Saying I was “bookish” in the ’90s is kind– books were what I did in elementary and early middle school. I was the kid carting two paperbacks to lunch in case I finished one because honestly, what was I going to do on the damn playground with no reading material? When I was young, my love of books didn’t feel special or personally defining, like it does now, so I never really got to celebrate the cool little quirks of the reading culture in the ’90s. MY DAY HAS COME! Time to rewind and relive the best bookish things from the decade I came up in…remember this stuff?!
Book It– Hands down the raddest reading incentive program ever. You can talk until you’re blue in the face about the drawbacks of rewarding reading, but 10 year old me would do most anything for a personal pan pizza I did not have to share with one of my three sisters. Yes, I read for my own gratification as an adult, but I can also buy my own cheese-stuffed crust at this point. I can still feel the raised plastic stickers that would fill in the spots on the giant pin. I didn’t always have the best school experiences but Book It made fifth grade bearable.
Great Illustrated Classics– These adaptations are probably the only reason I can hold my own in a conversation about Literature. I know it’s why I got a 98% on my tenth grade English Honors essay about the meaning of love in Great Expectations. While never successful with what is considered required reading, I loved these simplified versions of some of the greater works of our time. I had Heidi, Oliver Twist, Little Women, Great Expectations, and Journey to the Center of the Earth, to name a few. When I recently found a bunch in my library’s book sale, I scooped them up without a second thought. Come back to me, Great Illustrated Classics, and be my Cliffs Notes once again.
Wishbone– I sincerely hope you are mind-shouting WHAT’S THE STORY, WISHBONE? at your computer screens right now. Wishbone is a dog (played by a talented terrier named SOCCER) who gets the starring role in adaptations of classic novels with plots that mirror the struggles his boy owner, Joe, is living out in real life. I have found, in rewatches, that it doesn’t quite hold up the way I’d like it to, but you could always just blare the theme song, or check out scenes from this round up of favorite episodes.
The Series– I know book series for kids started well before the 90s (Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys will not be ignored), but I really feel that the super prolific and episodic series with familiar settings and characters defined the way I read in the 90s. I’m thinking The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High, The Boxcar Children, Goosebumps– even Nancy Drew got a peppy update with The Nancy Drew Files. As an avid rereader and slightly anxious person, I always loved the comfort of knowing all the background before I dug into the latest adventure. And you cannot beat the 90s-tastic covers.
Did I capture all your 90s memories? Let me know. I’ll be at Pizza Hut.