Retro Reads

by Kelly

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the books that I read during my teenage years that influenced me in a big way. During this age, my reading territory was expanding to cover new genres. I was branching out from my beloved Trixie Belden mysteries into new worlds of mind-bending science fiction, dystopian terror, magical fantasy lands, and heart-pounding thrillers, genres that are still in my go-to arsenal of reading choices.

Want to see the books that influenced me? Let’s take a trip back in time…

Outside by Andre Norton. First, and favorite on my list of retro reads, this YA book was published in 1976 and read by about ten years later. This book was unlike anything I had previously read, and was my first dip into Science Fiction. Set within a dome (move over, Stephen King) a society of children, the only survivors of an ecological disaster fight for survival under the dome and seek answers to the questions of what happened to the old world before them. Here’s the scoop. I read this. I loved it. I got rid of it and then searched for it for 30 years but could not remember the title. Thanks to a helpful coworker and the power of google, I am the proud owner of this book, once again. My life feels complete.

Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien. This YA book was originally published in 1974, the year I was born, but I didn’t get around to reading it until I was in sixth or seventh grade. Definitely after I read Outside, because in the years since, I have a tendency to combine the two books in my mind. This book was my first dive into dystopian fiction, and I remember feeling weird, thrilled, and terrified when reading it. Set after a post-disaster world, the main character thinks she is the only survivor left on earth, until a mysterious man shows up on her farm. A thrilling, scary, fascinating tale of survival. A great starter book into the world of dystopia.

Castle Roogna by Piers Anthony. I read this one in 1990 and gave a book report on it to my tenth grade English class. This particular title is book number three in a series of a million (actually only 35 or so), and it was my FAVORITE. The Xanth Series from where this book belongs, was my first foray into the world of magic and fantasy and I was smitten. In this story, the main characters use special magic to walk on the clouds, they invent a handshake language to communicate while imprisoned, and they team up with other odd magical beings to overthrow the bad guy. It’s described on Amazon as “a mind trip that is full of idioms wrapped in puns, which are enveloped in irony.” Definitely awesome.

Where Are the Children by Mary Higgins Clark. I vividly recall reading this book in the summer of 1991 in one fell swoop that kept me up half the night. My mom had likely picked this gem up from a garage sale and I was emerging into the world of adult reading, so I read it. Thrilling, Intense. Memorable. It is only now as I write this review that I learned that the events of this novel are based on a real-life crime that took place ten years prior, and it was the novel that launched the author’s career. Very cool.

What book has had the most impact on you? Let us know in the comments.


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