School Days, School Days.....Books That Made An Impression Back In The Day

From the desk of author Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy…..


Now that school is back in session almost everywhere and I’m back in the classroom as a substitute teacher, I thought about the pivotal books which made an impact on me in my own school years.  So during this back to school season, I thought I’d reflect on some of the novels which made a difference to me.

When I first read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, I was hooked from the first page.  Until I read it, most teen fiction at the time revolved around girls turning sweet sixteen and going to prom or something of the sort.  Main characters lived in nice suburban houses and seemed so far removed from reality that I seldom read such books.  I graduated to adult novels when I was still in grade school.  But Ponyboy Curtis and his brothers came across as real.  As I read about teens I could identify with, teenagers who lived on the poor side of town and struggled, I realized I’d found something worthwhile.  All of my kids read all of S.E. Hinton’s books at an earlier age than I did and when we went to Tulsa, about two hours from where I now live, I was able to take them to the house used in the movie based on the novel and to see other sites from the story.

I took all the literature classes open to me in high school and so I read many classics including Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens), Tess of the D’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy) and My Antonia (Willa Cather). But we also read George Orwell’s 1984 and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  We read Poe and we read Catcher In The Rye.  Our high school refused to purchase the latter so we each had to buy our own copy so we could read Holden Caulfield’s story.

On my own, I branched out and read many books.  One of my cousins – thank you Joe! – once gave me a stack of paperback novels.  These included authors I still consider favorites like Leon Uris.  I have reread Mila 18 and Exodus over many times since then.  He also provided me with a copy of The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins.  I kept it in the bottom drawer of my dresser and came home from school one day to face my mother’s wrath.  She’d found it, searching for something else but no matter how much she railed, I’d read it and the damage was done!

She owned a copy of Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask, which she kept hidden but once I ran across it, I perused it each time my parents were away from the house.  I learned many interesting and intriguing things, some of which I put into practice before I was out of my teens (but that’s another story!).

I discovered novels by Edna Ferber, Pearl S. Buck, Kathleen Windsor, and Eudora Welty.  I also read my way through Erica Jong, Judith Rossner, and Earl Thompson, Jr.  I soon ran across works by then up and coming authors like Dean Koontz and Stephen King. 

I see youth today reading a lot of Harry Potter and Twilight books.  Nothing wrong with either but I sometimes can’t resist the urge to suggest a title.

Reading builds a good foundation for any writer and broadens the minds of anyone.  If I hadn’t been a reader, I wouldn’t be a writer!


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