Top Ten “Gateway” Books/Authors in my Reading Journey

Posted March 31, 2014 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Books, Top Ten Tuesday, Weekly Features/Memes / 20 Comments

TTTcustombannerTop Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly feature hosted by the fantastic blog The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Top Ten “Gateway”Books/Authors in my Reading Journey. These can be books/authors that encouraged me to read as a kid, got me out of a reading slump, introduced me to a new genre, etc!

Top Ten Gateway Books/Authors in my Reading Journey:

1) Stravaganza: City of Masks by Mary Hoffman: I literally cannot remember meeting one person who has read this series, and it’s such a shame! I discovered these in late elementary/early middle school and I’ve never come across quite as magical a series. It was one of my first forays into fantasy as a child (aside from Harry Potter, of course) and it involved space and time travel, a parallel alternate universe of middle ages, city-state governed Italy, and a government ran by a woman (the Duchessa was probably one of the first strong female characters I read). This series resides in that limbo between children’s and YA sections, and I’ve seen it shelved in both. If you’ve read it, please let me know! I would love someone to talk about it with!

2) The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin: Another influential book in my childhood that established my status as a bookworm and that, alas, no one else I know has read. This book is like a literary version of the game Clue, a whodunnit mystery with a wide cast of characters that all live in the same apartment with red herrings at every twist, and is so much fun for the reader to unravel. I loved this book as a kid (I’m pretty sure I got it through one of those Scholastic book orders from school-how I miss those) and I love it still. I’ve probably read it five times and just found my battered copy and plan to reread it this summer. If you’re looking to explore literature for younger readers, check this one out. It has intellect and character development that’s fascinating for both children and adults.

3) The Red Tent by Anita Diamant: I read this for a Religious Studies course in college that dealt with gender in the book of Genesis. This book is literally a modern midrash, or interpretation of biblical events by filling in gaps left by the biblical narrative, specifically the story of Rachel and Leah in this case. This book changed my framework of thinking about gender, feminism, and historical fiction, and was the first true feminist texts I read. It’s amazing, one of my top-ten reads of all time, and a book I would encourage everyone to read. It left me with a wicked “book hangover,” and it was a while before I could pick up another text after the impact this one had on me.

4) The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan: Out of all the books that were part of my high school’s mandatory curriculum, this is the one that I feel as though I connected and engaged with the most. Though it’s been over six years since I’ve read it and there are gaps in my memory of the novel, I remember the overwhelming feelings this book evoked in me, from pity to despair to awareness of relationships, and it is one hundred percent a book I intend to reread and that I believe should be taught in all high schools, as Amy Tan’s writing is haunting, evocative, and relevant to generations both past and present.

5) Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult: I went through a Jodi Picoult phase in high school that really introduced me to the genre of adult contemporary literature. I believe this is the first book by her that I read, and while it was an emotional roller coaster (as are all of her books) I admired her level of research, depth, and commitment to her writing. This post seems to be making me want to revisit all of these influential books now- I’m itching to get my fingers on my Jodi Picoult shelf again!

6) The Princess Diaries Series by Meg Cabot: The first YA series I ever read! I picked up this book at Borders (RIP) in fourth grade, assuming that it would be like the Disney movie version. While I was so very, very wrong, I absolutely loved the series (although I probably shouldn’t have been reading it in fourth grade- but that’s what happens when you’re way advanced for your reading age level). I remember I was reading it for my independent reading book one month in my fourth grade class and these two popular girls saw it and instantly copied me, getting the books for themselves. A week later they were telling the teacher they wanted to switch books because they were so scandalized by the content-ha! Also, Meg Cabot is the pop culture reference queen in this series. I have more of a level of understanding every time I read it. And really, has there ever been a narrator as endearing or candid as Mia?

7) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: I read this late in the game (last summer, check out my review here) but it really is a modern classic, and a classic of the YA genre should a canon be established. It’s beautifully written and has a quiet power to it, and Charlie’s voice of despair, hope, and honesty permanently moved me.

8)The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Juno Díaz: I’ve mentioned Junot Diaz’s brilliant writing on the blog before, and his contemporary novel that I read for a college course remains my favorite, as well as my gateway, book for multicultural contemporary literature and authors (other favorites include Sherman Alexie and Jhumpa Lahiri).

9)The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: Along being a feminist text that I enjoyed both on my own and for a class, it was the first real dystopian novel I read (funnily enough, it wasn’t the YA genre that introduced me to the trend). There are some really, really important texts and subtexts in this novel, and everything can be deconstructed, from the color theory to the importance of names to the influence of patriarchy. Also what I’d consider a book that everyone ever needs to read at some point.

10) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone- Is there really anything to be said that hasn’t already been said? My only regret is that I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I read it for the first time; it almost feels like I was born with these books engrained in me.

Oh dear, I’m so excited about this one I’ve posted it an hour early 🙂

Link back to your Top Ten Post and I’ll be sure to stop by and check it out! I’d love to see your thoughts this week!

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20 responses to “Top Ten “Gateway” Books/Authors in my Reading Journey

  1. Princess Diaries! I really need to read Perks Of Being A Wallflower and don’t know why I haven’t. As for Stravaganza I have actually had the first book in this series on my shelf forever and just haven’t read it, but I’ve never seen anyone who has, now I kinda really want to read it!
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad someone shares my excitement/nostalgia for Princess Diaries (although the series kind of tapered off in coherence/quality at the end). If you read Stravaganza, let me know what you think!

  2. Perks is on my list as well. It’s my absolute favorite book. I really enjoyed reading your list, and I’ve just followed your blog. 🙂
    A little brag here: I met Margaret Atwood! She’s a lovely lady. I love The Handmaid’s Tale, too!

  3. You have a diverse list here–I enjoyed reading your post! 🙂 Now I’m going to definitely have to check out the City of Masks book. I have seen it multiple times but have never gotten around to reading it.

    • I think Princess Diaries is still one of my favorite series- it’s a little less censored than Meg Cabot’s more current YA series, and I prefer her older works- The Mediator series is great too!

    • I have yet to find a historical fiction book as engrossing as the Red Tent- I wish more authors would explore biblical feminist perspectives in fiction. Thank you for stopping by!

  4. Garrison

    Love the list. I really enjoyed The Brief Wondrous Life since I’m such a nerd. I also really want to read the Joy Luck Club. I could see how this would get anyone into reading.

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