About two years ago, I worked briefly with a music company where I wrote single, album, and music video reviews, and occasionally other fun articles. One such article was called “Growing Pains Playlist”, where I noted some songs and artists that truly shaped me and made me who I am. It was a really introspective article and allowed me to really look back and examine the music that formed me.
A few days ago, I saw someone write an article about the books that had shaped them, and it made me think of the Growing Pains Playlist that I wrote a few years back. I suddenly felt inspired to write one of my own here, and I hope that you all might do the same if you haven’t already!
1.) The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
I owe this series for stoking my love for reading at such a young age. My first grade teacher read this book to our class, and I remember being so invested in the lives of Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny. Seeing how smart and resourceful they were in the eve of their parent’s deaths really inspired me as a child, and I longed for a boxcar of my own to live and cook and sleep and hide away in. I read these books well into my middle school years, and even though I don’t read them anymore, my love and admiration for these mystery-solving kids has never died.
In 2009, I watched the Inkheart film and fell in love. Watching the movie caused me to want to read the book, which I loved even more. For about three years, Inkheart was my favorite book, sporting a beautiful fantastical world, likable, interesting characters and two more books full of the same. It was such an enjoyable series, and it was possibly my first time reading something besides children’s and middle grade novels. This book was sort of my graduation into YA, which makes it so much more important to me.
These books are so much fun, and certainly not meant for just middle grade readers. Percy Jackson can be enjoyed by all ages in my opinion, with it’s lovable, hilarious characters, action-packed plot, and even some learning moments, teaching about Greek mythology and giving it an interesting twist. I consider Percy Jackson to be a hallmark of my middle school reading days, which is why these books earn a place in my Growing Pains Booklist.
This series came at a perfect time in my life. I was about 13-14, going through puberty and struggling in my faith in God. The Christy Miller series is about a girl much like many other teenage girls. She faces the same problems with boys, school, family, etc, but the series also has a special focus on Christianity and faith, and it’s always been such an encouraging and inspiring read for me. I’ve never related to a character like I have with dear Christy Miller, and I almost feel as if I’ve grown up with her: she was in high school while I was, making decisions about life after graduation when I was, and she was getting married around the same time as myself. Robin Jones Gunn is still releasing Christy Miller books, her most recent about Christy and her husband’s struggles with pregnancy and children. These books have had a huge impact on my life and I’m thankful for each new adventure I get to experience with Christy.
5.) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This is my favorite book of all time. I have loved this book with all my heart ever since I read it in my freshman year of high school. I care for the characters in this story like they’re my own family; a book has never moved me in the same way that this one has. In fact, this is the first book I ever read to make me feel such intense feelings. I can’t speak highly enough about this book, and every time I read it, I feel like it makes me a more insightful, fuller person.
This may come as a surprise to you. Divergent isn’t particularly profound or moving, although I must say that Tris is incredibly inspiring as a woman and just as a person in general: so good and pure and beautiful. However, the reason this book makes it onto this particular booklist is because it spurred on my love for reading when I was stuck reading the same things over and over. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this; rereading beloved books is no problem. However, I was in some sort of loop for about 3 years where I wasn’t reading anything except the same 10 books on my shelves. A friend recommended Divergent to me, and I bought it on a whim. I have never read a book the way I devoured that one. I stayed up all night, eyes wide with surprise and intrigue and suspense. At the time, this book was one of my favorites, and it began my unhealthy book-buying habit which I am still trying to break to this day. Now, there are definitely things that I find problematic about this story and the logistics of it, but I still have nothing but admiration and adoration for Tris, one of my favorite female characters of all time. (PS – I will never forgive Veronica Roth for Allegiant. That is all.)
This concludes my Growing Pains Booklist! Let me know what you think in the comments: whether you share any of my childhood favorites or if any of these titles were important to you and your personal growth. Message or email me if you’d like to be featured on my blog with your own Growing Pains Booklist. Mahalo!