Top 5 Books That Made Me -- ME

Technically books and series, but... why am I doing this? I find the idea that books can define who you are for the rest of your life absolutely amazing, astounding, mind-blowing; it's hard for me to grasp the concept that a few thousand words can completely change a person's life. But these books/authors have shaped me as a reader and a person, and I think they deserve some recognition.

I didn't want to make this too long, so I'm listing additional authors that I still LOVED but weren't quite as "defining" as "other favorite authors." Estimating on the time, and the top 5 are in chronological order, not by impact.

1. MATILDA by Roald Dahl -- 1st GRADE
... I don't even know where to start. MATILDA is the first book that my parents ever found me reading under the covers at night, and it was my initiation into the flashlight-under-the-bed world. In MATILDA, I found a kindred spirit and fellow conspirator to end parental pressure, which was pretty bad at the time. I found escape and a love for books. (Just saying, I read The BFG first, which enjoyable as it was, didn't have nearly as much impact as on me as MATILDA.)

Other favorite authors from 1st-3rd grade:  Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House series), Barbara Park and Denise Brunkus (Junie B. Jones series)

--->TRANSTION: Moved from New Jersey to Maryland.

2. The GREAT ILLUSTRATED CLASSICS collection -- 3rd-4th grade
I loved these to death. I read, re-read, re-re-read, and re-re-re-read some of these. These simplified classics really expanded my reading horizons from THE INVISIBLE MAN to WAR OF THE WORLDS to ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. I bought other classics outside of these series as well (i.e. THE SECRET GARDEN), but these in particular, with their beautiful drawings, sparked my interest in classics. I can see a direct correlation between the 10 billion times I read LITTLE WOMEN and my love for Jane Austen and all things romantic. <3

3. The REDWALL series by Brian Jacques -- 4th grade
Ah, Redwall, how I love you. Redwall marked my animal love, since in 4th grade I was dreaming about becoming a zoologist and reading tons of "how to take care of (blank)" books in attempts to get a pet. (At the time, my ultimate decision and last rejection was the one to get a gerbil, sigh.) More improtantly, Redwall marked the beginning of my intense, constant, and speedier reading. How did that stem from such sweet, epic book? Well...

The story starts with the other woman, as always. He was another guy in my class that supposedly loved the REDWALL series as much as I did (which we all know is impossible). One gray, dreary morning as we both approached the library check-out table, we looked at each other and nodded; our love would be wordlessly expressed through our reading speed. Game on. And so began the daily tradition of going to the library, returning the book, and getting the next in the series. I can't say I remember who won, but there you have it: my immaturity.

Other favorite authors in 4th-5th grade: Eva Ibbotson (The Secret of Platform 13, Which Witch?), Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events), Artemis Fowl (Eoin Colfer), Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials trilogy), Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted), Shannon Hale (Goose Girl)

--->TRANSITION: Graduated middle school.

4. The CIRCLE OF MAGIC series by Tamora Pierce -- 6th-7th grade 
Epic fantasy is one of absolute favorites among genres and sub-genres. We're talking top 3 here. To the 6th grade me, Tamora Pierce was god. Her CIRCLE OF MAGIC books along with a couple other Arthurian legend and high fantasy books began my career as a daydreamer -- and inspired me as an artist (not a brilliant artist, but it's there). TAMORA PIERCE, MARRY ME AND MAKE MORE AWESOME FANTASY BABIES.

5. TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer -- 8th grade
If you're reading this and you know me, I won't be offended or surprised if you say, "WHAT?!!" Back in 8th grade, one of my good friends recommended this to me at a Scholastic book fair, prior to all the TWILIGHT fame. The romantic in me absolutely LOVED it. Looking back, I realize some concepts are quite creepy and likely unwelcome in real life (like hell-no unwelcome), but the younger me fell in love with the intensity of their relationship. And so you have the idealistic, intense romance reader today and a hopeless 16-year old looking for that true love.

Other favorite authors from 6th-8th grade: Garth Nix (Sabriel), T.A. Barron (The Lost Years of Merlin series), Meg Cabot (All-America Girl, Princess Diaries), Jane Austen novels, many others I can't recall right now

NOTE: Harry Potter is implied.

So, now that my brain is fried from digging up these fond memories, what books have defined YOU? If you've read the five books/series I've picked out, what were your thoughts on them? I'd love to hear, and thanks for tuning in for random Jenn-babble! :D