I think the real problem is that books mean so much to me, and always have, that I feel guilty choosing among them, choosing favorites. Yes, I do know how insane this sounds. If I choose The Hobbit, The Mozart Season will not be personally offended! And yet...
So here is a declaration of love to an assortment of my favorite books from childhood (you can see another sampling on my website, where I gave the question a whole page of its own):
- The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, which taught me that magic could be down-to-earth and very funny; that even principles that sound high-minded and beautiful can be dangerous when taken to excess; and that yes, loyalty is a virtue, but sometimes loyalty actually means standing against your friends when they're wrong. Oh, and also, I fell in love with dragons forever and ever when I read this book!
- Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, which taught me that it really was okay to be a dreamy, imaginative kid even if that meant having a hard time with practical common sense. Total personal validation! :)
- The Mozart Season, by Virginia Euwer Wolff, which I read over and over again as a kid, so thrilled to find a heroine who cared about the same kinds of things that I did, and so touched and moved by the different relationships the book explored.
- Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, which taught me that it's okay to have complicated feelings about even the people you love most. As Elizabeth says, "There are very few people whom I truly love, and even fewer whom I like" - and even her dad, one of the most sympathetic characters in the novel (and one I absolutely adore!), is, to be frank, deeply neglectful and to blame for a lot of his daughters' problems. I love the complexity of the characters in the book, along with the sparkling (and sometimes scathing) humor. Best of all, it taught me that a smart woman cares far more for her own self-respect than the opinion of the world (or even of her parents), and that romance can be hilarious.