As an English major, my eyes have crossed paths with more books than I could really remember. Sometimes I see or read something that reminds me of a specific scene or plot and it triggers a feeling. Not always, but sometimes. From elementary school onward, I remember certain books that left a mark on my adolescent self. I couldn’t tell you what I had for dinner last night, but I could tell you what happened in precise parts of these books. Useful, right?
I’m not sure if it was my age or the fact that life was simple enough, but I would take my time absorbing every page. The following books were mostly on my summer reading lists. I spent hot days and long evenings getting through them instead of jumping in the pool. Yes, it was for the sake of a report due in September, but in the process they struck chords of humor, sadness, simplistic happiness, and feelings that weren’t familiar in my twelve years of life. Now, I think of them fondly and how I felt in the moments when I just couldn’t put them down. Here are a few of the books that stayed with me long after the summer reading list was through.
A sad read from the start, this one digs itself deep into your heart when the main character’s newfound intellect stirs up the truth about life. Life, love, death, and friendship are the themes that make this novel so hauntingly beautiful.
I had to write a book report on this one. Its tone always made it feel like a close friend’s story. Lowry does a fantastic job creating a juxtaposition of gentle, childhood innocence and strength that could withstand a war.
It’s a classic that’s stood the test of time and inspired every generation who’s read it. How incredible could one book be? When a local greaser, who always finds himself on the outside, gets into some serious trouble, he ends up on the run. This is a coming-of-age story about counting on the ones closest to you. As tough as these boys seemed to me, their vulnerability is what I remember.
I read this sweet novel at the same age as the main character Opal, who went to a grocery store and brought home a scruffy little dog. Her new friend, named after the Floridian grocery store, helps her make all new friends. Strong bonds are formed, including the one she has with her dad. I can still recall how easy it was to put yourself in Opal’s shoes.
This book was one of my favorites and my older sister had recommended it. An 18-year-old Native American girl had to spend her whole life on a rocky island, but this story was more than survival. Karana learns self-reliance, appreciation for nature, and she builds ties with the wild animals who were on the land long before her. The rich details let you actually build this island in your imagination.
Nothing could erase those big, brown Beagle eyes from my mind. This is the story of a young boy who comes across a young Beagle whose owner is terribly abusive. Adventure and love face trouble and danger, but bravery is what leads us through the book. Another heart breaker for sure. I think I cried, but who could turn down man’s best friend?
Although this isn’t a novel, there are enough quirky little poems and characters to make it feel like a series of stories. Shel Silverstein has charmed his way into our hearts and I can recall library days spent at rickety wooden tables reading page after page of his books. Even now it’s hard to explain the feeling they evoke for me. Perhaps nostalgia or wistfulness or just complete and utter silliness.
These are only a few that really pulled at my heart and made me reflect long after they were over. Everyone’s got a list like this, and I’m sure we’d all go back to any of these books in a second.
Feature Image Via Collaborative Summer Library Program