Wednesday, June 09, 2010

My Magician's Book (Or, the Life-Long Secret of the Reader Child)

So, fans of the Chronicles of Narnia, I'm going to remind you of one of one of Lewis's mini-fables, as this book reminded me:

Lucy Pevensie is looking in a spell book for a spell she desperately needs. The spell, it turns out, is in the form of a story, a really amazing story that Lucy can't stop reading. It's so good that she tries to go back and reread it, but finds the (magical) pages only turn in one direction. Worst of all, the story is erasing itself from her brain even as she reads it, so that by the time she gets to the end she can't remember it at all. But it was such a good story that from that day on, whenever she reads something that she enjoys, it's only because it in some way reminded her of that one perfect, lost story.

Sound familiar? The Magician's Book. The perfect story you read as a child, and which since you read it has gone utterly unmatched and only vaguely echoed by anything else you read?

If you're a nerd-child like me, you probably have a book (or book series) like this. You might still be able to quote from it extensively, even though you haven't read it in five, ten, twenty, or fifty years. You're still not sure you ever felt as good or as intense as you did that first time you read it, and you may have wished really desperately that you could just find and be transported to the world those characters lived in. Any of this ringing any bells for you?

When I read The Magician's Book, Laura Miller's monograph on her love of Narnia and rereading it as an adult, bells were clanging in my head, like Sunday morning at all the churches in the world.

For Laura Miller, the book columnist at, the Magician's Book was Narnia. She writes about her childhood love for Narnia, her return to the series as an adult, and everything she has learned about and ruminated on regarding nerdy childish reading patterns. Some points she makes:

1) As children, we read books desperately then, falling wholly and completely in love with them (did you ever sneak a book under the dining room table or under the lid of your desk at school, and then get yelled at by your parent/teacher for reading instead of being social/studious? I did all the time. ALL THE TIME.)

2) We kept reading as adults, but don't really love reading as much or as purely as we used to when we were kids. This is because...

3) Experience, life-knowledge, exposure to various things, etc destroy our credulity as we get older, meaning we don't allow ourselves the same escapism we used to as kids. One of her great examples here is the nearly universal desire of children to read about talking animals or a hero's ability to commune with animals--it's because, down to that bitter moment we actually become adults, all children hang onto the hope that *they* will be the child to bridge that gap and talk with animals. Eventually, we finally give up on that hope, and then we feel stupid and embarrassed at ourselves for ever feeling hope in that particular magic.

(That's another sad part about being an adult--being embarrassed by the things that made us happy when we were kids.)

Laura Miller says that, for us, you know, us kids who read constantly and obsessively when we were kids, we've spent our entire lives trying, like Lucy, to resuscitate that feeling of total immersion we felt when we read our Magician's Books when we were kids. We read things and like or enjoy them based on to what degree they can recall that ancient, complete escapism.

Now, full disclosure--I read a lot. I mean, besides for work. And despite all this very great amount of reading that I do, it is very, very rare that I read anything and experience a sense of pure enjoyment. I mean, I often experience some or various enjoyments from what I read, or I appreciate different elements about the book, or maybe it strikes a particularly resonant chord for me. But very, very, VERY rarely do I get so totally lost in a book that every time I put it down I just itch to re-immerse myself. You know, the way I read EVERYTHING when I was a kid.

So recently, I reread my Magician's Book--an epic fantasy called The Elvenbane, which I'll review separately. I don't want to give up any spoilers regarding whether or not it held up to my childish love for it; I'll get to that later. But I've decided it's really silly to be embarrassed about the things I read and loved as a child. That means--mostly epic fantasy, which made me so, so happy as a child. So very happy.

So, calling all nerd children: what do you think of Laura Miller's thesis about childhood reading? What was your Magician's Book? I can't wait to hear.

*Postscript: I dedicate this post to Alyssa Smith, the Sterling editor who loaned me her copy of Laura Miller's MAGICIAN'S BOOK and inspired this post. Alyssa has been a very good friend for a long time, and has been one of a small vanguard of folks who have helped me re-discover my inner geek. Alyssa also had the horrific experience of losing all of her belongings and pets in a fire that burned down her entire house earlier this week. Alyssa has done a lot of kind things for a lot of people, so please send her your love, good wishes, and, if you can spare a couple bucks, her friends are collecting donations to help her rebuild her life. More details here.


Nazarea said...

I think I need to read this book. I'm a huge closet/embarrassed reader. I'm also finally getting over it. If I want to read fantasy/ teen angst/ sappy romances/ YA in general, I really don't have to apologize for it. Thanks for so eloquently stating that.

And epic fantasy--also my childhood love. Still--in my heart of hearts--my first love.

Cieloan said...

I don't fully agree with the Magician's book idea. While I had a lot of books that captivated me as a kid (I didn't read anything I owned less than three times), I've found lots of books that have captivated me as an adult at an even higher level than my childhood favorites. I agree that the books we love are the ones we can completely immerse ourselves in. I just don't think it's because we're trying to re-create a past experience--it isn't for me anyway.

My Magician's books were the Redwall books, a random book called The Secret of Dragonhome, The mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Secret of NIMH, The Indian in the Cupboard, and so many others.

Katie Johnston said...

Oh, yes! I identify so much with all of this! And that feeling, as an adult, going into every new book hoping so much for that absorbing, transforming experience I found all the time in books as a kid... and the disappointment of realising again and again that I just don't know how to read that way any more.

I was a MEGA nerd child. My big Magician's Books were probably the Redwall series, and Diana Wynne Jones' Dalemark books. I'd be too scared to read them again now, because the feeling I get from remembering those stories couldn't hold up to ANY collection of actual sentences.

I'd add Tamora Pierce's Alanna books too, but I still read those puppies at least once a year, and I love them almost as much as an adult as I did as a kid. (But I wonder how much of that is because reading them recalls the way I used to feel about books and other worlds and magic and talking cats and stuff, rather than purely on their own merit.)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

It's killing me. The whole time I was reading your post, I knew exactly which book was my Magician's Book. But the problem is that I don't know the title of my book. It was in my primary school library in Hong Kong. Wonderful illustrations with a Alice in Wonderland-type feel. The title was Uncle Something. I just can't remember what the Something is. I checked it out over and over and over again when I was in about third grade. I'd love to find it, but I'm sure it's obscure and hard-to-find, especially without the title. :(


Adam Heine said...

Fellowship of the Ring was mine. Not Lord of the Rings -- I didn't have anywhere near the worldly experience I needed to get it. But Frodo's quest was my quest too.

Danielle said...

Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising Sequence utterly captivated the eight year old me when it was introduced to us by Mrs. Taylor (THE teacher I will always remember, too). I read the sequence over and over, always trying to find something else in between which captured me as much (Tolkien came close but not quite.)

After reading the series for the twelfth time, in year 8, and looking in vain for another book which I liked as much, I consciously decided I would just have to write it myself - no arrogance, though, it wasn't for anyone else, and I knew I didn't know how. I had always written stories, but mostly as plays (fairy-war fantasies, which I sometimes forced my friends to act out in the playground!) I asked the librarian if there were any books on writing novels. She gave me a "book" with an orange card cover, which I now realize was more of an academic paper, titled: The Quest Narrative and I struggled through that way-over-my-head thing and didn't really understand it till 1st yr Comp. Lit. but I understood enough to get hooked on the behind-the-scenes life of Story.

Laurel said...

I think she's on to something. Have you read any of Alison Lurie's books on children's lit? She has some ideas that resonate, too.

And yes, I was that kid. Books at school, during class, in the lunchroom, under the covers at night. The entire Narnia series owned me from age 8. Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L'Engle, Enid Blyton, and Lucy Boston all ranked high, as well.

But I distinctly remember the secret, butterflies in the stomach excited feeling every time I read or re-read a Narnia book. The Lucy with the Magician's Book scene was one of my favorites.

Interestingly, C.S. Lewis described this feeling as well. He was fascinated by a terrarium as a child and remembered with clarity the sense of numinous wonder that it instilled in him. He sought to recapture that in the Narnia world.

I do still, from time to time, find a book that makes me feel like that. It's the best feeling in the world.

SM Schmidt said...

Um...I still read books desperately, falling wholly and completely in love with them unless something goes terribly wrong with the plot/character to rub me the wrong way. I don't read as often as I wish at school so I make up for it devouring books over vacations, an addict on a binge if you will.

Yet, I have no books from childhood upon rereading I'm disappointed with the second time through, however my dad read to me most of my early books so I miss the tangent explanations reading the second time through.

Nadine said...

"down to that bitter moment we actually become adults, all children hang onto the hope that *they* will be the child to bridge that gap and talk with animals" - you hit the nail on the head for me.

My Magician's book was Indian in the Cupboard. I remember putting little figures in a corner of my house, hoping they would come alive.

kiaras said...

For me, it was David Edding's The Belgariad. And I'm currently re-listening to it on audio book. It's my go-to book when I need comfort. The characters are like old friends and I *still* get immersed in it.

I've never been apologetic about the kinds of books I read either. Fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, YA... I even read Harry Potter & carried it back and forth to WORK. If anyone makes comments (and they have) about my reading choices, I just give them a withering stare and ask them what they've been reading lately. Usually, it's nothing. For which I pity them.

Nor have I grown out of wanting to be the person that "bridges the gap" between fantasy & reality. I've become a little more convinced that it'll never happen, but I've never stopped WANTING it. That's why my F/UF/P review blog is called 'Waiting for Fairies' - I'm still waiting for that portal to open.

I guess that makes me a nerd. But it also makes me happy, so I'm not really worried about it.

jalluisi said...

Oh, my. I had so, so many of my own Magicians' Books. The ones that leap instantly to mind are LITTLE WOMEN, THE HOUNDS OF THE MORRIGAN, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (and all L.M. Montgomery's boooks, really), ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, and A WRINKLE IN TIME. I re-read all of those so many times that the pages are falling out of my original copies. And I was fascinated every single time.

fairyhedgehog said...

The first book that came to mind began: "Katy the kitten, the small tiger cat, is asleep in the hall, in a ball, on the mat."

I guess I was quite young when I read that one!

I loved science fiction and C.S. Lewis and Enid Blyton. I get some of the same thrills today from genre fiction, especially books by Tanya Huff. Some of Pratchett's books drew me right in too.

I still read for escapism.

faye said...

Your post reminded me of a quote by C.S. Lewis (coincidence?) that I really liked:

"Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."

liz said...

I read The Magician's Child and agreed with most of it. I was a thwacked on the head by the nuns child (only one nun -- most were quite good) for reading under the desk. I loved fantasy -- The Hobbit, Chronicles of Narnia, The Dark is Rising Series, The Borrowers, The Sword of Shannara -- and have tried to include a bit of that magic in my writings. The closest I've gotten to feeling the fantasy come alive again is with Alice Hoffman and Neal Gaiman (Second Nature, The Graveyard Book, and Stardust, to be exact.) It's reality stretched just a little further, so that it could, just possibly, if you don't blink and look the right way, come true.

geitjie said...

The Little Prince did it for me...for my sins I later had to read it again, and analyze it in French!
His Dark Materials was another magic read; again it was disconcerting later to have all the "atheistic" elements pointed out to me...

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I unapologetically love the Little House books and all books by LM Montgomery.

Also anything by Beverly Cleary. And The Borrowers. And the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander.

I think teaching children in the middle grades made it more "acceptable" for me to continue loving these books. I'm lucky to have found an editor who believes children's literature is the most significant literature out there. The books that shape childhood are hugely significant. I need to get a copy of this book!

I was a big Narnia fan too. Still love saying Reepicheep.

Matthew Rush said...

Great post Moonrat. Mine was LOTR. I wish all the time I could find that feeling again.

Anonymous said...

Tarzan of the Apes and A Princess of Mars. I wanted so much to go live in the African jungle and dreamed of living in the martian world of John Carter, world's greatest swordsman and the incomparable Dejah Thoris. I look forward to the movie John Carter of Mars being filmed now and due in 2012.

Ellen said...

OMG I was obsessed with the Elvenbane series as a kid. Except I read Elvenblood first, so that's always been my favorite (I have this weird tendency to accidentally read the 2nd book in a series before the 1st one, because I wasn't sure which came first when I started reading. Did it with Harry Potter, this series, Jane Lindskold's Firekeeper series...)

Jennifer Ambrose said...

Everyone is listing such great books! The Wrinkle in Time Series, The Belgariad, and L.M. Montgomery, were all important to me as a child.

But my Magician's Book was The Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander (also mentioned by several others), which I read in 4th grade. I remember one scene at a King's hall and as I read, I WAS THERE. I heard the talking, the laughter, the clinking glasses. That was a magical moment for me.

The final book The High King is dedicated to "All the boys who might have been Taran, and the girls who will always be Eilonwy." I cried when I read that. I "knew" I was Eilonwy and that Alexander had written than just for me.

JES said...

...all children hang onto the hope that *they* will be the child to bridge that gap and talk with animals.

Perfect. (And -- not naming any names -- certain adults continue to do things like peer into their pooches' eyes and swear, swear that they know what Fido or Sophie is thinking.)

My Magician's Book: The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree (that edition published in 1993, but the book first came out in the early '50s and numerous times in between). I haven't thought of that book in years and years, but as soon as I read this post (thank you, Moonie) it jumped immediately to mind.

jjdebenedictis said...

Being a geek seems to mean being capable of loving odd things whole-heartedly.

Being cool seems to be an unwillingness to do the same. Cool people mock enthusiasm, disdain open-heartedness, and adopt a cynical, superior attitude toward the passions of others.

I'd rather be a dork than aloof. Why does anyone think it's more fun to sneer at things than adore them?

All that said, you're correct that life experience has weakened my ability to love books as ardently as I did when I was a child. I mean--people would talk to me and I wouldn't even hear them because the book was so good.

Taylor Mathews Taylor said...

"When I read The Magician's Book, Laura Miller's monograph on her love of Narnia and rereading it as an adult, bells were clanging in my head, like Sunday morning at all the churches in the world."

This is the most perfect description of what reading an amazing book feels like. It gave me chills.

Thank you!

Claire Dawn said...

I don't know that I had one favourite, but thanks to this post, I want to go back and read:

The Secret Garden
Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry
Pippi Longstocking
All the Roald Dahls
All the Encyclopedia Browns
All the Dr. Seusses ( I own like 30 or something)
and a few others.

Meredith said...

Oh my goodness, the Redwall books! I remember sneaking them into class and thinking I was so stealthy about it. I have all of them packed away at my parents' house--I definitely need to re-read them now.

I was certainly more easily immersed in books as a child. I could read for hours on end at any location, any time.

Charles Gramlich said...

I still read YA stuff all the time. I loved the Harry Potter books. I want to read susan cooper's series this summer.

Kay said...

Maybe I can't focus, but I have a lot of worlds I like to return to.

Everyone from Nora Lofts to Patricia Briggs. Kids books? Susan Cooper and Diana Wynn Jones, come immediately to mind. Haven't gotten the itch, yet to return to Hogwarts, but I read LOTR almost every year.

Larissa said...

I LOVED The Elvenbane. Actually, I still adore anything Mercedes Lackey writes.

Early childhood, it would be the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series. Read every one multiple times.

Amanda C said...

I still get very, very engrossed in books, but probably not *quite* to the extent as when I was younger - by a small margin.

For me, the books were:
The Weaving of a Dream (BEAUTIFULLY illustrated Chinese folktale)
Midnight in the Dollhouse
Thunder Rolling in the Mountains
The Castle in the Attic
The Dark is Rising series
The Wizard of Earthsea (and series)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles

I loved the old cartoon version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when I was little. But I only in the last few years read the Narnia books, and didn't really like them - way too overtly religious for me.

Laurie said...

So many I could name that I read over and over, but my top of the top, love more than anythings are Lloyd Alexander's Prydain, Narnia (and I went through a similar love-hate-love relationship for the same reason) and L. Frank Baum's Oz series.

I can re-read all of these as an adult and they still hold up very well, especially Prydain and Oz.

MJR said...

I was one of those kids and I know what she means--my best-loved-of- all-time books are the books I read as a child. But I still sometimes get that feeling when I read--a book so good I stir the pasta with one hand and read with the other etc...

I was a huge Narnia fan, I loved the Little House books, My Father's Dragon series, and many many others....

Amy B. said...

I don't really feel like I have a Magician's Book from childhood; I found (and find) myself more immersed in books later in life. Not that I didn't read as a child; I read like wild, and I read everything, and I would enact scenes with friends or create games that we could play off of. (I so desperately wanted to be Harriet the Spy.)

But I was about 13 when I decided such childishness was behind me and that I was an adult now and was only going to read classics and "literature." Then at 14 I found Harry Potter and went, "Screw that, I like what I like, and I'll never be ashamed of it." Which lead me, in a very domino causal way, to become an agent.

And you can so talk to animals. Just check out Daily Coyote.

Jess Haines said...

Actually, I've never read it.

However, I have read (and have always loved) THE ELVENBANE. That, to me, is a fabulous high fantasy, and one that I love to re-read over and over again.

(And, yes, I was one of those kids that often got caught by the teacher sneaking in a book I wanted to read instead of paying attention or studying in class.)


Precie said...

So...this post leads me to realize for the first time a remarkable continuity in my reading interests. When I think back to books that stayed with me in my childhood, The Secret Garden and A Little Princess stand out vividly. And both resonate with the literary interests (Victorian lit) I've maintained as an adult. How strange that I never noticed before...AND I really need to go back and read both of those now to see the nuances (imperialism, class consciousness, etc.) from a bigger social perspective.

Coolness. Thanks. And thanks so much for sharing the news about your friend...what a loss.

Jaleh D said...

I don't really have a Magician's Book. While I don't need the escapism anymore the way I did as a tween, I still have the ability to immerse myself in other worlds. I've never been embarrassed to read or share what I like. (Kinda the point of my blog.)

But I'll check out that book. It sounds interesting.

pacatrue said...

I was indeed a big Narnia fan as a kid and still read C.S. Lewis' work despite not being Christian. Just a terribly insightful man on human nature when at his best - though he wasn't always at his best.

Anyway, the books that come to mind for me were the classic adventure novels for young boys - Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, The Bounty Trilogy by Nordhoff and Hall. Sigh. I have never forgotten Tehani, the completely fictional Tahitian wife of the fictional protagonist of Mutiny on the Bounty.

A very hard to find series I devoured at age 8 was The Baker Street Irregulars by Terrence Dick, I think. Somehow they were kids in Sherlock Holmes' world. No idea what they did, but I wanted to do nothing else when visiting my grandmother in Houston on vacation than go to the library and get those books.

_*rachel*_ said...

I'm not sure I've fully had a Magician's Book, but I've had several that captivated me both now and then....

For me, the first was probably Narnia. It's one of the first series I loved, and I still love it, and I can't see a time when I stop loving it.

In a slightly different way, I'd say another choice would be the Bible. It's not the sort of book I usually can't put down, but, like Narnia (or vice versa), it grows as I grow. I understand both better and appreciate both better--though perhaps in different ways--as I grow. Parts I wouldn't have noticed when I was a child now make me sit up and reread and reread. (Though I still don't care much about the geneologies.)

Barbara Martin said...

A book that I could reread until the covers fell off was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. A second favourite was National Velvet by Enid Bagnold. It was horses or nothing.

Anthrophile said...

"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith.

Ebony McKenna. said...

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe had a huge impact on me as a kid. I used to check wardrobes and cupboards and pantries - because ya never know which one might me a bit magic!

I also adored Charlotte's Web.

But the books - and author - who had the biggest impact were some stunning picture books called What-a-Mess. The author, Frank Muir, became a pen-pall and we finally met in 1995. He was an inspiration and I was devastated when he died in 98 . But, from a very early age, I began to understand that it took a year from when he began to write the story to publication. I couldn't believe it took soooooo long. Ha! I wish I'd only taken a year!

Anyway, Narnia always draws me back. I love it so much. I especially love his dedication to Lucy at the beginning.

fairyhedgehog said...

Ebony, you were pen-pals with the What-A-Mess writer? How wonderful! My kids loved those books.

Pamala Knight said...

I've just ordered the book based upon your post because not only was I that child (reading all over the place), my 13 yr old son one ups me by getting in trouble at school CONSTANTLY for reading when he should be paying attention. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he'll grow up to be like you.

Thanks for the recommendation.

Sherri said...

When I read this post I didn't know the name of my Magician's Book, but after I posted the story on my blog, one of my commenters pointed me in the right direction. I'm ecstatic to have finally learned the title and author (The Chrysalids, John Wyndham), and it's all thanks to you. :)

fairyhedgehog said...

Sherri, I loved the Chrysalids too.

Brent Winter said...

Yes, Moonrat, thank you, Moonrat, yes! That feeling of being completely transported to another world through a book, and the incremental loss of that feeling with the gradual onset of adulthood, until now I hardly ever get that feeling anymore. But I want it! To Miller's thesis, I would only add the caveat that it doesn't apply to everybody. A few months ago I made a post to my blog along very similar lines, and I discovered that some of my readers (including some very literate people) simply didn't agree that books used to be a lot more absorbing and satisfying when we were kids. So our mileage may vary.

My Magician's Book was LOTR. I still remember crying the first time I read the scene where Pippin hears the horns of Rohan blowing at dawn in Minas Tirith. Other biggies of that ilk were Narnia and The Dark Is Rising. It's also good to see some shout-outs to the Chronicles of Prydain on here!

These days I occasionally find a short story that absorbs me in the old way, but the only full-on books that have done it for me in the past twenty years are Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and the His Dark Materials series.

Oh, and to Amy Sonnichsen: I think your book might have been one of the Uncle Wiggily books. I never read them myself, but a friend of mine showed me one, and your description sounds like the book he showed me. Worth a Googling?

Jenny said...

I didn't realize that's what "The Magician's Book" was in reference to, but I love it! I have about fifty of those, but I'd say one of my biggest ones was The Scarlet Pimpernel. Oh that book was magical when I read it for the first time.

Michelle said...

On one hand, I disagree with the idea of a Magician's Book. I feel the same way about books I read now -- absorbed, wrapped up, and itching to re-enter the world. Most of them are fantasy (holler at Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and The Name of the Wind), but literary fiction, pop fiction, and nonfiction can do the trick, too.

And then I remember how I felt while reading The Golden Compass, The Hobbit, and Sabriel for the first time. They grabbed me like riptides.

danceluvr said...

the movie John Carter of Mars being filmed now and due in 2012

Didn't it just run on the SciFi channel recently?

danceluvr said...

The books that intrigued me included all the Oz books, Edgar Rice Burrough's Mars series (I climbed a backyard fence to a neighbor's to borrow them -- they had that wonderful musty smell), and miscellaneous science fiction works.

The only books that have enthralled me as an adult were the Harry Potter series. I read them all five or six times.

Now I tend to read as a writer and pick out the passive voices and other "no-no's" that published authors did but still got published.

Thanks, Moonrat, for the memories.

moonrat said...

danceluvr--I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN. I read everything like an editor now :( kinda sad. For example, when I was rereading Elvenbane, I noticed they used the word "sybaritic" twice in a 600-p book, and it bothered me. Rar.

lucyp said...

I think if you have lost that feeling of full escape into story (I refuse to demean it by calling it escapism), you're reading the wrong books. There are "adult" books that do it to. Reading Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale and Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind did it for me, just to give two recent examples.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Lucy P,
I loved SHADOW OF THE WIND. There are many books that have completely absorbed me as an adult. The difference, for me, is these titles haven't shaped me as a person the way those childhood novels did.

I just re-read THE YEARLING with my after-school book club. It was my first big read as a fifth grader. For years it has stayed with me. I have to say, re-reading as a mother, it impacted me even more than in childhood. The seed of that story has played into things I've created/read consciously and unconsciously for twenty-five years. Even if I didn't "get it" all then, it has flavored my perception of the world, you know?

Anyone else feel this way, that childhood books have colored the way they approach their writing now?