So I don’t love everything about Thanksgiving. (Which is the holiday it’ll be in Canada when you read this post.) Colonialism is pretty awful, and Canada doesn’t treat its First Nations people very well. As day-off holidays go, it’s not one I feel awesome about celebrating, even though I’m pretty into pumpkin stuff.
But I do like the idea of being thankful for things. And if I let that idea languish in my drafts folder, I’ll never get it done. So hopefully you can forgive me for using the inspiration and for moving Weekly Reads to Thursday this week.
I should probably preface this by saying that as a kid, I often had mostly books for company, so I was really into reading.
Books I’m Grateful For
1. Beautiful Joe by Margaret Marshall Saunders
This is the first book (other than picture books) that I remember reading aloud with my parents. When my mom was away, I wanted to read it so badly that I would read it to my dad. (My mom was always the one who read with me because my dad wasn’t a reader, but he was patient enough to tolerate me.) The link is to an online edition that I stumbled across while I tried to remember this book’s details (also, I couldn’t find the cover I remember, but free reads are better, right?).
I have no idea if it would hold up now to how I felt about it, but I remember it being a moving story of an ugly dog who lived a hard life and later found happiness with a good family. As a kid, I loved nothing more than dogs, even though the dog I knew best was Nonna’s cranky old spaniel mutt who didn’t like anyone. (It might have helped that we lived next door to a beautiful husky.)
I finally got my own dog when I was eight, at some point after I read this. (It probably inspired me to whine at my parents even more about wanting a dog.) This fuelled both my passion for animals and for reading.
2. Nancy Drew and the Sign of the Twisted Candles by Carolyn Keene
This is classic Nancy Drew #9, but it was my favourite when I was young. I was very into Nancy Drew at about eight or nine? Which is probably not appropriate since Nancy is an 18-year-old, but inappropriate reading was the story of my life. And Nancy Drew was smart and proactive and super cool to me. Also, we got most of the series as hand-me-downs and the rest were cheap at the used bookstore, and basically I read what I could get my hands on at that time.
I don’t actually remember what happens in this particular volume, other than an inheritance battle. According to Wikipedia, Nancy loses her friends for a while and shit gets real and she almost dies, so maybe I was impressed by her struggle. Who knows?
But Amanita of Sense8 calls it: what would Nancy Drew do? She would get shit done because that lady is a boss who doesn’t let anything stop her. You do you, Drew.
3. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
…now I really want to re-read this one, too, but not because I don’t remember it. I’ve read this series too many times to ever really forget His Dark Materials.
This book came into my life at a point when I thought I was too “serious” to read anything for children/young adults. (Yes, this happened for me at the age of twelve. I admit to being an odd duck.) One of my best friends gave it to me for my birthday, and I was hesitant about it. But the curious, bold, clever Lyra and her daemon sucked me into their vivid fantasy world, and I loved this trilogy. (I still resisted reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone at first because I didn’t want to give into “hype,” at the age of twelve for some reason, but loving this probably made me more open to trying it.)
This also helped me to learn that I love fantasy, since I was used to reading whatever was lying around the house. (I spent some weird, awkward time as a pre-teen being into John Grisham novels.) This one I can definitely recommend—just ignore the terrible movie adaptation.
4. Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey
One of the first books that cemented my love for fantasy, from my early teen years. (I have an on-off relationship with sci-fi, horror, and other genres in terms of reading, but I pretty much always enjoy a good fantasy.) I don’t know if I would love this book now, because it has an instance of sexual assault perpetrated by one of the main characters that I don’t think I’d be able to stomach or get past at this point (when I was younger, it didn’t hit home in the same way). But back then, I wore out this book.
I haven’t read this in a long time, but I remember: it’s a swan princess fairytale story, but mostly from the perspective of the evil sorcerer’s daughter, who is also his apprentice. It’s a book that was more morally grey with its characters than a lot of books I was used to, and I enjoyed the idea that the sorcerer’s daughter was powerful and clever but also just getting to know who she was and what she wanted. I also appreciated that it was mostly up to the women in this book to fight back in their own various ways and free themselves. Plus transformations and magic!
5. Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
So this is a quick story: when I was growing up, there weren’t a lot of young adult novels about queer young women. And when I was a teenager, I realized I was bi. So when I found this book, I latched onto it and did not let go. It also helped that the writing of it is often beautiful and the narrator, Nicola, is a nerd who plays viola and overanalyzes everything. (Two things I also did in high school.) There’s a new edition of this now with an intro by David Levithan and some extra stories in comics in the back, so now would be a good time to check it out, and I would recommend it.
Aaaand that concludes five books I’m thankful for and this holiday long weekend. I’ll catch you for Weekly Reads on Thursday!