You know we like strange stories here in Sorchia’s Universe? Well here’s one I never thought I would be able to tell you!
So my daughter is going to have a baby—a little girl due to make an entrance on or near my very own natal day– and that will make me a Grandma—Oma—maybe, Grand’Mere. She will be the first, and judging by how long it has taken to get this far, possibly the only grandchild. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I want this little nugget to think of me and how I will go about making that happen. Of course, I will teach her magic and how to curse well and how to judge whisky, but not all in the first year.
One thing I can do from the very start is read to her and I can send leather-bound volumes by special owl courier. I’m looking forward to emailing and texting and talking about stories for hours and hours and hours.
But what books do I want to make certain she has a chance to read?
I started a list. Here are the first ten. Obviously, she’ll have to grow into some of them. These are books I loved as a kid or discovered later on, but they all have something essential.
Ivanhoe ~ Sir Walter Scott
I used to read this at least once per year during the summer when I could hork down cottage cheese and apples on the porch in Missouri even though my mind was in Medieval England. Knights, Templars, evil Norman barons, tricksy servants, and downtrodden but heroic peasants. She’ll learn about honor and bravery and family—and how love may not be easy. She’ll see that some men treat women well and some do not—despite what they say.
Lord of the Rings ~ J.R.R. Tolkien
Yes, the entire trilogy, including The Hobbit and The Silmarillion. Though the lack of strong female characters has been noted, let’s get real. It was the 40s. In England. Still, she’ll find adventure here and honesty, and she’ll see how a world works better when everyone in it concentrates on what brings them together instead of what tears them apart.
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy ~ Douglas Adams
There are 5 books in the trilogy—and that isn’t the strangest thing about it. I don’t think there is a dull moment in all 5 books. It’s billed as a story about the end of the world and the happy-go-lucky days that follow. Funny—a bit heretical—strangely thoughtful. While the view of the Universe isn’t always cheerful, she’ll discover that no matter how bad things get, they can always get worse, and the best thing to do when that happens is laugh.
Carry On, Jeeves ~ P.G. Wodehouse
This one will do for starters. Wodehouse wrote many episodes in the saga of Jeeves and Wooster and they are all hilarious. In addition to the books, I highly recommend the BBC tv series starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Frye. She’ll find out that the world can change pretty quickly and people tend to hold on to traditions well past their expiration date—but that’s okay.
The Once and Future King ~ T.H. White
The Arthur legend in modern terms—The story is told more as a novel than a legend and the setting is still long, long ago somewhere in England. Funny and sad and terrifying and philosophical. It includes the Sword and the Stone. She’ll find beauty and frailty and magic in this story, and she’ll see that nobody’s perfect, but that shouldn’t keep us from trying.
I, Robot ~ Isaac Asimov
The FIRST robot tale and the best. If the people who are busy designing AI right now have not read it, I fear for the future of mankind. I, Robot is told in short stories that span the Universe—about the rise of artificial intelligence, the pitfalls thereof, and the logical outcome. She’ll see mistakes and bad judgement, but she’ll also learn about infinite possibilities.
Watership Down ~ Richard Adams
Rabbits at war. I was a big fan of Peter Cottontail when I was younger but Watership Down is not Peter Cottontail. Watership Down is about bravery and being true to yourself—about taking chances and making your way through a dangerous world.
Murder on the Orient Express ~ Agatha Christie
All of Agatha’s tales are worth reading but this one—along with Ten Little Indians—shines brightly among the other stars. Anyone who professes to love mysteries but has not read Agatha is not to be trusted. She’ll learn to pay attention to details and a bit about how to judge character. She’ll follow clues and find red herrings and she’ll wonder if she could be as clever as Poirot.
The Dark is Rising ~ Susan Cooper
Another bit about the Arthur legend along with Dark forces and plucky kids. A bit like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe but without the religious overtones. The Dark is Rising leans more toward the pagan and probably started me on the path. She’ll find that people celebrate different holidays in different ways and maybe she’ll be intrigued by the old tales enough to ask more questions like the kids in the story.
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood ~ Howard Pyle
Many versions of the tale exist, but this is the place to start. The old Errol Flynn movie version used Pyle’s accounts as a guide and they did a fine job. She’ll learn that doing good never goes out of style.
As you can tell, I lean toward epic quests, adventure, and fantasy (though I think of fantasy as reality, so there’s that.)
But these ten books will only go so far. I need more. Put more titles below. What books should every kid read and why?
But one book isn’t on this list–the first book I plan to read to my brand new grand daughter. What fairy tale will be her first? It’s over on my Moonlight and Mystery Blog Post.