The Reading Corner

I’m not quite sure when I fell in love with books.  Honestly, I can’t remember not loving them.  One of the first stories I recall poring over was P. D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother?  I loved having that book read to me, and quickly memorized it so that I could “read” it to myself.  Another favorite was A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Who could resist "I have a little shadow, who goes in and out with me”?

And how could I resist when the inspirational Jessica at  The Entertaining House tagged me to name 15 of my most influential authors!?  Of course, I couldn’t resist, and so began thinking of who I would name as not merely favorites but as influential.  I also began thinking of how blessed I am to have a husband and children who love to read as much as I do.  And thinking of that inspired me to retrieve some of my favorite pictures from last fall’s trip to New York, where one of our favorite adventures was finding some literary landmarks.IMG_0225
Madison Avenue at 93rd Street is the home of the Corner Bookstore, one of the shops that inspired the Shop Around the Corner in one of my favorite chick flicks You’ve Got Mail.  After lunch on Sunday, Big, Middle, and Little were eager to find something to read on the plane home.
Little is not a bit intimidated by the Mad Hatter of Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.IMG_0102 Meanwhile Middle and I cozy up to the White Rabbit.IMG_0103 Here, Middle pretends to shed a tear as Hans Christian Andersen reads The Ugly Duckling.  Middle first heard this story at nursery school, and he was absolutely traumatized by it.  Many nights, both at bedtime and in the middle of the night, the Mister and I had to comfort Middle and assure him that the Ugly Duckling did make new friends and that the ducks that were mean to him felt very, very sorry for leaving him behind.   IMG_0106  Little strikes a pose in front of the New York Public Library entrance on 36th Street.IMG_0122And, unbelievably but truly, an unposed moment in the Corner Bookstore, where everyone found something to read on the plane home.IMG_0224  And so, here’s my list of my fifteen most influential authors, some from childhood and some from later.  This list, by no means, represents the most intellectual books nor the most entertaining books I’ve ever read, but, rather the writers that have somehow inspired me or changed my thinking, beginning with childhood.
Robert McCloskeyMake Way for Ducklings, One Morning in Maine, Blueberries for Sal, Homer Price.  As a child, I loved his simple stories and his detailed illustrations.  Reading his books made me want to write as well as to draw.
Beverly Cleary.   Ramona the Pest, Henry Huggins, and all the rest.  Beverly Cleary showed me contemporary characters with familiar neighborhood and schoolhouse struggles.  Reading Mrs. Cleary’s books made me feel normal.
Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Little House books.  Lovely stories taught me to appreciate both the sacrifices that it took to settle our country as well as the simple pleasures of fiddle music in the firelight.
Louise Fitzhugh.   Harriet the Spy.  I must’ve read this book half a dozen times.  Fitzhugh’s writing made me want to keep a journal, be a spy, live in Manhattan, and eat tomato sandwiches. 
E. L. Konigsburg.   From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  Manhattan, again.  Art, again. And, how intoxicating to consider self-reliance as a child.
Catherine MarshallChristy.  My grandmother pretty much insisted I read this.  Marshall’s book opened my eyes to the opportunity of relying on one’s faith to give back to those in need.  For the first time, I saw teaching as a noble profession and not merely “a job  that mothers could have.”  I think I read this when I was 12 or so.
Margaret MitchellGone with the Wind.  Mitchell’s incredibly descriptive prose influenced me as much as her thoughtfully created characters.  I read this when I was 13 and first encountering “the Scarletts” in my own little junior high world.
Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird.  Harper Lee’s book taught me about honor.
Eudora WeltyDelta Wedding and others.  I spent a semester in college studying Welty, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, and Katherine Anne Porter, but it was Welty’s unashamed pride of place and innate sense of waiting for the right word that, I hope, continue to influence me.
Mark Twain.  Huckleberry Finn.  I think I read this in seventh or eighth grade, and I know the lessons we were supposed to learn were about racism and class conflict, but what I most remember is how blessed I was to have caring parents.
William Strunk & E. B. WhiteElements of Style.  Occasionally criticized for rather inconsistent grammar advice, Strunk and White’s little manual of style continues to influence my thinking, and, I hope, my writing.                                          
Corrie Ten Boom. The Hiding Place.  When a young woman writes that she thanked God for the lice because it kept the officers out of the barracks in her German prison camp, well, let’s just say Corrie Ten Boom’s writing continues to influence me to keep things in perspective.
Alexandra Stoddard. Creating a Beautiful Home and others.  Minimally illustrated, Ms. Stoddard’s books have encouraged me to further develop both my love and discipline for decorating and design.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet her twice, and she is just as gracious and inspiring in person.
C. S. Lewis. A Grief Observed.  I read this book in the aftermath of a grave personal tragedy.  Lewis provided the words that enabled me to talk about my loss and begin the healing process.
Dr. Luke. The Gospel of Luke. The Acts of the Apostles.  The Bible, as you may know, includes many books—some of poetry, some of history, some of prophecy, but Luke, a man believed to have been a physician, wrote of Christ’s life and teaching in great detail.  He followed his Gospel with Acts, which chronicles the missionary Paul’s adventures and the growth of the early church.  It’s fascinating, life-changing, challenging reading. 
So, there you have it—15 authors who have influenced my life.  I would love to hear who yours are, so consider yourself tagged!


  1. I grew up TWO blocks away from The Corner Bookstore. I had a charge account there. My mother paid into t every month and I would head over with my bff Zoe and we would scour the shelves... poured over Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume... books like The Chocolate War, Flowers for Algernon, The Pigman, Chocolate Fever,A Very Young Rider, A Very Young Gymnast and then later on Flowers in the Attic and Forever! I have the fondest memories... the owners were Lenny (the wife) and I cannot remember her husband's name. It was an absolute gem!

  2. Oh and yes... my love for all of Robert Louis Stevenson poetry from A Child's Garden of Verses remains strong today!

  3. Oh, I am so jealous! You were living my Harriet the Spy life and then some! My family loved visiting the UES, staying at Hotel Wales and spending hours in the museums and wandering through the park. And the Bookstore was great. I found a Ludwig Bemelman's memoir that told about his adventures working as a waiter at the Plaza. Soooo funny!

  4. I LOVED Harriet when I was little! That must be where my love of NYC and tomato sandwiches came from ;o)

    I remember a few years ago in a group of women the question of what we wanted to be when we grew up came up...most of us said at one point...a PI...because of Harriet :O)

  5. Wow, what a great list. Such a cool connection to EM. I loved to read all the same, but ONE more I must admit I LOVED was the Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald Sobal. I was so addicted!
    Thanks for all the memories.

  6. I loved Harriet the Spy too! Still do...and Eudora Welty and Harper Lee. I was also a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan...The Corner Book Store is an extraordinary place! I could truly live there and be happy.


  7. I completely forgot Laura Ingalls Wilder! How could I do that?

    I also had the pleasure of meeting Alexandra Stoddard when she spoke at our Junior League about 10-15 years ago. She was delightful and so personal when she signed our books. She personalized every book with our own name. Gracious woman...

  8. Wonderful to find you via Entertaining Mom! Love many of the same authors as you.

  9. Hi. I juts found your blog. We LOVE reading at our house, too! What caught my eye is your reference to Catherine Marshall. I just posted about Christy a couple of weeks ago. Maybe you'd like to read it ... I'm following - and would love for you to drop by.


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