True story: When I was in fifth grade, I got sent to the principal’s office after my teacher spotted me hunched over a copy of Flowers in the Attic. My mother had to come pick me up and answer rapid-fire questions, including, “Are you aware of the material your daughter’s reading?” (she was) and whether I understood what was going on in the book (mostly). It’s since become a family joke, but—to be fair—I now understand how any teacher could have been a wee bit appalled, given the book’s content.
Still, I absolutely loved getting lost in the creepy world that book painted, and credit it largely for turning me into a real-deal reader—one that freaked out when a new installment of a series came out, one that learned to see reading the books assigned to me in school as a treat, one that loves postmodern fiction as an adult and reads everything Jonathan Franzen and, as of now, Garth Risk Hallberg writes.
Since today is National Reading Day, I decided to ask my colleagues—all of whom like to read, and often share recommendations with me—about the book or books that they couldn’t get enough of as a kid.
Read on for our picks, from a literary classic to a quirky picture book.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I think I read it for the first time in 8th or 9th grade. It was the first time I ever enjoyed reading something and couldn't put it down. I've probably read it cover-to-cover seven times, and my family dog's middle name was "Atticus" after Atticus Finch. (Melissa Medvedich, creative director)
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Andrews’ cult gothic novel was essentially the Hunger Games of the ’80s and ’90s, and it’s sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. The plot is probably the most twisted thing you’ll ever read: After her husband dies, a happy mother takes her four kids to live with her mother—their grandmother—in a Blue Ridge mountain mansion.
In order to inherit a fortune, the young mother agrees to lock the kids away in an attic for over two years, leaving them in the hands of their sadistic, God-fearing granny. That’s not all: While cooped up during their “developmental” years, the two older siblings develop, uh, special feelings for each other that results in a sexual relationship.
I got kicked out of school in fifth grade for reading it, and proud of it. (Perrie Samotin, editorial director)
The Babysitters Club series by Ann M. Martin
Because I can't pick just one book—and because my early literary taste wasn't always as grim as Flowers in the Attic—I also devoured every single paperback in The Babysitters Club series as a kid, which followed a group of wholesome grade-school friends in Connecticut who sat for local kids and had all sorts of adventures. Ex-Manhattanite, fashion-loving Stacey McGill was my favorite character, FYI. (Perrie Samotin)
The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
Every night when I was around seven or eight, my mom would read The Chronicles of Narnia to me and my siblings. Anyone who's familiar will know this series is long, which meant we were reading it for over a year, and I have very strong memories of all the main characters. Obviously I flipped out when they turned it into a movie. (Jasmine Garnsworthy, editor)
Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel
I was never that into dogs or horses as a kid, but I did really like bats, and one of my favorite books in elementary school was Oppel’s Silverwing (the whole trilogy, actually). It’s kind of like a nocturnal version of Watership Down—except, you know, with a slightly less adorable protagonist." (Hilary George-Parkin, fashion editor)
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
"Don’t judge me based on this—and please, please don’t tell my friends—but I loved Nine Stories so much that I carried it around everywhere with me for two straight years from ages 10 to 12. I both “enjoyed" it as a book, despite not fully understanding it at the time, and was smug enough to recognize that it made me look wise beyond my years. I mean, what a jerk. Prior to that, I had been interested mainly in Francine Pascal’s Fearless series, particularly the sex scenes. I was a weird, weird kid. (Rachel Krause, beauty editor)
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
When I was in elementary school, I was obsessed with this novel. I dreamed of running away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and living there for weeks, surviving on my wits and the spare change I'd scrounge from the museum fountain, just like Claudia and Jamie. Alas, I never succeeded in escaping unnoticed to the museum, but that doesn’t mean that I still don’t think about it every time I head to the Met. (Cady Lang, social media editor)
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
I'm not a fan of snow as an adult, and I wasn't crazy about it as a child either. (Freezing cold precipitation? I'll pass.) Still, I absolutely loved this book. Between the beautiful illustrations; the delightful, exploration-themed storyline; and the fact that the main character, Peter, was a young black boy—a rarity in children's book—it stole my little heart. (Leah Faye Cooper, Beauty Editor)
Sideways Stories of Wayside School by Louis Sachar
I didn’t know I had a penchant for weird and freaky stuff growing up, until I was introduced to Sideways Stories. This book is about the goings-on—with teachers, students, and staff—at the 30-story building that is Wayside School (an architectural mistake), where each floor is a classroom, with each chapter devoted to each floor. It’s still one of the weirdest, funniest books I’ve ever read. I actually bought an old copy because I often like to revisit these stories. (Jinnie Lee, branded content editor)