There haven’t been many “family” books that my whole family has read together, but Harry Potter was definitely the main one, the one that my parents seemed to enjoy just as much as a young me and my sister. We took turns reading chapters aloud the more my sister and I learned how to read, and we would listen to it on audiobook when going on vacation. It was the quintessential “Family Book” for us.
I really don’t read that many fantasy books, and when I loved this one so much, I really focused on how I was interested in reading some more fantasy books if I liked them as much as this series. I don’t quite know what it was about it, but the world and the characters and the fantasy of it all just appealed to me so much and definitely seemed like a gateway book to reading more fantasy books, even if I haven’t read all that many since.
I’m not sure if this was the first YA contemporary book with real issues that I’ve ever read, but it’s one of the first ones that I remember. It had mean girls, friendship issues, romantic issues, drugs, sex, school, senior year and college-related drama – there were just so many real life issues that made me feel like it was OK to not have everything together when I finally got to high school. It was comforting, and definitely opened me up to more issue-related and regular contemporary YA books.
I’m the type of person who never really likes school books, even if I would like them if I read them on my own, because I don’t like being told what to read. However, this was one of my most-tolerated school books, which means it would have probably been an even better experience for me if I had read it outside of school first. I don’t know quite what it was about it, but I just really liked the character of Holden Caulfield and really felt for him. Some of my friends hated him and thought he was too whiny and such, but I found him interesting. After reading this book junior year, I tried to be a bit more open about my school books (although that didn’t necessarily happen all the time, of course, but at least I tried!).
Sorry if you can’t read this one – basically, Calvin and Hobbes was, and still is, one of my favorite comic strips. When I was younger, I tended to skip some of the heavier and more philosophical strips, but the older I got, the more I admired the combination of funny moments and heavy ideas. I had never really realized that it was possible to take a medium other than classical literature and include deep thoughts and ideas and such. It opened me up to the idea that all kinds of mediums can have great importance and such.
Last year, The Casual Vacancy was the first adult book I read outside of school assigned books. It worked out quite well, and made me decide to do my 10 Adult Books Challenge this year (which unfortunately hasn’t been going as well, but whatever, that’s beside the point at the moment). It was big and slow, but it was interesting and had me interested in seeing what else adult books had to offer me.
Again, I don’t remember if this was the first YA series I read, but it was definitely one of the first ones I read. I probably read it a little early – I plan on rereading it this summer and I’m very curious to see how many references to sex and drugs and such it has that I just didn’t understand when I first read them – but it was one of those gateway books that made me fall in love with the magic and friendship and fun of YA books.
Lately there have been plenty of YA books that mix paranormal elements into a historical setting, but A Great and Terrible Beauty was one of the first books I read that did that. Paranormal books and historical books had always been kind of separate for me, two different genres completely within YA, but this showed that, when done right, it can be a really interesting combination.
The American Girls series was probably one of the first historical books I’d ever read. There were so many different girls and time periods and adventures, but they were all strong and diverse girls to look up to, something that all young girls need. Yes, the majority of the girls are still white, but it still manages to be more diverse than many other series you’ll find in MG and YA.
Again, I don’t know for sure if this was the first “older” book I ever read, but it was definitely one of the first. Of course, when I was younger, I knew less about release years and just read what sounded interesting, but this was still one of the first older and timeless books I fell in love with.