12/26/2007

Books I Loved As A Child


Books I Loved as a Child


Tell me what you read, and I will tell you who you are.
Slovak proverb

I was an extremely tomboyish and nerdy child, spending years reading tales of King Arthur (wanted to be a knight, never a princess) and trying to teach myself to joust on a bicycle. Many of my favorite stories are in this vein :

Earthfasts, by William Mayne
A series of local mysteries, such as independently moving Stonehenge-like monoliths, lead two British teenage boys to discover a time warp under an old castle . People from the past end up in the present, and people from the present disappear to .......?

The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff
Towards the end of the Roman empire, a young Roman officer on a British outpost undertakes an adventure to recover a lost standard from his father's legion, which was ambushed in the mists one day and never heard from again.

Sherlock Holmes - All the short stories, and Hound of the Baskervilles. A mystery, moors, mists - notice a trend here ?

The Once and Future King, by T.H.White
Young King Arthur, recast this time as classic British schoolboy. I was a King Arthur freak and this was my Bible.

I also read and enjoyed more traditional "girl" books :

The Little House series , Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Before there was a tv show, there were the books ....and I liked them much better.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Classic girl novel.
and
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Personality Quiz : Which of the March sisters did you identify with ? Meg, Jo, Beth, or Amy ? I think this is a literary Rorschach test, with no wrong answer, just very revealing.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
This is one of those seminal books in my life, without which I could not have survived. Growing up, whenever I felt down and out, or simply frizzy haired and buck-toothed, there was Jane, (paraphrazed) "small, little,plain ,and meek " , wearing her grey dresses. This is a book I can read over and over again, and get something new every time I read it. It is extremely moral and ethical without being trite, and presents a strong role model and sense of self to anyone, male or female. Plus, it's one heck of a great sweeping, scary, dramatic love story. The crazy woman in the attic has morphed into a cultural reference which everyone should know.

Gods, Graves, and Scholars : The Story of Archaeology, by C.W.Ceram
The summer I was 9 years old, some family friends who owned a small bookstore, told me that I could pick and keep any book in their shop. My parents were shocked when this was the one I chose, and kept trying to steer me to something more age appropriate. It is true, at that age, I struggled to read the section on how the French linguist Champollion deciphered the Rosetta Stone , but from that moment on, I was hooked. I was an archaeology buff from that point on. This one book led to my interests in Egyptology, ( made myself a Cleopatra costume for Halloween when I was 12 ) , ancient Greece and Rome , linguistics, Latin, classics, desire to travel to see all these places for myself , and so on. Having re-read the book as an adult, it seems a little dry, but at the time , it caught my imagination on fire.

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