Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Time-Traveler's Librarian/Book Fairy

Betsy Bird (of Fuse #8 fame) and I had an exchange on Goodreads the other day, about books we wish we could go back in time to give to our younger selves. It's a fabulous thought, isn't it? Betsy claims to have a whole plan laid out for just such a time-traveling book delivery plan, and maybe she'll be kind enough to elaborate on that scheme in the comments or in a post of her own. Me, I'm imagining the books just kind of showing up, maybe like from the tooth fairy, except more unexpectedly. Or maybe editor-me would go back and try to chat up young-me in a bookstore or library and make a recommendation. (Wee Molly would have been blown away by Future-me, btw. "You get to read for your job? And you get FREE BOOKS?!"). Or maybe I'd send one of the many fabulous librarians I now know on this time-travel mission, to replace the dull librarians at my childhood public library. And then I'd count on him/her to make a connection with the reader I was and recommend the right books at the right moments, in the way that great librarians do. In any case, these are the books I'd wish to have somehow show up in my past, if I could bend the time-space continuum in some fantastic way:

1. The Secret Language of Girls (Frances O'Roark Dowell) -- It was the just-published sequel to this book that sparked the conversation between Betsy and me, in fact. Because oh, how I want to go back to give this book to sixth-grade me, the first (or second or third) time her junior high frenemy shattered her to pieces! And then I want to make myself read it again, during the times I acted like a wicked frenemy myself.

2. A Northern Light (Jennifer Donnelly) -- I'm not quite sure WHEN exactly I'd go back and give this to myself. Maybe as a high school graduation gift? I just know that I wish I'd read it sooner, so that when I came up against some of the hard choices that happen as the world starts opening up--about life vs. love, independence vs. dependence--I'd have known I wasn't the only one who'd ever faced them, or who'd feared she might chose wrong, no matter which choice she made.

3. Sweethearts (Sara Zarr) -- I'd give this one to 14-year-old me, even though she would have railed against and totally fumed at the non-movie-romance-like ending. And high-school freshman me wouldn't totally have understood it in the moment, because she was WAY too much of a romantic. But to have it seep into her consciousness would have been important--to help first love and certain friendships make sense later, I think.

4. And just so it doesn't sound like my time-traveling book fairy/self/librarian would only trade in aching, poignant heartaches of books, I'd also be sure that twelve-or-thirteen-year-old-me got a copy of Airborn (Ken Oppel) to help her survive one of the those loooonnng family vacation car rides, where she was stuck smack between two brothers. The cool flying airship on the cover would've made them jealous, which would have impishly delighted me. And the fact that it's so deliciously LONG would've made hours fly by, and it wouldn't have even mattered that we were in the car for three days, because I'd have been up in the Aurora with Matt Cruse and Kate de Vries anyway.

So that's me. But I can't wait to know: what books would you go back in time to give to YOUR younger self?


  1. I would give myself On Writing and Bird by Bird, because they're not only great writing books, they're great support books. "You're not weird. It's okay to write, and it's okay to fail. Find people, learn stuff, keep reading, keep writing." I didn't write anywhere but in my head for years.

  2. I bet my eleven-year-old self would have loved Coraline by Neil Gaiman. And Harry Potter. My twelve or thirteen-year-old self would have sunk her teeth into His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. (I could have read Ender's Game back then, but I didn't know it existed.)

  3. I watch too much Star Trek because these questions always make me fret for the integrity of the space-time continuum.

    But assuming there's be no scary consequences, I'd give sixteen year old me my first book, because it has clues in it about what it to come and more than anything it says: 'you'll be right, you'll survive, and then you'll write a book'.

  4. Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins and The Lucky Ones by Stephanie Greene. I think they might have changed my life if I read them as a 12-year-old. And The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen. And The Lightning Thief, too, I think.

  5. I don't think I'd give my childhood 'me' any of my now favourite books- my present 'me' is too selfish and wants them all for herself.

    I think she would have liked the 'Ology books when she was really young, and certainly a couple of Emily Gravett books too.

    I might loan my teen me a copy of the children's writers and artists yearbook though, and tell myself not to keep phaffing about being scared of illustration...

  6. I'm with Martha: Kid-me would have LOVED The Lightning Thief and The Truth about Forever.

    And how I went my entire childhood without any Laura Ingalls Wilder or Roald Dahl I don't know, but I do wish I had encountered them earlier than adulthood. Luckily, I did find Harriet the Spy, Shel Silverstein, and far as I'm concerned, that was all the reading I needed in the world as a kid.

    And I would give 15-year-old me Frankie Landau-Banks.

  7. I'd definitely go with A Northern Light, too, for a million reasons.

    Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (thanks!) -- Having two sisters with their own tumultuous lives happening around me, and one getting her act together -- yeah. I really got that book.

    13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, so I could remember to protect my friends by loving them, so things don't snowball.

    Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee.
    Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher.

    I think I could go on and on and on and on.

  8. I’d give the middle school me a copy of Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. I was far too na├»ve and innocent to understand the power plays going on around me and I refused to play by the rules and join just-one-clique. I don’t know that I would’ve done anything different, but I might’ve understood others’ actions and cried a little less.

    On a happier note, my Middle School self would’ve LOVED Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls and Sarah MacLean’s The Season. Can I send these through your time portal?

  9. I would give middle grade me The Harry Potter series, The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and the Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Oh, and The Emerald Tablet by PJ Hoover. I would have loved that one.

    But mostly, I wish I could go back in time and give teenage me 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Every teenager should read that book to help them learn the impact we have on one another.

  10. I think I'd have to start with Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti. I read that book a couple of years ago and just could not get over how I wish every teenage girl could read it. Like if they did it would help them know who they are and avoid a fair chunk of unnecessary pain. Follow-up dropoffs would include The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White (because EEW books rock), Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher (because it would have made me think about things I wasn't thinking about then but should have been), An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (because at 14 I was in desperate need of a good laugh), and the complete Harry Potter series (because I would have thought I'd died and gone to heaven).

  11. I would have given my teen self the Thief books by Megan Whalen Turner (with a note saying, "You may not get into the first one, but the second two will BLOW YOUR MIND"), INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher, and Laurie R. King's THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE. None of these would have taught my teen self anything deep and meaningful about how to survive the teen years, but frankly, I had a pretty good adolescence anyway so I didn't feel the need for advice so much. I do know that those three books I've mentioned would have turned me into a slavering fangirl capable of launching whole fandoms in a single bound, however.

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  13. There definitely needs to be a machine because I would totally give myself a bunch of great books!
    Just Listen: Sara Dessen
    13 Reasons Why: Jay Asher
    I'd Tell you I love you but then I'd have to kill you: Ally Carter
    The Summer I turned pretty: Jenny Han
    Scrambled Eggs at Midnight: Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler
    and on the writing side of things, I'd totally dish out: Story by Robert McKee and Clean, Well Lighted-Sentences by Janice Bell.

    This a great question! :-)


  14. I...have a list like this already. saved on my computer. Ridiculous! Here's what's on it right now (though I notice some omissions--must update):
    Murkmere and Ambergate (Patricia Elliott)
    All of Shannon Hale's books
    Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia trilogy
    Fly by Night (Frances Hardinge)
    The Dreamhunter duet (ELizabeth Knox)
    The Bartimaeus trilogy (Jonathan Stroud)
    Holes (Louis Sachar)
    The Tiffany Aching trilogy (Terry Pratchett)
    The Lightning Thief (Rick Riordan)
    Kevin Crossley-Holland's Arthur books
    Mimus (Lilli Thal)
    Philip Reeve's Hungry City Chronicles
    And I'm adding Graceling, Fire, and Hunger Games.

    Wee Noa would have been pleased but not blown away by Future Noa. Future Noa does what Wee Noa wanted to do, and Wee Noa was inexplicably convinced that she could do whatever the heck she wanted.

    This third person thing is getting weird.

  15. I am so with you on A NORTHERN LIGHT!!!