Amy asked the question in the comment section on yesterday's post, "What DID you read as a kid?" and I thought it would be an interesting question to answer. Well, I can tell you that I did not read a great many classics. A huge reason for that was that my mother liked them and wished me to spend more time reading them. Bad attitude, much? Yes, I think so.
I wasn't a very rebellious kid growing up. (Even internally. It was always my internal conviction to obey because I thought that to be right and because I wanted to.) My biggest sign of rebellion towards the parental units was in my rejection of both classical music and classical literature. Gratefully, my mother decided not to die on this hill and let me choose my own books until high school, whereupon she was smart enough to give me a list of classics to choose from and would allow me to pick from the list. (Making it my choice was a very good idea!)
What did I choose to read? I spent my middle school/teenage years devouring the following series:
The Boxcar Children
Hank the Cowdog
The Dana Girls
The Ramona books
The Saddle Club*
The Babysitter Club**
*I only read these because my best friend loved them, as she loved anything with horses.
**I was only allowed to read TBC because this same best friend's mother allowed her to read them. My mom figured that there couldn't be anything too bad in the books if my friend was reading them and so she allowed me to start the series. My friend and I ***REVELED*** in our freedom to read The Babysitter's Club. Once we had read the entire series from start to finish, we agreed between ourselves that we would never, ever allow our own daughters to read the books because they were so awful. But hey! We had 'um read!
I also enjoyed:
The We Were There series of books. (I devoured them whenever I could find them.)
Anything written by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Upon reaching high school, I had consistently rejected the Little House on the Prairie books (my mom kept recommending them) and all other classics. Then came the list of classics that I had to choose from. My first selection was The Prisoner of Zenda, by Anthony Hope and I chose it because it was the shortest book on the list. I do not remember whether I confessed out loud that I rather enjoyed it. In fact, I liked it so much that I still have the copy I read! It's traveled with me everywhere I've lived. (I was recently thinking I ought to re-read it and see what I think of it now.)
Upon reading that one, I started to think that I might enjoy some other classics. I read The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Phantom of the Opera of my own free will and
Most of my early teen years were spent reading books about theology and the Christian life. When I was 13-ish, I began feasting on any book by R.C. Sproul that I could get my hands on. My good friend (the same of Gone With the Wind fame) and I spent many hours debating things like predestination and transubstantiation. (She was Baptist, I was Reformed Charismatic - you can think about that one for a sec - and we had a Catholic friend.) Once I had settled some of these issues in my mind, I moved on to other topics. My 17 year old self really enjoyed Elizabeth George. My later teen years were filled with books by Gary North, R.J. Rushdooney, A.W. Pink, Jerry Bridges and Doug and Nancy Wilson.***
This brings us up to the age of 21 or so when I started law school and made friends with a great reader. (Diary of an Autodidact's brother, to be precise.) He started asking me if I'd read any numbers of titles that I hadn't. At the time he was particularly interested in the Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov so I offered a swap: I'd read the Foundation trilogy if he'd read Gone With the Wind. (It was really all I had to offer.) From there I moved on to Wodehouse and any number of other obscure but interesting books.
At the age of 24 I moved away from my home in Texas and went to live in Moscow, Idaho. There I attended Doug Wilson's church and was roommates and friends with several students who attended New St. Andrew's College. In talking with the students there, I felt extremely dumb. (There's really no other way to say it.) I realized there that I was extremely off-balance in my reading habits and had numerous holes and gabs to fill. I also didn't have very much time to read at that point because I was working a full time job and my evenings were spent hanging out with my roommate and going on long walks. (Which was awesome. This is when I fell in love with the Northwest!) I read only occasionally and always tried to pick a book on the NSA reading list so that I would have more of a clue as to what characters and story lines people were forever referencing around me. The only title which stands out to me at the moment was the first of Quintillian's books on oratory which I read and enjoyed very much. I tried to like poetry while living in Moscow but it just wouldn't stick. My roommate explained Moby Dick to me so I was able to avoid that one. (I mean to rectify this some day.) In summary: surrounded by well-educated men and women, who could converse articulately on any variety of topics without sounding completely idiotic, I found myself inept. And I wished, very much, that I had given more time to the classics.
Fast-forward a little bit further and I found myself in Oregon where I had met a man named Jonathan who was also well-versed in classics (and classical music. oh irony). His younger sister was getting to read The Chronicles of Narnia series for the first time and, not desiring to be outdone by an eight year old, I challenged her to a race and won. (How sad is it that I, at 25, was racing an 8 year old!?) How the Narnia series EVER escaped me when I was growing up is completely beyond me. You can ask how that happened, but I don't know. I think I would have loved it. It was also due to Jonathan's little sister that I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. (It is also soon to be her fault that I read some Stephen Ambrose because she really likes him and I've not read him. I'm still keepin' up!)
And now I consider it a duty, of sorts, to race my children to the books on our bookshelves. I purchase mostly classics, with some fun middle grade fiction books to go along, so that my kids will have a healthy selection of good books to choose from. Our home library includes everything from The Littles, The Winnie the Pooh books by Milne, to Ramona to The Wind and the Willows for starts. There's a good set of Hank the Cowdog books (oh yes!) with The Little Princess, Secret Garden and Charlotte's Web sprinkled in. Even now I allow Bookworm1 to make our read aloud selections. When it's time to pick a new title we just walk over to the bookshelves and I'll pull out 3-4 for him to choose from. In this way he has the freedom to choose but I know the books are good ones.
My stubbornness definitely got the better of me as a younger reader but I've done my penance and am now playing catch-up just as quickly as I can. I'm grateful that I've always loved to read. (My parents did well in not spoiling that natural desire.) And I'm grateful that we learn more as we grow up and that I've had the opportunities to keep reading and be sharpened by better readers than myself! I've really had a blessed and fun reading life, even if it wasn't "perfect." Then again, maybe it is. Maybe it is. . .
P.S. I also kept my collection of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books. And I love them still.
***It should be duly noted that I may or may not agree with any number of theologians or Christian teachers that I have read over the course of my life. I also may agree in part or in whole with any one of them. Once you start name dropping your Christian authors, I recognize that there is a tendency to start wanting to lecture people and slap labels. I can't prevent you from doing so, but I would say that trying to do so is rather ill-advised and somewhat futile. In this post, I'm merely presenting a reading history. It is ongoing.