Books that Created an Awesome Monstrosity, Namely Me

We all have that stack of books that shaped us, the ones we stayed up late reading and re-reading, the ones we took with us on car trips, the ones we were loathed to lend out to anyone, no matter how trustworthy. (Granted, I even hate lending books I don’t particularly like, but that’s a personal flaw and does not reflect itself on every borrower. Ahem.)


For me these books/stories were, in no exact order:

• The Book of Virtues/The Moral Compass by William Bennett.

I remember reading every story, every poem in these hefty volumes. They were so full of anything and everything that they became my go-to reading material during mandatory nap times (or ‘reading times’) or whenever I wanted to read anything non-specific. This is where I learned of Damon and Pythias, of Damocles, of Aesop and countless other classics.

• A Wrinkle in Time

My mother would read this every autumn, so naturally one autumn as soon as I was old enough, she gave it to me. I devoured the bizarre, touching tale of love, stars, and devoured planets, and I’m pretty sure it lent a large hand to my ‘I KNOW it’s weird, I want to write it anyway’ attitude.

• The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings

I was familiar with these books before I actually read them all at age twelve. (I was sick when I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, with nothing else to do, I knocked all three books out in three days.) They were always sitting around the house because Mom was reading them – the first real scene I read was Gollum attacking Frodo and Sam for the first time. I remember that vividly, because that’s when my interest in the books went from mild, childish curiosity to a Strong Desire to Read This Now.

• Mythology

We had a beautiful, illustrated volume full of mythology – mainly Greek, mingled with some fairy tales and – Jackie Robinson? What is Genre, anyway. Each story featured brave protagonists – from boys who went up against giants to Theseus and the Minotaur and Oedipus (I didn’t KNOW about the complex yet, okay) solving the Sphinx’s riddle.

• Any Horse Book by C. W. Anderson

His books enchanted me, and I read every copy I could get my hands on. I don’t remember the stories as much as the illustrations – illustrations which evoked such great love and feeling in me that not only did he greatly influence my artwork, but he fanned the sparks of an equine obsession into undying flames. Without C. W. Anderson, I might never have learned to ride, or trained my favorite ornery idiot horse, or experienced anything other than a typical little girl’s love of horses.

• I Can’t Remember the Name of This One

I still have it somewhere, but currently it’s packed so I can’t check the title. It was about a young, redheaded girl who was taken by Indians, but it wasn’t the frequent ‘LET’S SIMULTANEOUSLY VILIFY AND ROMANTICIZE NATIVE AMERICANS’ tripe. I read this book countless times and once I find it (if I remember) I’ll be sure and add the title here.

• Pilgrim’s Progress/Christiania

We had tiny, square, illustrated, paperback versions of various classics grown up, and I was simultaneously horrified and fascinated by these stories. They had everything I wanted – danger at every turn, man-eating giants, unexpected friends, symbolism out the wazoo, and illustrations both beautiful and grotesque. The illustrations of Apollyon alone inspired dozens of monster designs from my small self.

• A Book of Puzzles

My dad used to keep a large book of puzzles and brain games in his office, and sometimes I would take it out and try to solve something. I was too young at the time, and the puzzles were beyond me, but I remember being vividly caught by one particular page. Illustrated in blue tones was a picture of a beautiful young woman trapped in a large tube of liquid. According to the opposing page, if I couldn’t solve the puzzle within a certain amount of time, the Supervillain who had kidnapped the girl would let her suffocate and die. I remember sitting and not trying to solve the puzzle so much as having the realization that this puzzle was Too Real and had made me feel personally responsible for the life or death of this person. Not only that, but I could only fail her – I never did solve that puzzle. I’m pretty sure this influenced my subconscious and manifests itself in my writing.

• Peter Pan

I read Peter Pan until the cover wore out. This book fascinated me to no end, and I never tired of it – the way they spelled check cheque, Peter so-very-nearly dying from a stab wound but being saved by a nest at the last minute, the pirates and the mermaids and the gleeful otherness of it all.

• Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking-Glass

This comes as no surprise to anybody, but Alice was a close childhood companion. From the caucus race to the Hatter and the March Hare to the White Queen pricking her finger in the future, this book is so exactly like reading  a dream that it kept me reading and re-reading. It also lent me an odd sense of humor.

• Betsy-Tacy-Tibb

I swear I thought there was something magical about these books, even when I got older and realized they were historical fiction with no actual magic involved. They had that peculiar quality of seeming to be from Somewhere Else while remaining more-or-less-firmly grounded inn reality.

• Eight Cousins

This was always my favorite Alcott book, by far. Uncle Alec was my girlhood hero, and I wanted to be him when I grew up. (I still might.) Much like Betsy-Tacy-Tibb, it’s a book with no magic that manages to feel almost entirely magical.

• Narnia

I say ‘Narnia’ rather than a single book title because each book influenced me as much as all the rest, although The Silver Chair remains my favorite. I remember the first time Mom brought the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe home and told us she was going to read it aloud, and I vividly recall being miffed when she skipped the battle with the Hag and the Werewolf in Prince Caspian (and naturally I had to find the book and go read it myself).

• Beatrix Potter

While Apollyon illustrations influenced me greatly, so did Beatrix Potter’s enchanting mice, hedgehogs, squirrels, cats, and other various creatures. More than the other books, Mrs. Tiggywinkle stood out as my favorite – I never was sure why, but I think it had something to do with the tiny bucket collecting rainwater.

I could probably carry this post on for several years, but I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say, books (moreso than any people, with the exception of my parents) were the guiding force in shaping who I was and who I became. Now I’m all nostalgic – maybe I won’t wait until autumn to read A Wrinkle in Time again.

What books influenced your childhood?

27 thoughts on “Books that Created an Awesome Monstrosity, Namely Me”

  1. “I Can’t Remember the Name of This One” I read the description of this one with first amusement, then horror. I remember this book. I READ THIS BOOK. This book destroyed me emotionally for days.
    I can see how you might find it appealing.


        1. I think it was a middle-grade novel called ‘Captive Treasure,’ definitely Not a Big Deal in the world of publishing. I haven’t read it since I was….ten, probably, so I honestly couldn’t speak for it now, but back then – whoahhh, boy. I loved it.


  2. 8 Cousins!! Uncle Alec is the total best!! Uhhh the original TMNT comics? Little silly but certainly shaped my love for humor and crime fighting! Marguerite Henry’s horse books were lyfe for me! I don’t even really care for horses, I just loved her books! I had a huge crush on Encyclopedia Brown and read a good dozen of them… THE BOXCAR CHILDREN! HOW COULD I FORGET?! Ok, this deserves its own post… Thank you for inspiring me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. NEVER BE ASHAMED OF TMNT. EVER. Also Marguerite Henry <3 <3 <3 ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN taught me to say 'Rats!' and I used it /very. frequently/
      And I'll never forget the day I picked up a Boxcar Children and realized, with horror, I was now OLDER THAN HENRY

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Is the one you can’t remember A Circle Unbroken? That’s the only “taken by indians” with a redhead that pops out at me. (I’ve read several of those…)

    The Narnia Chronicles are a huge one for me.
    Little Pilgrims Progress (I didn’t read the original until I was much older and promptly decided I liked my dogeared beloved retelling better.
    The Anne series, Emily series and Pat series by LM Montgomery.
    Peanuts comics – the treasuries are the earliest reading obsession I remember.
    Cheaper by the Dozen
    Mistress Malapert by Sally Watson (I love her books but this one I read multiple times)
    I remember Rose in Bloom more than Eight Cousins – it’s been a few years since I’ve read any Alcott. But those books (plus lots of Grace Livingston Hill and the Pollyanna series) formed my strong opinions on manners and respect for elders.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This post is the BEST. Nothing like books to shape who we are! And you and I share so many stories that shaped us! :O

    Betsy-Tacy-Tibb! YESSSS. It seems like no one I know has read those, but they were my LIFE. I read them so. many. times. Throughout my very young life all through my teen years. I LOVED what you said about them. They were magical somehow! I don’t really even like historical fiction all that much, but those books…they were different. Maybe, for me, it was because Betsy was me. Like…it was sometimes unnerving how alike we were. So it was like I got to read about me having a much more interesting life than I did. xD Either way, those books mean everything to me.

    The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland–100% YES. I, honest to goodness, would not be the Christine I am today without those books. They shaped what I love, who I am, how I live. They pushed me to become a writer, and WHAT I write. Without those stories, I can’t even imagine who I’d be. They’re part of my identity, and I’m so grateful for them.

    I also ADORE Beatrix Potter! I did when I was tiny, and still do now. There was always something so…comforting about those little stories and illustrations for some reason.

    I love what you said about books shaping who you are even more than people. I am the exact same way. Thank goodness for stories! <3

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I read The Lord of the Rings so obsessively that my parents made me stop reading it after the fifth time in a row (I don’t think I was reading anything else, lol). Narnia also influenced me hugely (as in HUGE HUGE HUGELY) although I hated The Last Battle until I got older. How dare Lewis end the world that I was so in love with? It wasn’t until I was in my mid teens that I finally read it again and fell in love with the sad-happiness and the emotions and, oh yeah, Tirian. It is now a contender with Silver Chair and Voyage of the Dawn Treader for my favorite Narnia book, but, well, it’s hard to pick favorites.

    I remember several biographies and fictionalized life stories that really made an impression on me: Noah Webster, Nathan Hale, George Muller, Gladys Aylward (her autobiography, The Little Woman, is so beautiful), Eric Liddel.

    I really liked a lot of stories and poems in The Eclectic Reader series; I still remember one about tiny birds being taught to do things like play dead when a tiny cannon was fired, amongst other things. I memorized the Fall of Sennacherib from those books as well, and put it to the tune of Sweet Betsy from Pike.

    Did you ever read the fairy books edited and compiled by Andrew Lang? There were all sorts of colors, Red, Blue, Green, Orange, etc. I devoured those and read them over and over; in fact, I wrote fairy tales of my own long before I wrote fantasy.

    Weirdly enough, it wasn’t Tolkien or Lewis who inspired me to finally write fantasy. It was a second-rate Narnia knock-off called the Archives of Anthropos. I thought they were great. My siblings and I tried to make the first book, The Sword Bearer, into a movie. It wasn’t too many years before Anthropos started to bore me and I realized they weren’t as good as younger-me had thought. Still, they sparked my interest in writing fantasy (which wasn’t something that had even crossed my mind prior), so they deserve to be in the list :D


      1. We had books in a series by Geoff and Janet Benge. I read and re-read them so many times. My favorite was George Muller :D Followed by … one that I can’t remember the name of. He went into the interior of Africa. Now I have to go look it up. Aha, Rowland Bingham.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. As a kid I read a book called “Indian Captive” that sounds like what you’re describing, but I seem to remember they described her hair as being yellow like corn. And Betsy-Tacy-Tib! Those books were my obsession for a long time. I’m familiar with most of the books you named, but I’ve never found anyone else who has read Betsy-Tacy-Tib.


  7. When I first began to read on my own I read the American Girls, Little House series, and the Bookcar Children.

    Later. Dad read aloud American Girls and Narnia and Mom Little Women (I know we had more, but I’m trying to think of the most significant to me).

    Then early teens to mid teens and perhaps and bit later. Eagle of the Ninth and Warrior Scarlet. Oh, my. I still adore those and many other Sutcliff novels. Oh, the understated, throbbing, implied intensity. And this is SO stereotyped, but Pride and Prejudice. I don’t like JA as much any more, kind of moved on plus understand more of the humor . . . and I LOATHE satire. A few witty quips yes, satire, no. But I had really struggled with reading during my teenage years and this really helped get me back into it I think.

    I didn’t read much after my reading breakdown (I for some reason thought I could no longer read in my head, I’m not joking, so it was either laboriously reading aloud or skimming), most of the classics I either skimmed or really delved into later. When our church started a bookclub + I joined Goodreads (because of the club) + I started forcing myself to read rather than skim around age 19 that I really begin to read more.


    1. I’ll confess something to you: I’ve never read a Jane Austen novel. I’ve started them, but I just /don’t enjoy her writing style/ even if I love Jane Austen film adaptations. XD


      1. Don’t get me wrong, I consider them worth reading. I just don’t consider them worth fangirling (somethings I loathe anyway) over . . . especially when people act like they are such awesome romances. People. JA herself told us, she couldn’t write romances.


  8. I enjoyed this post so much, I went and did my own:

    I loved Peter Pan too, but I actually came to the original book later on in childhood—I knew the animated Disney version, but then I discovered first the stage musical and then the book, and both of those were so much richer and quirkier and…well, British.

    Oh, I managed to leave the Boxcar Children off my list! I had the whole original nineteen books and knew them backwards and forwards too. That’s probably what started me on my way to loving mystery novels.


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