My 12 Favorite Books in the 90’s
1. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
How could I not love this book? It’s about a little girl who loves to read, write, imagine. Anne’s the type of little girl born with a special magic to brighten the lives of all those around her. When I read the book, she brightened me. Anne made me feel like it was okay to use long words, to write useless stories, to read too much, and to be competitive in school. In no time, Anne and I were kindred spirits.
2. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Read to me by my school librarian, this retelling of the classic Cinderella story became a favorite with my friends and me. Instead of using the fairy tale genre to teach little girls to obey, Ella teaches of the dangers of obedience. She is witty and rebellious and a wonderful feminist heroine. Ella Enchanted also inspired my friends and I to write a series of our own fairy tale retellings. I wish that I still had a copy of any one of those stories.
3. So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane
I found this book on the shelf in a library, just like the girl in the novel finds her own book titled, So You Want to Be a Wizard. That magical meta element made this book an instant favorite with me. This book showed me magic as I had never seen it. It was magic; it was physics; it was real and explainable. Diane Duane, who has also written for the Star Trek universe, opened me to a whole new world where magic was scientific, dangerous, and beautiful.
4. Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe
Bunnicula is one of those books that I remember nearly nothing about except for the feels that I have for it. I love bunnies and stories about vampires. Either this book was made for me or it made me who I am.
5. Thirst No. 1 by Chrisopher Pike
I bought this book from Half Price Books right when it came out, and I was instantly enamored. Looking back, it may not have been wholly appropriate for an 11-year-old reader, and that was certainly part of its appeal. I remember carrying the trilogy edition with me everywhere during 5th grade for two reasons: 1, I was constantly reading and rereading it; 2, I wanted everyone to see me with this super thick book. Christopher Pike began my longtime love of vampire lore. I know vampires have been done to death over the past 10 years, but I still like to pick up the occasional blood-thirsty read.
6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Giver is one of those books that I would encourage any child of this age to read. When I read The Giver in 7th grade, I felt enlightened. I felt like I looked at my world differently. I’m not sure that it would have had the same effect had I read it later in life. There are certain books like that, when read at just the right time, can seem revolutionary and change the entire way you look at the world around you. I feel the same way about Siddhartha and Anthem. These books didn’t teach me what to think, but how to think.
7. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
This was another read-aloud by a teacher, and it’s the only book on the list that I have read only once. Despite this, it still takes a place. Bridge to Terabithia is a magical story about young friendship between two imaginative children who create their own world of play, Terabithia. This is one of those stories that will make you cry, but the lessons it teaches are necessary for children of this age. Props to my teacher– I’m not sure that I could have read this aloud without blubbering
8. Between Two Worlds by Candice F. Ransom
When I tried to find a new copy of this book, it was like it never existed. For whatever reason, Between Two Worlds fascinated me, and I read it over and over again. I borrowed this from my teacher’s library shelf, and I never gave it back. (I’m sorry!) I still own the same copy with its thrashed cover from so many readings. The book follows a young Paiute girl, Sarah Winnemucca, and the changes her tribe goes through as they have increasing contact with white settlers. Sarah is educated in both her own tribe and in the white Christian community, and she feels as if she is a bridge between the two very different worlds. The book is based on a true story.
9. How I Got My Shrunken Head by R.L. Stine
This review wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t mention the Goosebumps series. I devoured these books and had a special shelf dedicated to their collection. I remember two clear favorites: How I Got My Shrunken Head and The Haunted Mask. I’m not sure why these books caught the attention of my generation, but they did. We would read anything with that Goosebumps label. I always felt like I was getting away with something when I read them, and, maybe, that was the secret. They were scary and our parents never really got them, and some parents even refused to let their children read them. Also, the Goosebumps series was sympathetic to children that age. In the books, siblings were annoying and adults just could never understand.
Perhaps these were the first guilty pleasure reads of an entire generation.
10. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This was perhaps the beginning of my love affair with turn-of-the-century literature. I treasured this book, and I have read it more times than I would like to admit– yes, even as an adult. A Little Princess teaches us that every little girl is a princess, she just has to believe in it herself. Of course, as an adult reader, I’m tempted to tear this book apart for its exotic depiction of colonial India and the princess complex exhibited by many adult woman who grew up on such literature, but what would be the fun in that? You can love something and still realize that it is flawed. In my heart, A Little Princess will never be anything other than perfect, even if my brain knows better.
11. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
My 7th grade teacher read this book out-loud to us in class. It was my first day in a brand new school and she was starting at chapter 1. I was immediately enthralled. Sure, she pronounced Hermione’s name wrong, and she was probably one of the meanest teachers that I ever had, but she introduced me to a series that I have loved for years. Every year, I reread at least one HP book. And even when my adult logic kicks in and I find holes everywhere, the books are like old friends with whom I never want to fall out of touch.
12. Another Fine Myth by Robert Asprin
Another Fine Myth is a story about a magician’s apprentice whose master is killed and he’s left with a demon mentor from another world. These books are a light and hilarious read that take an unlikely young magician, Skeeve, to worlds he never imagined while his reputation grows faster than his skill. I read these as a kid, and I reread them often even now. These are also a favorite of my bf, and we first formed our friendship by discussing this series.