The Books That Built the Blogger

Today on the blog, I am starting a new feature called The Books that Built the Blogger.

built-bloggers

I follow a great number of blogs and am always struck by the different styles and genres of books that people read. It started me wondering how we come to be the readers we are today. What books were key in influencing and signposting us to further reading?

This is not necessarily about favourite books, it is more about the books that have had an effect on us as readers, books that opened up genres, introduced new authors, or brought about new ways of thinking.

I sometimes like to say that if I hadn’t read the ‘Adventure’ series by Enid Blyton as a child I wouldn’t be a fan of crime writing today. That may be a little simplistic, but I think it has a kernel of truth. For me, books don’t exist on their own, they open up my mind to new ideas, new writers and new worlds and there are specific books that I know changed my reading habits and made me the reader I am today.

So, every Sunday, I am going to talk a bit about a book that has built me as a reader and a blogger and then I have invited some of my favourite bloggers to talk about the books that have built them and I’ll explore their lists on a Monday.

Tomorrow you can read about the books that built the fantastic Naomi Frisby who blogs at The Writes of Woman, where she reviews books written by women and publishes the fantastic In The Media.

To kick off my list of influential books, I’m going to talk about Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume.

 judy-blume-book-tiger-eyes

“You have sad eyes, Tiger,” he says. “A bright smile but sad eyes.”

When I was young (long, long ago!) YA didn’t exist in the manner it does today. Basically, there were children’s books, then the Sweet Dreams series, then adult books. I can remember visiting the local library with my Dad and realising that I had pretty much read everything in the children’s section and not having a clue where to start in the main part of the library.

Looking back now I can see that Judy Blume was writing Young Adult fiction, but to me, she was just writing really great books, books that made me realise that there was a world of literature out there beyond the romances and school set dramas of Sweet Valley High. Between the ages of 11 to 14, I read all of Judy Blume’s books. From the humour of Starring Sally J Friedman as Herself through to the eye-opening Forever, her books were my constant companions.

It was Tiger Eyes though that had the greatest influence on me and gave me my first taste of the pleasures of good characterisation, open-ended narratives and multi-layered plots.

Tiger Eyes follows Davey, who is just fifteen years old when her father is murdered during a robbery at their family store in Atlanta. Unable to cope, her mother moves the family to stay with her Aunt and Uncle in Los Alamos. Uprooted, alone and with no adult support, Davey is unable to face the trauma she has experienced and is befriended by a boy named Wolf, who is also dealing with his own family problems.

Tiger Eyes, at first glance, is a typical coming-of –age story. There is the outsider trying to settle into a new environment, a tentative romance and the cathartic power of self-awareness. However, Tiger Eyes was a revelation to me for several reasons. Firstly, the themes of loss and grief are beautifully examined. Nothing here feels forced or shoe-horned in, there is an organic nature to way in which Judy Blume marries theme and plot.

Secondly, I don’t think I had read a book prior to this that so convincingly placed itself inside the head of one character. Not that there aren’t a great range of characters here – from Jane, Davey’s friend who has a reliance on alcohol to the mysterious love-interest Wolf – but Blume is clever enough never to take the focus away from Davey, as the reader explores her attempts to make sense of the world, when the foundations of that world have crumbled beneath her.

What also struck me when I read Tiger Eyes was the importance of a sense of place. The wide open desert spaces of Los Alamos echo Davey’s feelings that she has nowhere to hide, that she is vulnerable and open with nothing to anchor herself to.

In some ways, Tiger Eyes was the first character led, quiet novel I had read. There is no big moment of catharsis here. There is romance, but it is never the focus and the ending is far from resolved. There is, instead, a quiet understanding and a belief that even the worst pain can be surmounted.

Some changes happen deep down inside of you. And the truth is, only you know about them. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Davey stayed with me for a long time. I admired her strength, her intelligence and her willingness to stand on her own and not rely on parents, friends or a boyfriend. Along with Deenie, Blume’s other novel about a teenage girl overcoming a traumatic experience, Tiger Eyes showed me that there was more to literature than good plots and happy endings and that is something to be grateful for!

Are there any other Judy Blume fans out there? I’d love to hear if her work had the same effect on you.

If you would like to take part in The Books that Built the Blogger, do drop me a line at cmac2708@yahoo.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

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74 thoughts on “The Books That Built the Blogger

  1. What a great idea! And two strong influences on me. Are You There God was my first Blume age 10 and I was hooked. Thank goodness for the teacher who recommended it! Tiger Eyes I found darker, luckily I was older when I read that.

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  2. I loved Tiger Eyes! Like you I read all of Judy Blume, then the librarian introduced me to Paula Danziger and Lois Duncan. I totally agree, these beginnings can open up all sorts of reading journeys.

    This is a great idea for a feature, I look forward to hearing about the books that built bloggers 🙂

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    • Oh yes, Lois Duncan – The Eyes of Karen Connors? I loved that book. I also read a book over and over called The Bewitching of Allison Allbright but I don’t think I’ve heard much about it since. Would love to have you on the feature- do email me if you’d like to take part.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A wonderful idea, books are like signposts and turning points in our lives, and how we read them and change direction is like an alternative narrative itself, the underlying threads that pull us in different directions as we learn and become ever more curious.

    We could almost now add “blogs” to that list, the blogs that have opened our worlds, and given us even wider access to literature we may have been little aware of before. I look forward to reading the influences of others!

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  4. Lovely idea, Cathy. I’m looking forward to more of these. Like you, I remember that stage of finishing just about everything there was to read for children in the library and wondering how I would find something to read next. Lots of YA books out there now to fill that gap.

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  5. Looking forward to this feature! 🙂 I fear Judy Blume must have been after my time, though looking at the publication dates on wiki, she shouldn’t have been. Perhaps there was a lag between them being published in the States and over here. Yes, I pre-date YA too, but was fortunate that I had an avidly-reading older sister who guided me into adult books when I ran out of children’s books in the library. Of course, forty-odd years later, she still likes to tell me what I should read… 😉

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  6. Is this where I confess I’ve never read Judy Blume? Like you, YA didn’t exist in its current form when I was younger. I went from kids books to alternating between the likes of The Hobbit/Watership Down and Nancy Drew/Sweet Valley High before straight on to Lace and everything Jilly Cooper!

    I love the idea for this feature and am thrilled to be on it. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Summer Sisters is my favorite Judy Blume. I read Are You There God but I somehow didn’t get around to her “older” teen books like this one, Deenie, Forever. Probably worth a revisit! I love this idea and am giving it some thought…

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    • Would love to have you on board Laura, drop me an email if you fancy being a part of it. I haven’t read any of Judy Blume’s adult books, although I think I might have one in the 746! Must check!

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  8. A fascinating read and a great idea for a blog post. I didn’t read Judy Blume at the time; was I a little older than her target audience, I wonder? My version was K.M. Peyton, I would guess. My huge influence on my reading and blogging life was a person and her bookshelves rather than an author, so not sure that would fit in with your theme.

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  9. I absolutely love this idea. I can’t wait to read move.

    I’ve never actually read Judy Blume, I remember a girl at school loving ‘Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret’ in the 90s, but I never encountered her books when I was young (then again, I didn’t read much then).

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  10. I’ve never read anything by Judy Blume, but I went straight form the Famous Five to Agatha Christie, as a 12 year old, they seemed very similar to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was pretty much the same! Famous Five, as well as Malcolm Saville -did anyone read him? – and the Chalet School, then I’d read any books guests at my parents’ B&B left that had good covers – usually Agatha Christie! My mum would be called a hoarder if she didn’t have loads of space and file everything away neatly, and last Christmas I found a Margaret Miller which I purloined (terrible cover, which is probably why I ignored it previously!) I also enjoyed Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman historical fiction. (Incidentally, all the books I mentioned earlier are still there!) I’d enjoy taking part in this feature sometime Cathy!

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  11. this is a great idea.
    Wow. Judy Blume is a best from my own teenage past. I was a huge Judy Blume fan, and have bought several of her books for my daughter when she was a teen.
    I have tried some of Blume’s books targeted to adults and didn’t find them to hold the same appeal.

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  12. I also loved Judy Blume, and I still have this book (with this cover). I have often wondered about a re-read… I don’t remember it as well as you do!

    And, like you, I don’t remember there being many in-between choices for reading. Judy Blume was a big one, but in Junior High and High School I just started reading the books on my mom’s bookshelf. (Some of which were really good, but others I chose for shock value.)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I love this new feature Cathy and can’t wait to see what books, & why, folk choose. Fascinating to hear you (and others) read so many of these but I didn’t come across Judy Blume until I studied Children’s Literature a few years ago; I read Forever for research into banned so-called sexually explicit books … it was very tame by today’s standards but must have still been ‘supportive’ for those teens who did read it. I think I jumped from children’s books straight to magazines like ‘Jackie’ as my reading time dwindled during teen years…

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  14. I haven’t read this particular Judy Blume, but Are you there God, it’s me Margaret was the book every 10yo girl at my school read because of the bit about Margaret getting her first period!

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  15. It’s been ages since I’ve read Judy Blume. Oh my! I did listen to Fudge through a Youtube audiobook; that was enjoyable. Now I need to look for any of her audiobooks on my library’s database!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m looking forward to this feature. I love to think about all of the books that have influenced me over the years. Enid Blyton is certainly the first big one. The other big influence was simply my parents’ book shelves. I’m looking forward to this feature, and I’ll be happy to participate.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I really loved Judy Blume when I was a teenager–starting about 12, I think. I remember clearly a scene in Are You There God being the first time I’d ever heard of segregation–so it helped me to start paying attention to the experiences of other people who were did not experience the world in the same way as me. I think Judy Blume’s books are fantastic at exploring issues that are incredibly important for teens and pre-teens, in a way that is digestible and understandable for people who are still working out what they believe about things. And on an entirely different note, because of Judy Blume, I started reading Paula Danziger, who is probably the reason that epistolary fiction is still my favourite type of narrative to this very day.

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  18. I love this blog and the concept. One huge category for me is the randomness of just picking out a book from the bookshelves my parents kept which was a very harem-scarem collection of books that were not sorted in any which way. I recall reading, at ages 8 or 9, a book about the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby and “The Plague and I,” a book about a woman in a tuberculosis asylum for a year or more.

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  21. You really struck a chord with me there. I still think about Tiger Eyes all the time. And so many others of hers – like Then Again, Maybe I Won’t – taught me things I was never otherwise going to be told! Some books stay with you forever. Can’t wait to see more in this series.

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  22. Oh, man, The Great Gilly Hopkins had a similar effect on me. I felt so betrayed that the ending want what I wanted it to be. I reread the book as an adult and noticed all the brilliant subtlety that neither Gilly not I saw as children. I, too, remember the children and adult posts of the public library as very separate… There was a small young adult section, but nothing like you see or hear about today. “Young adult” was basically what you were assigned to read in high school.

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