Note: I’ve had this post (originally from a Facebook meme) saved in my blog drafts since 2015, and I’ve decided to publish it on my blog just now, four years later. Sayang kasi 😛
I love books. Before the Internet exploded and competed for my attention, I always had my nose in a book. My mother actually had me “banned” from my grade school library (she instructed the librarians not to let me borrow any books) because I would check out and bring books home to read instead of studying, and my grades in school suffered because of it.
Indulge me as I share my list of 10 books that have stayed with me– not necessarily my favorite books but books that have made an impression on my young mind and I’ve carried into my memories as an adult.
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1. The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott o’ Dell
This was the first book I read that really, as in REALLY got me into reading, beyond the Sweet Valley series, Baby Sitter’s Club, Goosebumps, and R.L. Stine books I constantly read (and my mom complained about, proclaiming them as trash). My late grandma (Abuelita, as we called her– it means “little grandma” in Spanish) was the one who got me into reading young adult fiction. She bought books for herself and for my cousins and I, but kept them in her house and loaned them to us, sort of like a library. The Island of the Blue Dolphins was the first book she ever lent me– her personal book recommendation. It’s based on the true story of a young girl who was stranded for years alone on an island off the coast of California. This book really burned into my mind then (I was about 11 when I read it) and it’s the first book I turned over and over in my mind, long after I had finished reading it. Powerful books tend to do that.
2. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Published in 1994, I read this near/around that time as well. I was really fascinated with the controlled world 12-year old Jonas lived in, where everything was in black and white, there was climate control, you were assigned families and jobs, there was no pain and suffering, and everyone lived in Sameness. This was my first foray into the concept of dystopia, a term I didn’t even come to know until many years later. I’ve read The Giver numerous times and have bought a lot of copies since, none of which I still have with me because I tend to lend them to friends (never getting it back) or give them as gifts.
It’s an easy read you can finish within a day or two and it’s written for young adults, but its concept and story is something both teens and adults will enjoy. In fact I appreciate (and understand) The Giver more now than I’m grown up than when I first read it when I was 11 or 12.
Tip: Go watch the movie version that was released in 2014, starring Jeff Bridges as The Giver. It’s not bad. As a fan of the book, I’m pretty happy with the movie adaptation.
3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
I like all the Harry Potter books, but the one I remember most is the first because of how I got into it. I was 17 years old and taking a day off from college as I was down with the flu. My mom was going out to run errands and she asked me if I wanted anything (food, presumably). Maybe I was bored from being in bed all day, but I said I wanted the first Harry Potter book. Since mothers tend to give in to their children’s whims more when they’re sick, she did bring me back a copy of the book from Powerbooks.
I read and finished the book in one sitting. Actually, I tried to put the book down at midnight since I needed to sleep, but after a few minutes, I couldn’t resist and found myself reading until I finished it at 2 or 3 AM. I’ve been hooked on the Harry Potter series since. I’ve read the books over and over and watched the movies multiple times, and felt emotional upon entering Hogsmeade Village when I went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios in Osaka in 2014. Haha!
4. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
My late Abuelita got me a thick hardbound trilogy of The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, and Little Lord Fauntleroy– all Frances Hodgson Burnett’s works for one of my childhood birthdays. I loved the story of A Little Princess the most, with doting father Captain Crewe, little Sara, make-believe stories, extravagant lifestyles, and the contrast of poverty that came after. Looking back now, A Little Princess had all the workings of a soap opera– drama, conflict, intrigue, death (and a happy ending eventually). This book stuck with me for those reasons– the plot was so engaging– but also because I was able to watch the Japanese cartoon version dubbed in Tagalog (“Sara Ang Munting Prinsesa”) and the 1995 American film version as well.
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
This was one of those books they assign you to read in school and write a book report for afterwards. I was in junior year high school when I read this. I’m glad this was assigned to me because I had gotten The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway prior to To Kill a Mockingbird and I remember being sooooo booooored out of my skull while reading about the old man rocking in his boat, doing nothing. I let my English teacher know in my book report that I hated The Old Man and the Sea.
For To Kill a Mockingbird though, I had nothing but good things to write about it in my report. It tackled issues such as rape and racism, but through the lens of a child. It was a good balance of the last strings of childhood and the real world, and I read it at a time when I myself was in between the transition from young teen to young adult, introducing me to more serious issues beyond make-believe worlds in the books I had previously read.
6. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Include Paulo Coelho in a book list and hardcore (and judgmental) book lovers will scoff, just like how I scoff at people who read Nicholas Sparks (although I admit to reading– and sobbing at– A Walk to Remember). Hahahaha. I don’t like the other books Coelho has written except The Alchemist. This fable about following your dream and the universe conspiring to make your dreams come true appeals to my idealistic and optimistic nature. This story, shrouded in mystique and magic, was written to be inspiring and uplifting, and who doesn’t want to be inspired?! The story conjures such vivid imagery of moonlit dessert crossings and mirages and oases so I’m not surprised the publishers felt the need to release an illustrated version of this book (which I’ve yet to check out).
7. The Gentle Tasaday by John Nance
This is the weirdest book on this list. In the 1970s, news broke of the Tasadays, a indigenous tribe living in the remote jungles in the Philippines, cut off from modern society. They used stone tools, lived in a cave, foraged for their own food. Wikipedia will save me the trouble of telling you about it.
My dad owned this coffee table book detailing the discovery of the Tasadays, full of stories and pictures of their lifestyles and habits. I was about 8 or 9 years old and was weirdly fascinated about how this tribe lived so primitively. I read and looked at the pictures in that book quite often. A few years ago, I remembered my childhood fascination with the Tasadays so I googled it. The entire thing turned out to be orchestrated/manipulated. A hoax.
All very interesting to me, still.
8. 366 Bedtime Stories – A Story for Every Day of the Year
Another gift from Abuelita, and one of her best gifts ever to me. 366 bedtime stories?! A story every day?! And all of them SO NICELY ILLUSTRATED!? Since I was a voracious reader then, I didn’t stick to one story a day and instead plowed through as many stories as I could read in one sitting.
9. Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World
This was my brother’s book but I borrowed and pored over it often. This book, perhaps without me knowing it then, influenced me as an illustrator. I love Richard Scarry’s very quirky and imaginative world of animals, and I’ve written a related post about this animal stories and illustrations here.
10. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
In hindsight, a lot of my childhood books came from my Abuelita. She introduced me to Enid Blyton’s works– The Secret Seven, The Wishing Chair, and the Faraway Tree series– all tales of magical lands and whimsy set in old fashioned British times (think tea time and when children were polite and well-mannered). I was already nearing my early teens when I was introduced to these books so I was close to when I should’ve been outgrowing them already, but I think one can never be too old for a touch of magic and nostalgia.
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Have you read any of these books on my list? What are the books on yours?