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What Childhood Books Do You Still Cherish as an Adult?

Books that hit us at a tender, impressionable age can stay with us forever. What are yours?

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

In today’s feature children’s story author and editor Steve Cole looks back on his lifelong passion for Dr. Who. He is so committed to the books and storyline that he ended up working as series editor for the novelizations. Now that’s a commitment.

There are certain books from our childhood that all of us cherish long into adulthood. Books that hit us at a tender, impressionable age — perhaps they inspired us, perhaps they frightened us, perhaps they merely comforted us at time when the world was too much with us (to quote Wordsworth).

As for me, someone seemed to spend most of his YA years playing Dungeons & Dragons and reading a post-apocalypse pulp series called “The Survivalist,” I remember finally being coaxed into reading an entirely different kind of novel about a “survivor”: Jean Craighead George’s 1959 book My Side of the Mountain. The book tells the story of a New York City boy living in a treehouse in the middle of the Catskill Mountains while trying to wait out a blizzard with his pet falcon named Frightful. It touched me immensely at the time. The boy’s awe of nature, his reliance on his animal friends for survival, and the perils of acting on his desire for independence struck me in a way that few books have since.

At times of heightened vulnerability (and hormones) books can have an impact like no other.

So, share with us, what books from your childhood do you particularly cherish as an adult.

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  1. Peter Steinberg
    Posted August 1, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

  2. Posted August 1, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    At the age of twelve I read Mary Renault’s ‘The Bull from the Sea’ in a World Books edition of my mother’s and was riveted. I loved her style of writing (and still do). This was the first book where I didn’t skip the descriptions to get on with the story, hers are so brief and vivid. The book made me cry in three places, and still does if I read it today. It was years before I got my hands on ‘The King Must Die’ which of course I should have read first.

    It’s interesting that the book she was persuaded to write for children, ‘The Lion in the Gateway’, is stiff and not a success. She didn’t like it herself.

  3. Peggy Hailey
    Posted August 1, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Two books from childhood stay with me. One is Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum, an anthology that introduced me to folks like Ray Bradbury and Joseph Payne Brennan and contained awesome stories I remembered well into adulthood like “The Man Who Sold Rope To the Gnolls” or “Henry Martindale, Great Dane” or the (at the time) completely terrifying “Slime.” The other was non-fiction: Jacques Cousteau’s The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea. I checked that thing out so much entire stamp-cards had nothing but my name on them, over and over again…

  4. Posted August 1, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. Love!

  5. Posted August 1, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and Harriet the Spy by Louis Fitzhugh were two favorites that still inspire me today in my work as an editor!

  6. Posted August 1, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Young: Basil of Baker Street, The Girl in the Pink Raincoat, Nancy Drew
    Young Adult: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, All the King’s Men

  7. Robert Cornford
    Posted August 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    All the books by Arthur Ransome – from Swallows and Amazons onwards, and The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliffe (massacred last year in the movie The Eagle)

  8. Posted August 1, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    My favorite picture book: Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak (who also illustrated What Do You Say, Dear? and What Do You Do, Dear?—spoofs on Victorian manners)
    Tween books: Beverly Clearly’s Ramona series, Pippi Longstocking, Phantom Tollbooth
    Teen books: To Kill a Mockingbird, Lost Horizon, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

    And many, many others. My sister and I consumed books like popcorn. Now, I’m a writer/author and she’s a sixth grade reading teacher (her Readalicious! blog at the link).

  9. Joe Navoa
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    My favorite book from childhood is The Story of Ferdinand, by Monroe Leaf. I still have an original illustrated copy. I think it had a profound effect on me, as I have always been someone who “does his own thing” and not gone with the crowd.

  10. Lauren Coulter
    Posted August 5, 2012 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    From early childhood, Winnie the Pooh stories and Guess How Much I Love You.

  11. Posted August 12, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    This is a great question! My earliest childhood memories are about 3 or 4 years old, and my parents subscribed to a book club which sent us Dr. Seuss books each month. I loved the stories, the way the words rhymed and the illustrations. Having those books were what started my interest in learning to read – and not just learning but to love reading. I still have a number of those books that arrived at our home when I was younger and my own children have enjoyed them.

    Later in childhood, my father introduced me to Robert M. Ballantyne and I thoroughly enjoyed Martin Rattler and then went on to read some of his other works like The Coral Island and The Hudson’s Bay Company. I still have those books and have reread them a number of times.

  12. Posted August 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    I love Roald Dahl. Right now I am actually re reading Charlie And The Chocolate Factory in Spanish to practice. I had forgotten how elegant the writing is and how wonderful the story!

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