Hi, my name is Ashley and I have a book problem.
My mother, who affectionately reminds me of my book-nerdiness as often as she can, recently tweeted an article to me that details a Japanese word that defines people who buy more books than they can actually read: "tsundoku". That would be the best way to describe my book habit. I go into crowded, dusty bookstores at any opportunity, I run to the library and literally cannot leave without at least two new books checked out, and the most exciting thing to me about moving to a larger apartment was that we'd have a "room for the books". In short, I'm a book hoarder. I love the way they smell, the way they feel in your hands, and how a great story can transport you to anywhere in the world, in time, or to the impossible and imaginary. I'm a firm believer that anyone can become a bookworm, if they are given the right book for them at the right time.
Now, for all of my mom's teasing, I grew up in a household full of books. I grew up taking weekly trips to the library with my mom and sisters and my parents read to us often and only encouraged us to dive into stories as often as possible. It's still amazing to me how much reading as a child impacted my life and identity as I grew up. A childhood full of magic and odd and endearing characters helped me understand that I could be a little bit strange and different myself. I looked up to the strong girl characters I grew to love. Learning patience and determination from Julie and her wolves, finding out I wasn't the only annoying little sister in the world from Ramona Quimby, and learning how to walk two moons in another person's moccasins from Salamanca Tree Hiddle.
Since then, I've grown, gotten married, and become a teacher, and I find that I am even more apt to defend the reading of "children's stories" as an adult. I would even venture to say that we adults should read Children's and YA literature, and often. When you are a child, so much of the world is a mystery. The world as you know it is small. You have your home, your family, your school, your after school activities, your friends; it's all incredibly contained. But the moment you step into a book, your little world has expanded just that little bit. You're suddenly awakened to the fact that some people don't live in America or you can imagine a world where time travel is possible and a young girl has to go save her father. By the time we're adults, these dreamy possibilities have been downgraded to fiction. We know the reality of refugees and war, that spiders can't actually talk, and little boys can't hop onto a boat and travel to rule wild things. We have our daily grind and life has become infinitely less romantic. But these stories are little jewels. If you ask anyone you know what their favorite books were growing up, they'll instantly recall them, and with relish. A smile will alight on their face as they remember escaping into that story and how it made them feel.
So, this summer I'd encourage you to come back to the wonderful world of books, and I've put together a summer reading list for the adult that needs to rediscover the fantastical. Most of us lead full, busy lives where we're working for the weekend and trying not to stress ourselves to death. Time has marched on and we've forgotten the magic we once yearned for. Adults, more than anyone, have demons they battle on the daily and, as C.S. Lewis put it,
"Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage."
So go ahead, take a little courage from some brave, though indeed, fictional, characters.
A Wrinkle in Time
What can I say about Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace? This book was so trippy to me as a child that I had to read it two times in succession, but I loved every weird minute of it. There's also a movie adaptation whose trailer was just released, and I'm the unwavering "READ THE BOOK FIRST" type, so if you haven't yet, go do it. Right now.
This gem is the mother of all dystopian society books. The story starts simply enough as you meet Jonas and his wonderfully perfect life, but as he begins his training for his career, the proverbial crap hits the fan and you come to understand why Lois Lowry is a genius. Also, don't watch the already released movie of this one. Just don't.
Ahhhh, now this book I discovered as an adult, not as a child. For any music lovers out there, this is the brainchild of Colin Meloy, the superb singer/songwriter of The Decemberists, and this book is PURE. MAGIC. It's the grandest adventure and I think I smiled the entire time I read it. Go find it and have some fun.
This choice is decidedly the emotional pick of the bunch. I firmly believe that every middle schooler should be required to read about Auggie and I will rave about this book until the day I die. If you're in need of some feels, go get Wonder and be prepared to fall in love with little August Pullman as he starts his first year in public school with a facial deformity.
The Phantom Tollbooth
The puns! The fantastic puns! If you've ever wondered what a world would be like where cliches and puns were the literal way of life, please read this book. I think I appreciate the silliness of this book and Milo's adventure more as an adult, too. But certainly do not read this if you can't find the humor of a watchdog named Tock or a bee that can spell anything.
Perhaps you know Stanley Yelnats and how his life changed forever through a pair of sneakers. Maybe not. If you don't, go find out why it's named after a hole in the ground and why I'd prefer never to get lost in the Texas desert, thank you very much.
Now off with you, go and find yourself some magic.