Every weekday night up until I was in eighth grade, my mother or father would read to me before bed. Usually we would choose a book that was particularly meaningful or had relevance to society, but it was a routine that they started way back before I remember. I would close my eyes and listen to my mother’s dulcet voice bring the fictional characters to life each night and wade through worlds very different from what I had always known.
They might have been on to something because I was the most advanced reader in my class of 25 students. When other kids were slowly making their way through “Magic Treehouse,” I was treading through the “Harry Potter” collection. I especially enjoyed books whose stories didn’t end simply after the first book; series were my jam. So without further ado, here are the top ten book collections that influenced me as a child:
“Junie B. Jones.” Alright. This was one of the first series my mother read to me, and I loved it with all my heart. Junie B. has such a distinct voice. I’ve never had that kind of confidence, but I remember wanting to be her so badly in elementary school. Barbara Park really “got” the nature of a young girl and even now, reading the stories is hilarious. Junie B. taught me how to laugh and how to stand up for myself (even though it may have taken a long time to sink in).
“Shadow Children.” This is purely a selfish choice, but I adored this series. Actually, I just loved Margaret Peterson Haddix as a “mature” third grader, and her stories always had me hooked by the first line. The series featured a group of children who had to be hidden away as the government only allowed two kids per family, which was terrifying to read about as a child.
“Harry Potter.” I don’t think I need much description for this, because everyone knows about Harry Potter, the boy who lived. What they don’t hear enough about is Hermione Granger, the girl who helped Harry live. While the whole series has a plethora of lessons and knowledge to gain, the reason it became my all-time favorite was the idea that a simple muggle-born girl could grow to be the brightest witch of her time and help defeat evil while holding her morals dear.
“Little House on the Prairie.” My mother loved these books, and she read them to me from her boxed set. With all of the struggles that this family faced they still loved each other through it all. Written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, it follows a family through the late 1800s in early America. The characters are so dynamic, and they are real people who suffer from real issues.
“The Land of Elyon.” This series was such a vivid memory for me in elementary school—I can remember brushing my mother’s hair and smoothing it down as she went chapter by chapter through this four book series each night. The fantasy of it all really made me question my own reality, and though the plot now is a bit hazy, I couldn’t create a list like this without including this pivotal series.
“Series of Unfortunate Events.” Oh Lemony Snicket. He was cynical and quite harsh, but he did know how to create a damn good plot. This 11 book series taught me that sometimes life just sucks, and it’s good to know how to deal with it. Throughout the series, the Baudelaire orphans are dealt the worst hand possible, and they somehow find a silver lining or a way to be happy despite their suffering.
“Twilight.” I feel like no girl who grew up in the early to late 2000’s can say that Twilight didn’t change their formative teen years. It was the first “real” taste of an adult collection (my mother had to read it before I could). It was just a sappy, emo teen romance with tons of angst. The lesson that I took away from the books was never to give up on love, no matter how different we are.
“The Giver.” This book truly may have been the most impactful in my young adult life. The idea of not having a collective memory is such an intriguing one and I truly could see that happening in our world, which is why I’m so frightened by the book. It taught me why I should be grateful for all of the memories I have, and in a sense showed me how important it is for journalists to be documenting history.
“Divergent.” Oh boy. Though some of the movies were subpar and tarnished my overall love for this series, my high school self was enthralled by the idea of self-identification and a faction system that separated people by what they valued most. What I realized, though, was that valuing one thing over all the others can lead to destruction, and it’s often a give-and-take between what we value and what is right.
“Shatter Me.” This may well be my second favorite series of all time, held back only by the steadfast “Harry Potter” saga. Tahereh Mafi writes main character Juliette’s story with such delicate passion, and her character arc may be the greatest of all time. Juliette taught me to embrace the truest version of myself, and to remember the past while paving the way for a better future.