What I hope to be the final installment in this list. But depending on how much I gush about each book, we’ll see.
21) The Princess Bride: S. Morganstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman — I have to explain why this is on the list? Really? Really? Fine. Because twelfth grade English, that’s why.
22) Tell Me If the Lovers Are Losers by Cynthia Voigt — Speaking of twelfth grade English, this was the book I used for my senior project. This was the book that helped me realize: all that literary analysis stuff we’re learning in class? I actually like applying to my pleasure reading. This was the book that let me know I was going to be an English major in college, no matter what my dad wanted for me.
23) Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler — Though like some of the others on this list, I haven’t read the super fancy revised/anniversary edition. I realize that not everyone wants to try to conceive or to use fertility awareness to prevent pregnancy, but: 1) it was certainly nice to have those as options; 2) it was geekily awesome learning about the inner workings of my body. And yeah, I would have been a little sorry if I hadn’t read this until after I’d had my Essure.
24) The Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle — This one less for the story itself and more because when I was young — three or four — I remember my dad reading it to me. I mean, it was a pretty long book for someone with my age-appropriate short attention span, particularly given that it was generally bedtime reading. So there were a lot of nights where I was guaranteed a little bit of both story time and dad-to-myself time. (My age is approximate in this memory because I’m recalling that we started the book shortly after my little sister was born, and we are three and a half years apart.) Also still, it’s pretty awesome to be read to.
25) Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson — This one was a big deal to me because it was one of the first times where I confronted the ideas that: 1) Main characters may not be pretty — or at least “prettiest.” (Since this came at a developmental stage where I had trouble conceiving of a world that did not revolve around me, I internalized this to mean that I might not be pretty.) 2) Main characters may never receive the kind of unconditional love and acceptance from the people they most want to receive it from. (Again, internalized to THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU.) 3) If you go out in the world and are competent and work to make your own way, you will be okay anyway. Not petted and coddled or whatever, but you will be secure in yourself and that is important.
26) Summer Sisters by Judy Blume — OH MY GOD HOW DID I FORGET ABOUT THIS UNTIL NUMBER 26 I DON’T EVEN.
27) If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff — If you give a mouse a cookie, that shit has only just begun. Seriously. This book was my introduction to complex problem solving skills. How much would it suck if I only learned those after age 30 and without the clever analogy of cookies?
28) The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, Clinton Rossiter, and Charles R. Kesler — I think study of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution is fairly standard required reading in the US K-12 education system. At least, this has been true for the high school I attended as a student as well as all of the high schools I’ve taught at, student taught at, or — for that matter — had sustained interviews at. I feel like good K-12 instruction distills some of the Federalist Paper writings into more digestible understanding of — not necessarily outright defense of the Constitution — but at least a solid framework for understanding how our current view of the Constitution came to be.
29) Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn — Another one that gets props because it got me started on an author and a series. Cyd Charisse (the protagonist here, not the dancer) is a force to be reckoned with. She’s delightful, she’s naive, she tackles some serious issues — sex for empowering and disempowering reasons, birth control, abortion, overbearing but well-meaning mothers, moving away, college. Stuff with a Capital S.
30) Far from Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters — I love Julie Anne Peters a lot, though I feel like this novel is one of her most successful in terms of character portrayal. This novel rounds out my list because it is the first time when I’ve seen a gay character presented with as much detail and conviction — both in terms of sexual orientation and in terms of life aspects that are more or less separate from sexual orientation. Here, there’s not just a mix, but an actual interconnection, as if the main character — and in fact, almost all of the major characters — are actual, developed people.