I have always been a voracious reader. Most of the summers of my youth I participated in our local library's reading challenge. You know the one - it usually had some kind of cheesy theme like "Discovered Hidden Treasure through Books" to try to encourage kids to read.
A number of books that I discovered in these tender years set my character and my expectations. I took these books as realistic depictions of what I could accomplish as a young woman if I only had the right drive and curiosity. And as both a guilty pleasure and the literary equivalent of comfort food, I have returned again and again to these books - to renew my inspiration, or to simply experience the litany of familiar words and their attendant emotions.
I was delighted to discover a new book Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick. So many of the books that she and her co-authors discuss fueled my hopes and dreams.
From Publishers Weekly
Launched from her regular feature column Fines Lines for Jezebel.com, this spastically composed, frequently hilarious omnibus of meditations on favorite YA novels dwells mostly among the old-school titles from the late '60s to the early '80s much beloved by now grown-up ladies. This was the era, notes the bibliomaniacal Skurnick in her brief introduction, when books for young girls moved from being wholesome and entertaining (e.g., The Secret Garden and the Nancy Drew series) to dealing with real-life, painful issues affecting adolescence as depicted by Beverly Cleary, Lois Duncan, Judy Blume, Madeleine L'Engle and Norma Klein. Skurnick groups her eruptive essays around themes, for example, books that feature a particularly memorable, fun or challenging narrator (e.g., Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy); girls on the verge, such as Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret or danger girls such as Duncan's Daughters of Eve; novels that deal with dying protagonists and other tragedies like child abuse (Willo Davis Roberts's Don't Hurt Laurie!); and, unavoidably, heroines gifted with a paranormal penchant, among other categories. Skurnick is particularly effective at spotlighting an undervalued classic (e.g., Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase) and offers titles featuring troubled boys as well. Her suggestions will prove superhelpful (not to mention wildly entertaining) for educators, librarians and parents.
I also discovered that Booking Mama is hosting a Shelf Discovery Challenge - to participate you pick six books that Skurnick covers and write your own review between now and April 2010 (essentially one a month). So, being in a nostalgic mood, I've decided to participate. My six books are: