When I was a child, I read incessantly. I went to the public library every week, joined the summer book club, and basically always had my “nose in a book,” as my disapproving mother would say. She thought I read too much. Can you imagine?
I was thinking about how that has changed, since I don’t read books that often now. My life is just too busy. Darned full time employment gets in the way. The last book I read was “Silver Linings Playbook,” which was just as good as the movie. Highly recommended!
These are the books I loved as a girl:
1. The Bobbsey Twins series, by Laura Lee Hope (a pseudonym for a collection of writers, which I just learned, to my horror. No Laura Lee? I can’t take it). Brunette twins Nan and Bert, blonde twins Freddie and Flossie. I devoured these books, which were too low-brow to be carried by the library but were precious birthday and holiday presents. I don’t remember much about them now, except for my introduction to the concept of “lumbago,” which the Bobbseys’ Aunt Sally had periodically. It’s just lower back pain, but for Aunt Sally, lumbago was like the Big Bad Wolf knocking at the door.
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the rest of the Oz books (there were 15 of them). If you have read only The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, you are really missing out on a wonderful invented world with its own culture and very clear parameters of good and evil. L. Frank Baum was the J.K. Rowling of his day. The Wizard of Oz is my all-time favorite movie (everything you need to know about life can be learned from this movie), but it merely scratches the surface of Baum’s entire series.
3. Mary Poppins and the rest of the Mary Poppins books (there were 8), by P.L. Travers. Another fantastic world of unusual people, unusual rules, and Mary Poppins always acting indignant when the children questioned or described what they had just seen. “How dare you imply that my uncle was bobbing about on the ceiling? The very idea!” Of course, this kind of dissembling would be considered child abuse now, but these books are truly FABULOUS. I think my lifelong love affair with all things British started with Mary Poppins. You will become immersed in her world very quickly by reading these stories.
4. Karen and With Love from Karen by Marie Killilea. Non-fiction about a little girl who was born with cerebral palsy and how her family helped her and each other. They seemed to be the ideal loving family, living in Larchmont, NY. These books will make you very emotional. I read them over and over. They made me want to be Catholic.
5. All-of-a-Kind Family series, by Sydney Taylor. These books were about a Jewish family of all daughters living on the Lower East Side of New York City in the early 1900s. Another journey into another world which became MY world as long as I was reading the books (over and over). They made me want to be Jewish, even though I am Jewish. They were much more observant and joyous about it.
6. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. This is my all-time favorite book from my childhood. I would reread it every year or so, and it made me cry every time, in a delicious kind of living IN the book kind of way. I really can’t describe how much this book means to me, how well-drawn and complex the characters are, the artful depiction of the desperate poverty and the charming Irishness of the family. They were actually Irish immigrants who came to America, but since reading this book, I have been obsessed with all things Irish. There was a movie made of this book, which also makes me cry every time, but the book is far, far better than the movie. The only time I have wished for a daughter is when I think about how much I love this book and had to face how disinterested my sons would be in reading it.
There are many more books I have loved over the years, but these represent a certain time period in my life where I read seemingly every minute of the day, for the sheer joy of reading. That’s a luxury I rarely get to enjoy now, and I miss it.