Ten Books, Four Words Each: Childhood Faves

10 books, 4 words each

Lucy lured me back to the land of Twitter with her genius #sexisminparadise hashtag for discussing Air New Zealand’s foray into #everydaysexism.

It’s been nice to be back. I spend most of my time there caught up with politics and feminism. And books! (So here we are.)

The (not really from the) BBC book challenge that has been doing the rounds of Facebook for a few years jumped over to Twitter, and reminded me to have another look at the much cooler Rory list.

Rory Gilmore is shown on-screen reading 339 books over the seven series of The Gilmore Girls. From biographies of Moliere, Proust and Eleanor Roosevelt to the Bhagavad Gita, the Iliad, The Bell Jar and Harry Potter, she’s basically read all the books. Before she’s 22.

I’ve read about a third of them, and conversations on Facebook and Twitter about the list made me think it’s not that likely my total will increase.

If I’d discovered the list in my twenties, I probably would have been super keen to work through them and tick them all off – and that would have been an excellent thing for my brain! But I think my breadth of reading peaked in my early twenties and isn’t likely to spike so high again.

At that age, I was voraciously munching through the university library and Arty Bees secondhand bookshop, finding out what there was in the world. I have a better idea now of what there is out there, and an entirely new sense of the finity (surely that should be the noun, right?) of my time to explore it all.

Now that I’m in my mid-thirties, it’s too late for me to be an astronaut or concert pianist. If I desperately wanted to, I could still change tack and become a doctor or drama teacher, but goodness me, that’s exhausting just to write down.

Between lack of brainpower and the time I choose to spend with my son (and my other baby, er, blog), my thirties are a much slower period for expanding my horizons. And they’re more about depth and expertise for most of us, right? We’ve done the groundwork and now we get to build. We’re old enough to be taken seriously in our fields of interest and expertise – and we might actually have some expertise.

Rory might have read one biography of Colette or Hillary Clinton but she didn’t read the entire library shelf by and about them and then write a thesis based on that reading. Let alone a thesis-worth of reading on every writer she devours on the show.

So my current book-list exploits are now either narrow but deep (reading about child development, Lent, or biblical approaches to sexual ethics, at the moment, for instance) or pleasantly reminiscent and taxonomical, like this ’ere series of book lists.

We started with a general-purpose list in December of ten books that have stayed with you. It became a delightfully addictive process, and I promised to invite you to more threads. So here we are again.

top ten book lists, children's book lists, classic children's books, Christian parenting


I’d like to keep this post to books we read as children, with puberty as the rough (very rough!) boundary. So nothing that’s from your teenage or young adult reading lives, and no kids’ books that you’ve discovered as an adult, please – we’ll do those as a separate post, though, so feel free to start making notes :).

Oh, and these are all ‘chapter-books’ so let’s keep picture books for another day, too, shall we? My list is fiction, but yours doesn’t need to be.

Here’s my list, with the traditional four-word teasers.

I had such trouble getting the list down to ten that I just plain gave up and split it into two lists, based, roughly, on date of publication. It’s hard to try and compare books like Heidi and The Secret Garden with Judy Blume or Cynthia Voigt, so I’ve given them their own space to breathe, breaking the lists at World War II.

Luckily, kids’ books often come in series or sets, so there are actually dozens of books captured by my entries. Sneaky.

These are the books I’d save from the burning library of Alexandria. I’ve not only re-read them all several times, but I’ve enjoyed reading most of them as an adult. There are plenty of other books that I read a lot as a kid (Famous Five, Trixie Belden, Hardy Boys, Babysitters Club, Sue Barton), but I haven’t brought them with me as I’ve grown and they probably wouldn’t stand up to the literary (or sociological) scrutiny of my adult self if I revisited them now.

That’s rather more than enough preamble. I present: lists!


Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
He pulled her plaits.

What Katy Did, Susan B Coolidge
Paralysis + mentor = character.

Little House books, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Now, that’s self-sufficiency.

Heidi, Johanna Spyri
Goats’ milk with Grandfather

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
Tha’s spoilt, not sick.

Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfield
Pauline, Petrova, Posy, poor.

Daddy Long-Legs, Jean Webster
Orphan, university, epistolary romance.

Little Women (series), Louisa May Alcott
I hope I’m Jo.


Carbonel, Barbara Sleigh
Cat: haughty. Adventures: magical.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis.
Never recognised the allegory.

The BFG, Roald Dahl (and you know, everything else he wrote, not excluding shopping lists)
Exuberant, cross-species friendship.

Judy Blume, Are you there, God, it’s me, Margaret?
She talks about periods.

The Tillerman Cycle (Homecoming, et al), Cynthia Voigt
Inside self-sufficient introverts’ heads.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D Taylor
Black in segregated Mississippi.

The Changeover, Margaret Mahy
Christchurch girl fights demon.

Mrs Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH, Robert C O’Brien
Literate lab-rats plan escape.

The Half-Men of O, Maurice Gee
Intense world-switching danger.

Under the Mountain, Maurice Gee
Hold that burning stone!

And now it’s your turn!

This is part of an occasional series of book lists. Some others are:

Ten books, four words each

Ten books, four words each: most influential

59 brilliant + accessible books by women

I tell you, I’m everywhere these days. Follow me on Facebook for daily links, resources and Sacraparentalish tidbits, on Pinterest for link-plantations and on Twitter for political feminist ranting.

Do you want to use one of these shiny sharing buttons?

9 comments on “Ten Books, Four Words Each: Childhood Faves”

  1. Andy Reply

    Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
    Random New Orleans musings

    zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance
    Road trip about quality

    the tyranny of distance, Geoffrey Blainey
    Australian geography shaping settlement

  2. Alex Reply

    Right, here goes – this has been distracting me all morning and I need to concentrate on other things now, so I’m just going to go with the current version of the list. I have been super strict and stuck to ten, although I’m cheating slightly – having put a Diana Wynne Jones and a representative of the Kelpie books on my original list I’ve left them off here, though obviously they would nomally have been right at the top. I haven’t followed your lead to divide into pre- and post-war, primarily because I don’t think I have enough to fill the former list. I’ve not re-read all of these an equal amount of times, but they are all books I’m very much hoping to enjoy again soon with my own children. I am horrified by some of the omissions – no Roald Dahl, no Alan Garner, no Tom’s Midnight Garden… but I need to stop somewhere! So, in no particular order, I give you:

    1 – Children of Green Knowe (and subsequent series), L M Boston : just the best, ever!

    2 – Chronicles of Narnia, C S Lewis : long live Aslan

    3 – Moondial (although it was a close run thing between this and The Secret World of Polly Flint by the same author), Helen Cresswell : Minty short for Penelope

    4 – The Snow Spider (and the rest of the trilogy) : magic in Wales

    5 – Heidi, Johanna Spyri : still makes me cry

    6 – Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat, Ursula Moray Williams : trying to fit in

    7 – Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken : mighty girls against wolves

    8 – Chocky, John Wyndham : alien friendship, binary numbers

    9 – Bottersnikes and Gumbles, S A Wakefield : Willy Gumble, late as usual

    10 – The Princess and the Goblin – George MacDonald : good old-fashioned fairytale adventure

    • Alex Reply

      Thanks for prompting this list, Thalia. I am delighted to report that my two have been loving our nightly doses of Gobbolino over the past week. Not sure we’re quite ready for Narnia or Green Knowe yet, though.
      Incidentally, I notice that I forgot to tell you who wrote the Snow Spider. It was Jenny Nimmo, in case anyone’s interested.

  3. Laura Reply

    I love this list topic and so enjoyed reminiscing. Let’s do children’s picture books next, hmmm?
    In the mean time here is my chapter book list, i read a lot and very early on in life, perhaps too early in some of these case!

    Northern Lights series – Philip Pullman – captivated by daemon pets.
    Are you there God, it’s me Margaret – Judy Blume – honest angst.
    Roald Dahl (esp short stories) – devoured anything he wrote.
    Beezus and Ramona – Beverley Cleary – wish I had sisters.
    Charlottes web – E.B White – circle of life reminder.
    Heidi – Joanna Spyri – bed time story aloud.
    The Rats of Nimh – Robert C O’Brien – no more lab rats.
    Alex – Tessa Duder – so much swimming.
    Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – Alice series – joined the fan club.
    Lois Lowry – Anastasia Krupnik series – another awkward preteen.

    I count 8 books with strong female characters/role models!

  4. Pingback: Re-reading Anne of Green Gables: Matthew Cuthbert | Sacraparental

  5. Stef Reply

    Robin hood- trickster redistributes wealth
    The Magic Faraway Tree- New land each time
    The Last of the really great whangdoodles- Magic land, bad cat
    The wool pack- historical mystery with girl
    Greek slave boy- do unto others
    Alanna the first adventure- Girl with sword wins
    The Lord of the Rings- good vs evil
    The snow goose- made me cry
    Little Women- Jo wants to write
    Barmy jeffers and the quasimodo walk- The girl is tough

    I read a lot of things and I am not sure which were the most important but these came into my head when I thought about it. My bias as a young reader and especially as a middle-age feminist remembering is what the female characters (not always the main character) were doing. Robin Hood was first ALWAYS. I was about 12-13 when I first started my rewrites of it with Robin as a female. LOL. I haven’t stopped doing those yet as there are so many different ways of doing it.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge