED Ellen Tebbits, because she was the only girl I ever saw in a book whose socks actually crept down in her shoes. I think Ellen might be Ramona's older sister. Having boys, I never got to get back to that series.

    Has anyone said Homer Price and all the other Robert McCloskey books?

    My husband, a school librarian, collects Enid Blyton books, like "The Five" series.

    Charlotte's Web was my first favorite. For an adult book, I really love Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg. I tell everyone I give a copy to, "Just read the first hundred pages. If you don't love it, give it back." (No one has ever NOT liked it.) It's the story of a small midwestern town, its people and their lives,visitors and events, from post-WW2 to the 1990's. She writes like Garrison Keillor: she doesn't have to write funny lines for her characters, they are just funny people. (It's nothing like Fried Green Tomatoes, by the way.) Don't miss this one.

  43. In September I donated my entire Trixie Belden book collection (a whole box full) to our local thrift shop. You could check places like that. These are all great book suggestions, but a lot of them are "girl" books. I've struggled having three boys and wanting them to read the books I loved as a kid. They don't relate to many of them in the same intense way. Some books that my boys love include (when they were younger) No David, Skippy Jon Jones, the Jack and Annie books by Mary Pope Osborne and the Beast Quest books (Orchard Books). My 2nd and 4th graders are obsessed with Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Septimus Heap. They also like My Side of the Mountain and that series (survivalist type books).