IT WON A NEWBERRY MEDAL, SO YOU KNOW IT WAS LEGIT. This was like the ultimate survival story; although I have a feeling Brian (the main character) would get some pushback if he tried lugging a hatchet in his luggage nowadays. In retrospect, this story is pretty brutal. I mean, here we have this 13-year-old boy rolling solo in the woods, having to scavenge for food, trying to not get killed by aggressive animals and tussle with memories of his home, which include his mother cheating on the father he was headed to visit. Brutal, man, just brutal.
2. The Berenstain Bears Series
These quick reads were stuffed full of life lessons and nuggets of brilliance that swayed our raw, moral compasses. When they touched on messy rooms and hating chores, we could empathize. No Girls Allowed is responsible for creating a feminist or two, The Green-Eyed Monster taught kids a bit about jealousy, which, at a young age, is something we don’t always see discussed. Aside from parents and teachers, Stan & Jan Berenstain taught me the most about doing the right thing.
3. The Giver
The Giver was required classroom reading but as much as I wanted to dislike it, I thoroughly enjoyed every single page. There’s a unique story and the entire concept was a fascinating one — especially to someone who’d spent far too much time with his face buried in Where’s Waldo “books” as if they were super-complex stories. I’ve known a film adaptation of this novel was inevitable, and Lois Lowry recently confirmed that not only is it in the works, but Jeff Bridges is going to star in it! Aside from an Amelia Bedelia movie starring Alison Brie (I’m pitching this to Hollywood!), this is the coolest possible 90s-book-turned-film scenario I could ever imagine.
4. The Ramona Series
The Beverly Cleary-created series (mostly written in the 1980s) went on for eight total books, one of which won that oh-so-prestigious Newbery Book Award. It was fascinating how invested one could get in Ramona’s life considering she fluctuates from kindergartener to second grader to an eight year old over a span of 5 or so books.
5. ANYTHING WRITTEN BY JUDY BLUME
What a fantastic author, right? I’m living proof that Judy Blume’s books can have an impact on dudes too. It’s like Judy (I feel comfortable enough to call her by her first name) understood life in ways that simply can’t be explained, writing books that always felt relatable and relevant. Each one of her novels felt like a warm embrace with a soft voice whispering, “Shhhh, mama knows,” as it gently stroked our head. Judy Blume has a Twitter, and on numerous occasions, when life gets complicated or I don’t know how to handle a situation, I’m tempted to tweet her for some guidance. If life is a test, Judy Blume has the friggin’ answer key in her back pocket. #SuperFudgeIsSoLegit
You know, everybody wanted a good scare every once in a while. Sure they were cheesy for the most part, but it was always enjoyable to read of some preposterous tale. Plus a lot of ‘em had intriguing covers, heavily influencing which ones I chose to read.
7. Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
These things could’ve been used as a laxative because they were fully capable of making a kid crap their pants. Like, who was doing the terrifying artwork for these mofos? I still find the drawings and stories more terrifying than any of the Paranormal Activity flicks.
8. Louis Sachar’s Books
Let’s see: Sideways Stories From Wayside School, Marvin Redpost, Holes, Johnny’s In The Basement, There’s A Boy In The Girls’ Bathroom, etc. Louis Sachar’s entertaining writing earned so many kids personal pan pizzas in the Pizza Hut Book It! program.
9. Roald Dahl
Although he passed away in 1990, he wrote multiple classics, some of which turned into films. His work includes James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The BFG. His writings will surely remain common reads in future generations, and if I could I would thank him for Matilda — which is my favorite popular movie/book combo of the 1990s.