When your childhood involves two intercontinental moves within ten years, you lose a lot of small things in the process. There’s the Christmas tinsel you loved at 13 that you hung up in your closet from January to Thanksgiving cause it made you smile. There’s the silver boombox your parents gave you for your birthday when you were 12, which you used to make endless mixtapes and blare *NSYNC’s “No Strings Attached” for weeks on end. And then there were the books.
I used the library a lot as a kid, but my mother also made it a point to buy me children’s classics whenever she could, and on birthdays and holidays, any money I received would go directly to Waldenbooks or Barnes & Noble. I built my book collection carefully, combining my burgeoning interest in literature with my fascination with history and medicine. It was an eclectic set of books that I wish I could see today, now that I’m almost 30 and have the space and funds to keep the collection going. There are a couple titles that I do think about a lot, however, and that I wish I’d managed to hold on to during my moves.
The Royal Diaries: Anastasia, the Last Grand Duchess & The Royal Diaries: Marie Antoinette, Princess of Versailles
These two books are listed in equal ranking because I spent a full year obsessing over both in equal amounts. I think I reread them alternately over that year, one each week, until I could recite the facts of their lives in my sleep.
Great Illustrated Classics: Great Expectations
This was the first classic literature book I remember reading and loving, and I enjoyed it so much that I attempted to read the original text almost immediately after. It took me a couple tries, but I managed to do it, though I still returned every now and then to the illustrated version, to smile at the sketches within.
If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
YA books by POC authors weren’t super easy to find when I was a kid, and this was one of the few I picked up on a monthly trip to Barnes and Noble. I remember feeling an indelible sense of honesty in Woodson’s prose, and it helped push me into trying my own hand at writing love stories (they were super bad, don’t ask).
Animorphs #1: The Invasion by K.A. Applegate
I feel like it says a lot about me that this was my favourite ongoing series as a child, what with all the aliens invading people’s brains and intergalactic wars. I read most of the first 40 books repeatedly, immersing myself in the universe and only wanting more. While I’d love to build my collection of Animorphs books again, I’m particularly interested in revisiting The Andalite Chronicles.
Amelia’s Notebook by Marissa Moss
I’ve kept all of my journals from the time I was 11 to 22, and I’m pretty sure that can be credited to the influence of the Amelia’s Notebook series. While I can’t draw to save my life, I did write down a lot of my experiences, wanting to document what I knew and lived in spite of how uncertain and unpredictable it was sometimes. I don’t think I’ll ever be as funny as Amelia was, but her sense of humour did get me through a lot of hard times.