What book changed your life? As tempting as it is to give a lofty, literary answer, the truth (for me, at least) is probably A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I read over and over and over, or C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which upset me so much (the shaving of the lion’s mane) that I cried all afternoon and threw the book out the window because it distressed me too much to even have it in the house (a lesson in the power of story). Last week I interviewed writer Anne Lamott for a magazine piece. She’s a voracious reader and prolific writer (seven novels and even more works of non-fiction, including her classic book on writing, Bird by Bird). What book changed her life? Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which she read for the first time at age eight.
What is it about the books we read when we’re young that makes them stick with us forever? PBS has a new initiative underway called “The Great American Read” which brought out a list of America’s 100 Most Loved books this spring. PBS worked with a public opinion polling service to “conduct a demographically and statistically representative survey asking Americans to name their most-loved novel.” Approximately 7,200 people participated. And what’s interesting about the list is that Americans don’t seem to love the books that are supposed to constitute great literature (Phillip Roth, William Faulkner, Jonathan Franzen). But we sure do love the books we read as children or teenagers—fully a quarter of the list are books aimed at kids and teens, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Charlotte’s Web to Harry Potter to The Hunger Games.
Here’s what many children’s/YA books have that make them resonate with readers: [Read more…]