Saturday, 16 June 2012

Top 10: Books of my childhood (part II)

This is part II of my Top 10: Books of my childhood list! See part I here.


Curse you, Lemony Snicket. Snicket is possibly the expert at stringing readers along, but he also makes you love every second of it. He baits you with The Challenge, telling you very clearly in the blurb NOT to pick the book up; that it is the first in a long chain of depressing and wildly unfortunate events, so of course you DO just to prove him wrong. Then he hits you with The Story: It was just so appealing on a children-against-the-world level, and who didn't love that as a kid? Pure escapism. Snicket pits the three good, smart Baudelaire orphans against the evil, irrational Count Olaf, and every other adult in the story is seriously too incompetent to help. Finally, after you've accepted The Challenge and been reeled in by The Story, he claims you with The Hook: He leaves you with these awful cliffhangers, where Count Olaf has been seemingly chased away YET AGAIN. In the beginning of each instalment, the Baudelaires seem to have finally found happiness and peace at last with a new guardian, only to have Olaf show up EVERY TIME. That's the beauty of The Hook: you know it's coming, but you spend the next decade praying that something in their miserable lives will change. You would think this would get old eventually, and it did, but you just couldn't stop reading, and when you did find yourself complaining that they never seemed to get closer to solving any mysteries (VFD??? The sugar bowl? ...Who the hell is Beatrice??), you remembered that you were WARNED not to read the book from the very first page, and you bitterly shut your mouth.

5. ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game is usually put into the children's/YA section, or sometimes sci-fi, but really, it touches on so many issues that it's one of those books that can be read by all. It's basically about a genius boy who gets sent to Battle School in space with lots of other genius children to be trained into military leaders in an ongoing war against alien 'Buggers'. When I read it I was too young to really understand parts of the book, like the Demosthenes/Locke subplot, and found it difficult to view the Buggers as more than just creepy aliens. But on a basic level, I loved the characters and the power politics that went on in Battle School, the epic zero-gravity battles, the barracks (basically everything Ender came to hate...). There's a lot, lot more to this book than fun, but there was certainly a lot of it. I loved seeing the way Ender handled adversity: sometimes with words and charisma, sometimes with physical force, but always with intelligence and maturity. What resonates, though, is that in the end, he wasn't some kind of invincible child hero; he paid the price for the battles he won, and (minor spoiler) spends the rest of his life trying to atone.


Island of the Blue Dolphins is based on the true story of a girl who struggles for survival on an island when the rest of her community leaves on a ship and she is left behind. The most tragic part of the story wasn't that she was left alone - it was the waiting; the diligent hope she had that someone would return for her. I found this incredibly depressing as a child, especially when I found out it was based on a true story, and it has haunted me since. O'Dell does an amazing job of keeping up the tension as she mourns, waits, but SURVIVES.

8. HATCHET by Gary Paulsen

A more contemporary survival story, Hatchet was a big 'What if' book for me. By that I am referring to the inevitable self-reflection you go through when you watch high-concept shows like Lost, or The Walking Dead, and you think: 'What if I were stranded on a desert island?' or, 'What would I do to survive a zombie apocalypse?' Hatchet was frightening because it is much more likely to happen than a shifting island - 13-year-old Brian is stranded alone in a tiny plane when the pilot has a heart attack, forcing him to crash in the middle of the Canadian wilderness and live off the land, waiting for rescue. The title stems from the fact that he has with him only a hatchet, which was a gift from his mother. Brian's circumstances are so dire that my answer to Hatchet's 'What if' - 'What if you were stranded in the middle of the wilderness with only a hatchet?' - would probably have to be 'Curl up and die.' 


Really, this entry counts for any Tamora Pierce book set in Tortall. I devoured these as a child. The Song of the Lioness is about Alanna, a girl who longs to be a Knight in a world where (unsurprisingly) only boys are allowed to. Naturally, she switches places with her twin brother, Thom, so that he is able to learn magic and she is able to cut her hair short and run off to the castle to be trained. As always with gender-switching storylines, there is a lot of suspension of belief required, but the books are so much fun, and such a perfect fantasy/action/romance mix, that you don't mind at all, and you root for Alanna every step of the way.

And that's it! 10 books (or series) that really shaped my childhood reading-wise. Not mentioned is Harry Potter, because it almost goes without saying at this point. What are your Top 10 childhood books?


  1. Lemony Snicket. Simply awesome in his style!

    The Unfortunate books are epic. I really liked the movie as well. Awesome post :)

    Jennifer @ Dream Reads

    1. YES! The man is a genius. I think I'd still be reading them if it hadn't ended...

  2. Lemony Snicket is awesome! I did't read all the books yet (they're really, really expensive here) and they're difficult to find. I hope to finish it someday (:

  3. Oh, you're one of the first people that I've known who don't have Harry Potter on this kind of list..

    1. Oh, I know! Harry Potter definitely belongs on here, but I left it out so I could highlight some lesser-known books. I'm such a cheater! Hehe. Aw, that sucks that Lemony Snicket is so expensive. I love those books! You could try the library?

    2. Oh, now all makes sense. Hahaha. Where I live there is no library (only in schools, but there is very little of this kind of books there). The town is really small. And Lemony Snicket insn't that famous here, I think that's why is so expensive, about 20 dollars each (and is not even in hard cover).


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