Of course, the correct response to this prompt is a firm “anything she wants to read.” Because at the end of the day, I just want her to find what in this world inspires her – hopefully books will factor in, in some capacity, but I’m fine with whatever she is passionate about.
But as that answer doesn’t make for a very interesting post, there are some books I’m looking forward to reading to/with her and others that, if she is interested, I’ll definitely recommend because they have some message or other that helped me find my way through the world. I’m not including many books that are simply due to enjoyment in this post just because this aspect interests me more and also I don’t want it to go on forever!
Childhood books I’m looking forward to reading to/with my daughter:
Matilda by Roald Dahl. I love Roald Dahl books in general, since they were a big part of my own childhood, but Matilda is full of so much wonderful that I just can’t wait to share it with her. Not only because Matilda is a reader, but because she is smart, resilient, and most importantly, she overcomes her circumstance to become a loving, kind and happy person. This is something I want to teach my daughter, so I’ll take every example I can get.
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Because of course. I’m particularly excited to share the illustrated editions with her because they have just a bit more magic than the originals! I know that the Harry Potter series isn’t perfect. But it is still one that I think is entertaining – a massively important element in childhood reading – well written, and full of important lessons about friendship and perseverance and courage and doing what’s right even if it is hard. I’m also looking forward to watching the films with her, but the books come first.
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. Though there are a lot of things about today’s world I’m not thrilled to be leaving my daughter with, one thing I am happy for is that there are more positive, badass female role models for her to grow up idolizing and aspiring to (see last week’s post for more on this). There aren’t as many as there should be (and hopefully will be), but there are more than when I was a girl. So books like this one, that showcase some of these amazing women, will be a mainstay of my reading to her as she grows older.
Young Adult books I will pass on to her:
The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. I’m sure this one will surprise many of you, because it’s not exactly known for having great messages for young women or its literary merit. But this is exactly why I want to read it with her – because there will be a lot of messaging in popular culture that she will be exposed to without me there to discuss it with her, so I want to teach her to think critically about what she reads and sees. I enjoyed the story in these books, but I also read them as a college student with a background in Communications and Women’s Studies, so I was able to filter out the elements I found problematic, and to critically engage with the text (there was also a fair amount of skimming involved, I must admit). I think it’s fine to read books that have problems or that aren’t well regarded in terms of their writing. My biggest belief is read what you enjoy. But I do think it’s important to think about what you’re reading, and to see the problematic elements – which is something that is learned. What better way to teach it than to have her read some problematic books while I’m around to talk to her about them? (This doesn’t have to be the Twilight Saga, by the way. There are issues with a lot of YA books, and I’m not going to stop her reading whatever she gravitates to – the point is more that whatever she reads, I hope to discuss with her so that I can encourage her to read critically!)
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. This book helped me find my love of reading again. It also broke my heart, but in a good way. I loved the humour throughout the story, and that the humour was there in spite of (often because of) its very serious subject matter. Life is hard. Sometimes it really sucks. Sometimes it ends. Learning how to find joy and love and laughter even in the hard times is something I continue to struggle with, but that I think is a wonderful ability to have. I also think it’s important to read about people going through illness or grief – partly to learn empathy and compassion, but also to normalize these parts of life we are often removed from. Because they’re inevitable.
The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank. I read this as a girl, and it was one of the books that, when I look back on my reading history, framed my perception of the world and of human beings. I think it’s a vital book to read in young adulthood because it is a voice that can be related to at that age, but it’s one that shares the reality of one of the worst moments in history. It was a hard thing to learn about, but doing so helped give me courage in some of my own, lesser struggles, and taught me to stand up for others even when it’s scary or hard to do so.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This is a new book in my reading history, but I already know it’s one that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Again, it’s a book about a tough topic, but an important one. My daughter has been born with significant privileges denied to many. I believe it’s important that she learns what that means, and tries to understand what it’s like to be in different shoes. This book did that for me. It’s also beautifully written and again, contains a lot of positive messages around family, courage, forgiveness, and prejudice.
Girl Up by Laura Bates. This is the one book in this section I haven’t read yet, though it is waiting on my shelf. The reason I’m including it is that, if it lives up to my expectations, it sounds like a great book to introduce younger women to feminism in an engaging way. I’ve heard from a few of my BookTube favourites that they thought it would be a great gift to give to young women in their lives, so it’s where I’m going to start my search for introductory books on the subject for my daughter when she’s a teen.
When she’s heading out into the world on her own:
Cunt by Inga Muscio. I read this in college and it shook me to the core. I have to admit that at this point I don’t remember a lot of the specific content in the book (it’s on my list to re-read in the near future for this reason), but I vividly remember the emotional impact it had on me. It made me sad and angry, but it also made me feel defiant and empowered. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone, that I have generations of women on my side and that we have the ability to push for change, even if we haven’t finished working for it yet.
Our Bodies Ourselves by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. I took a women and health class in college, and I think it was one of the most useful classes in my entire educational career. It’s amazing how much we aren’t taught – not just about how our bodies work, but about the fight (both historical and current) to control them ourselves and all the societal forces that attempt to take away women’s rights. It’s a great reference, but also an important paradigm shift.
The Guide to Getting It On by Paul Joanides. This might seem weird or even inappropriate. But I’m thinking well into the future here. I know there will come a point when she will have questions, and I firmly believe that accurate information is vital to sexual health (both physically and emotionally). And it’s not always something our kids want to hear about from their parents. I know that in this day and age she’ll know far more than my generation at a much younger age thanks to the internet. And I’ll be making sure to direct her to good websites and services as well, but I do think it’ll be good to have some excellent books available so she can pick them up and find information herself. This shouldn’t be a problem as I’ve got bookcases on the topic, but this book in particular is one I’ve read and dipped into many times, and I know it’s a good one as well as being interesting and entertaining. If you haven’t read it I highly suggest checking it out!
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. I hope my daughter won’t have to go through as many struggles with mental health as I have, but if she does, I definitely think this book is a good one. Even if she doesn’t, I think it’s something everyone should educate themselves on – because even if you’re lucky enough to have great mental health, I can guarantee that, in one way or another, your life will be impacted by someone who doesn’t.
The Gender Games and This Book Is Gay by Juno (James) Dawson. I haven’t read either of these books yet, though I have The Gender Games on my shelf. I have heard nothing but praise for them, though, and I’ve seen Juno Dawson on YouTube and she is smart, funny and well worth listening to (and, I assume, reading). Simon from Savidge Reads in particular said wonderful things about both of them. He also said that This Book Is Gay is the book he, as a gay man, would recommend every school library have on its shelves, and that he thinks it could save lives. I have no idea who my daughter will grow up to be. I don’t know who she will love or what struggles she will have. But in case she (or someone she cares about) is questioning their gender or sexuality – or just so that she can understand that both are a spectrum and neither are binary – these books are a must.
There are so many more I know I’ll be kicking myself for not adding to this list. These are the first that came to mind without looking back over my shelves (either physical or Goodreads). A lot of these books are more about the content than the specific book – for example instead of Girl Up I could have included Here We Are by Kelly Jensen or Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti. So take this list with a bit of flexibility – it’s more about the information or perspective I want to bring her up to understand than it is about the specifics in many cases. Though some of these are unique and therefore cannot be replaced – The Hate U Give, Our Bodies Ourselves, The Diary of A Young Girl and Cunt are all specifically beloved. But I think, from my explanations, you can get a sense of how I want to share books with my daughter and what I hope she’ll get from them.
I’d absolutely love to hear from you guys on this topic. I’d love to know which childhood books you cannot wait to pass on, which books shaped your worldview, and the books that taught you things that are vital to your understanding of society, the world and yourself. I’d also love suggestions – particularly for books that will help her learn about diversity or books on topics I’m not well versed on (science, sports, adventure, etc.). I’ve got several LGBTQ+ books and books on race on my shelves that I didn’t include in this list, but that will definitely be part of her reading life. But there is always room for more, and I am always on the lookout for particularly good ones or ones that are appropriate for different age groups. Please share your favourites – or even books that you’ve just heard a lot of good things about! And let me know what you think about sharing reading with children. I think it’s such a wonderful topic to discuss. Tell me about how you were taught to love reading, books that really stood out to you or books you wish you had found at specific times in your life. I’d love to hear it all!
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly link-up feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week TTT has a different topic, and everyone who links up has to create a link of ten items that fit that topic. To see past and upcoming topics, go here.