I devoured books as a child. I couldn’t wait for summer because it meant I could read the books that I wanted to read instead of what they told me to read at school. I’ve always been this way—needing to discover books on my own. I discovered Nancy Drew and Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. Those names are the keywords of my childhood.
But there are a few authors who are a bit more important to me at this stage in my life. I went through a reading slump in my adult years. I simply didn’t want to read books. Nothing interested me. I picked up and put down countless books until something magical happened with one and then a few others after that…
1. Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
A friend gave this book to me in the heart of my slump. Maybe it was because I was on a school field trip and I was insanely bored. Or maybe it just struck the right note inside me at the right moment. But I devoured that book. I read 75% of it on a lunch bench at a museum and then the last 25% the moment I got home. And I was hooked on reading again.
2. Sarah Dessen
I wasn’t much of a YA reader until I met Sarah Dessen. The Truth About Forever was my first SD read. I discovered I could relate so well to these teenage characters. (Not sure what that says about me!). I loved Macy and really understood her struggle with her mom. Swoony, artistic Wes made my heart melt. I loved YA and this story of heartbreak and loss that still seemed so hopeful. (I hadn’t met Laurie Halse Anderson yet!) And so I read every single Sarah Dessen book and then anything that was similar.
3. Louise Rennison
Rennison and her Georgia Nicolson character introduced me to binge-reading and author stalking. I laughed myself to tears while reading these books. She’s just so dang funny. And British. I raced through each book, only to be devastated that I’d have to wait for the next one. I stalked Louise Rennison on Amazon, waiting to see the release date of the next installment. And I raced to the bookstore the day it was available. Thank goodness Georgia Nicolson has a cousin Tallulah, so I can continue my bingeing and stalking.
4. Graham Greene
Graham Greene got me hooked on classics. When the 100 Books of the Century list came out, I discovered I’d only read 29 of them. I dropped my head in shame. I wasn’t much of a classics fan, though. Probably something about those books being forced on me in high school and college. But when I discovered Graham Greene, I developed an appreciation for classics and a desire to read more. Now, my friend Katie and I read a classic off that list every summer. Something we haven’t already read. We’ve read some real duds (A Handful of Dust, The Sound and the Fury) and some truly wonderful books (The Magnificent Ambersons; Winesburg, Ohio; The Grapes of Wrath).
5. Victor Martinez
His novel Parrot in the Oven is the most beautifully written novel I’ve ever read. His writing is lyrical and gritty at the same time. It’s such a shame he never wrote any other books. I used to teach this book to eighth graders and nearly teared up in every chapter at beautiful words like these:
She will flake into dirt, I thought, just as the sun does the bottom of a pond during a drought. Her shadow will be erased, and her soul will drift to heaven like the fluff of a dandelion in the wind. And then it will blossom in another garden, so bright the colors will hurt your eyes. That's how I imagined it. For Grandma, that's how I wanted it to be.
I’m so grateful for all of these authors. They’ve brightened my life and shown me the wonder of floating like the fluff of a dandelion through imaginary worlds. Just when I needed it.
I am a YA writer and middle school teacher. I have a B.A. in English from UCLA and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and currently reside in Los Angeles, California, with my dog Mr. Darcy.
When I’m not living in fictional worlds inside my head, I run all sorts of distances, torture my body at CrossFit, and DVR entirely too many television shows. I dream of one day returning to the Midwest to live on a farm. Or perhaps owning a cookie delivery service.