At What Should I Read Next HQ, we celebrate being a community of readers—whether you grew up as a bookish child, or became a reader as an adult, you’re in good company here. I love my weekly conversations with readers of all types, because we can all learn something about our own reading life by hearing about a fellow reader’s journey.
Today, we’re shining the spotlight on some of your favorite reading memories, with an assortment of listener stories steeped in reading nostalgia. I’m sharing some of my own favorite reading moments, too, and I’ll be taking you between the pages of my newest book, My Reading Adventures: a reading journal for 8-12 year readers, or anyone young at heart. As you listen to today’s episode, you’ll find yourself connecting with that childhood joy of reading, and I hope it will encourage you to revisit some of your favorite bookish moments and memories.
Has your copy of My Reading Adventures already arrived? I’d love to see your snapshots! Tag @whatshouldireadnext in your Instagram posts and let us know how your young reader (or young-at-heart journaler) is putting it to use! And stay tuned over at my account @annebogel for more peeks between the pages.
[CHEERFUL INTRO MUSIC]
ANNE: Hey, readers, I'm Anne Bogel and this is What Should I Read Next? Episode 341.
Welcome to the show that's dedicated to answering the question that plagues every reader: What Should I Read Next?
We don't get bossy on this show: What we WILL do here is give you the information you need to choose your next read.
ANNE: In this week's special episode, we are remembering some of the moments that made us readers from early childhood memories to the books and stories that left a mark. And along the way, I'll be taking you between the pages of my new reading journal for kids, My Reading Adventures.
Here at What Should I Read Next?, our team and our listeners, we are all readers. And whether you discovered the joy of books as a child or came to the hobby later in life, you've connected with the universal love of a good book.
In the particular is found the universal. And so each week on the show, I dig into the particulars of one person's reading life, knowing my suggestions can be applied broadly.
We have these conversations in order to help you get more out of your own reading life and feel more confident about choosing your next read.
Today, we're exploring the joys and delights of reading nostalgia. I'm excited to share some of your stories about becoming a reader and some of my own favorite reading memories and introduce you to my newest book along the way.
My Reading Adventures is a reading journal for the 8 to 12-year-old set. And you can buy it today through the links in your podcast app, or our show notes or at your local bookstores.
As I designed this journal and talked about it with members of our team here and my publishing team and talked about it with you this year, one theme came up over and over again: the nostalgia for a great childhood reading experience and everything that goes with it.
From earning summer reading prizes, packing beloved books for a trip to the beach, reading far into the night beneath the covers with a flashlight and so many memories of personal pan pizzas, we've heard so many wonderful tales of your treasured memories.
In today's episode, we're sharing a variety of listener stories that evoke that childhood joy of reading. Let's get to it.
You've heard me talk about the power of tracking reading to help you understand both what you love and what you don't and why. My Reading Adventures was designed to help young readers think about what they've read, identify who they are as a reader, and also give them a real sense of accomplishment.
I so wish I kept a reading journal of my own back when I was little. I would give anything to see a copy of My Reading Adventures is filled out by my 10-year-old self. The closest I came was with a little pocket-sized notebook. I call it my workbook. I bought it at Target with my birthday money. And I feel like I need to stop here and tell you I was such a nerdy little kid.
Okay, so in my workbook, I recorded all the words I encountered in my reading that I didn't know the definitions for. And then I would look up the definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary my third-grade teacher had put on the school supply list several years before because we had to have that dictionary because "it was the best," she said.
And I dutifully copied that definition into the notebook. I did all this using the Sanford Uniball Roller Stick pens my dad bought by the dozen for his office, a pen I still love and use today.
Of all the words I captured, and I captured a lot, the only one I remember clearly is "oblivious." For the longest time, I didn't include it in my word book because I thought it was a typo and the author had really meant "obvious."
But after encountering it numerous times in the pages of one specific Sweet Valley High book, I finally looked it up, discovered the true meaning, felt kind of embarrassed for a minute, and then I wrote it down.
When we were preparing for this episode, we asked you all about your favorite reading-related memories, and we absolutely loved what you shared. Throughout the episode today, we'll be sharing what you had to say, starting with some specific books that stuck with you even years later.
CARRIE: Hi, this is Carrie from Wisconsin. One of my most nostalgic childhood reading experiences is linked to the book Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt. This is absolutely one of my touchstone books. It was the summer of 1986 and I was 10 going on 11. I would don my favorite jean shorts and Keds and ride my bike into town to my local library.
And if I close my eyes, the whole experience is still just as vivid today as it was 35 years ago. I can smell that unique library smell crisp, air-conditioned air mixed with books. I can picture the precise layout of the stacks. I can see myself making a beeline right to the spot where I plucked the book from the shelf, and I can still feel the grass under my bare feet where I sat beneath a tree as I read.
I do wish that I could remember more about why young Carrie loved this book as much as I did. Was it because I identified with Dicey, the oldest of four siblings just like me? Or was it the coming of age story infused with adventure, hideaway escapes and travel that was so prevalent in so many of my childhood favorites? I'll obviously never know. But what I do know is I'm so grateful for those unexpected childhood reading experiences that stand the test of time.
WOMAN 1: I was a teenager in the 1980s and have a couple of distinct memories of discovering reading as a teen in the summer. There were summer vacations with my brother, sister, and father on Nantucket island. There I discovered my first full-length novels, which were A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, still an all-time favorite, and The World According to Garp by John Irving.
I must have been about 13 when I read Garp. And although I remember feeling very sad and shaken by that story, I discovered a love of complicated family sagas. I also had memories of going to the town pool with my best friend, my pool bag loaded with baby oil along with the latest Danielle Steel novel. Wow, how times have changed!
LEIGH: Hey, this is Leigh Kramer, and I'm part of the What Should I Read Next? team. I wanted to reminisce about a book that I am glad I read too young. And that is Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews. I know I'm not the only person. It's not a well-kept secret that so many girls read this young. I was around fifth or sixth grade. So this was like back in 1990, 1991.
My teen neighbor recommended it to me, and I did not know really anything about it other than was about this girl named Cathy and her brother Chris and their twin siblings, and they get locked in their grandmother's attic. And I was like, "Yeah, that that sounds great."
And it had this really cool kind of gothic cover, had like a keyhole cut out, you know. Of course, you want to know. And then you start reading and you're a little bit scandalized, but also titillated. And a lot of it went over my head. There's a lot about the book that I realized as an adult was like pretty messed up.
But I am so glad that I read it. It's one of those formative experiences. It was a really engaging story I could kind of laugh about with my friends. I read so many of those books. I don't think that was a bad thing. And I will always encourage the kids in my life to read what they want.
Reading books can be a healthy way to explore a lot of different things. Not necessarily gonna like give them V. C. Andrews. But if they tell me they read her, then I will want to know what they thought about the story.
ANNE: The best kind of book tracking goes beyond writing down what you read. And that's why My Reading Adventures invites young readers to think about and capture not just their thoughts, but also how each book made them feel.
One fun feature designed to do exactly that is the emoji rating scale. Another section is straightforward in this regard. There's space to bubble in if the book made each reader feel happy or sad, scared or excited, curious or anxious, peaceful or smart, plus space to write in their own emotions if the prefilled ones just aren't doing it.
The goal is to help readers remember more about what they read, what it meant to them, and how it impacted their lives.
When we asked our What Should I Read Next? community for reading memories, it wasn't a surprise how many were centered around a specific feeling or sense memory. Here's what a few of you had to share.
WOMAN 2: The first book that really stuck in my heart was The Black Stallion. And that is a series. I got into it because I think it was in the late 70s or early 80s, there was a movie that came out with The Black Stallion. It was great, and the soundtrack was especially wonderful.
I had the record The Black Stallion and I would listen to it and I would read the books and I would listen to it again and draw. And so it's all kind of wrapped up together the music and the story. I still hear that music and it brings tears to my eyes because it makes me feel like I'm really young again.
WOMAN 3: The first time that I read Little Women I was 12 or 13 years old in my bedroom, the master bedroom of the apartment that I lived in because my mother had given my sister and I the bigger room. And so it had a bathroom in the bedroom.
I was laying on my bunk bed reading Little Women halfway through, in love with all the characters, loving the story until I get to the point where, spoiler alert, Laurie proposes to Jo and she says no. I was so angry that I slammed the book shut and just chucked it across the room.
The book sailed across the room into the restroom that had a straight shot with a door open and all the way to the corner towards the toilet where I thought that it had actually fallen in the toilet. But I was so angry that I didn't even care at that point. And I was just fuming. I think I was even in tears because I was so angry.
About 10 minutes later, I finally get up because I need to find out what's going to happen next. I go to the restroom. Thankfully, the book fell behind the toilet. It didn't actually make it into the toilet. Picked it up, continued reading. And of course, then Beth happens. [CHUCKLES] When I tell you I was absolutely enraged, yes.
SARAH: Hi, everyone. My name is Sarah. I'm from Calgary, and I wanted to share a nostalgic reading experience from when I was a young adult. So I was in university, and it was the last day of classes and I had to be on campus kind of in the morning and then in the afternoon and I had a big gap in the middle that wasn't long enough to go home but I really didn't have any place to be.
So I found myself in the library, which to that point, I had really only used for research purposes. But I found myself in the fiction section. And something drew me to the book A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. And I had heard of it, I had never read it. I didn't know anything about it.
So I checked it out and went outside. And it was this beautiful, glorious, late spring, early summer day. And we don't waste those in Canada, because you never know when it's going to snow. But I found myself a little grassy knoll, and I sat down and I just read that book cover to cover.
It was such a refreshing experience after a semester of very challenging, dry academic reading. And it really kicked off my summer reading that year and kind of brought me back into the world of reading for pleasure, not just for school.
ANNE: One of my favorite parts about designing My Reading Adventures was finding ways to balance creativity, utility, and simplicity. Some of the fun features I love most are the what kind of reader am I quiz, the fill-in-the-blank section called "The best and worst of my book life," and the adorable and functional library card in the very front of the journal.
While kids these days may be accustomed to digital library catalogs and apps like Libby, there is no doubt that the library was a central focus of your reading memories. I loved hearing about your library moments that stick with you years later.
ROCHELLE: Hi, my name is Rochelle Newton. The thing that makes me the most nostalgic about my childhood is the summer reading program at my local library. I loved that thing. I would just wait until school got out. And I loved school, but I couldn't wait. I wanted to go to the library and sign up and get all of the tracking pages and get all the books I wanted and just really go on a trip every summer with all the books that I had. I loved it.
I even love it now. As a 50-year-old woman, I still go to the library and get my bingo card or whatever it is that they're doing. I loved doing it with my kids when they were little. And I'm just so thankful for my local library for getting me off on that journey of being a reader.
WOMAN 4: I remember in high school, I ditched school one day and I went to the public library and spent the whole day in the library by myself with a giant stack of books that I wanted to read. When the attendance office called my mom that day, which they tend to do when you don't show up to school, she asked me where I had been that day. And I told her that I had spent the day at the library. And she just looked at me, shook her head, shrugged her shoulders, and said, "I don't know what to do with that." And I did not end up getting in trouble that day.
WOMAN 5: One of my favorite memories of childhood reading was piling into my dad's truck with my sisters every Friday night. And he would drive us to the local library where we could return our books and get new ones. I loved the feel of books, the smell of books, the sight of books, and most especially coming home and opening one to begin reading.
SARAH: My name is Sarah and I'm a lifelong reader living in Oklahoma. When I was young, the public library in the southern Missouri town where my family and I lived had a policy that you had to be 13 years old to have your own library card.
However, this summer I turned 10, we moved 150 miles away to a new community closer to St. Louis. It was a difficult move for me, especially since I was unable to say goodbye to school friends, and I hadn't yet met any kids in our new town.
A few days after we got settled, my mom, knowing me well, took me to explore our new library. While small it was a part of a regional lending system and had a whole room dedicated to children's books.
When we approached the circulation desk, I was absolutely thrilled to discover I was able to establish my own library account and get my first library card. That summer I especially remember reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, which was magically captivating. And it was so much fun.
Many years later, I'm now an academic librarian who was the librarian for our University's College of Education. And one of the best parts of my job is to oversee our college library's youth collection and to select and suggest books for our future teachers and school librarians who can use these with the young readers in their lives. So here's the summer reading for kids of all ages. Thank you.
ANNE: I so enjoyed hearing those. For me, I remember going to get my first library card the summer I turned seven years old. My mom told me to do it myself, so I waited in line at the circulation desk. And when it was my turn, I told the librarian what I wanted, and she was so kind. She said that she was happy for me and gave me my very own card and told me to sign my name on the signature line to make it my own. I did sign it.
And my best attempts at a cursive signature looked so terrible, I almost cried. The librarian saw this and she got me a new card so I could try it again. "You're going to be using this a lot," she said, "You want it to look nice." I tried again and it was much better.
That librarian gave me a warm welcome into her world. And she was right. I used that card until it literally wore out and I had to get a new one.
Let's talk about the 90 individual book logs in the pages of this journal. These almost feel like little snapshots to me. Because by capturing what you've read, you're also capturing a moment in your life and how it intersects with what you are reading at the time.
With My Reading Adventures, your young reader can make sure the details of their reading experience are right there at their fingertips for future reference. Keeping track of your reading can also help you notice the seeds of passions and interests that can grow along with you.
Several What Should I Read Next? listeners shared stories about how early reading experiences laid the groundwork for their adult lives.
WOMAN 6: When I was 17, I saw the movie Doctor Zhivago and I just loved the movie. I thought it was such a beautiful story. Afterwards I found out that it was based on a novel written by Boris Pasternak. So I purchased paperback copy and started reading the book.
And I soon learned that Russians have lots of names. So I bought a little spiral notebook and wrote down each character and all the different names they were called. And I took notes on the book. And it's the first time I remember really getting involved in a novel and reading it closely. It was really a wonderful experience. And it started me on a path of reading about Russian history and enjoying Russian literature, which I still enjoy now 60 years later.
DIANE: Hi, my name is Diane Cook. I live in Massachusetts. In fourth grade for my birthday, my parents gave me a boxed set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books, The Little House on the Prairie series. I think I had read one at that point, but I got a whole set. I remember thinking that was the best present ever because the box was beautiful. That was when my love of reading in a series I think started.
WOMAN 7: I grew up in Iowa. In high school, we read a book set in the Dakota territory. And this book's sense of place left a permanent impression on me. The author's description of the loneliness, the wind, then ending flat prairie was a wow. It was just magnificent and humbling at the same time.
And the book kept coming to mind and I wanted to reread it so bad, but I could not remember the title and all my googling went to not. I could not find it. But one day, a few years ago, I was reading another Midwest classic by Jane Smiley, One Thousand Acres, that was set in Iowa. It was set in the 1970s when I grew up.
And the main character, a mom, was talking to her teen daughter about her English homework and her daughter was Giants in the Earth by OLE Edvart Rolvaag. That was the book I was seeking. Jane Smiley found it for me. And it was as good as I thought it would be. So this random moment and a random novel finally brought me home to a book I've been looking for for years.
ANNE: Whether or not you have a young reader in your life who would love their own copy of My Reading Adventures, I hope you've enjoyed these reading memories. And if this has prompted a memory of your own, we would love to hear it.
Please share your story in the comments on today's show at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/341. Here are just a few more stories that we loved hearing that might give you some inspiration.
DEBBIE: My name is Debbie Morton and I live in College Station, Texas. One of my favorite memories was when I was under 10 years old. I grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. And it was hot in this summer... And in the 50s when I grew up, the houses weren't centrally air-conditioned. So my parents had put in two air cooling window units in the house, one in mom and dad's room and one in the dining room.
So in the hot summer afternoons, mom would let us to a, quote, "rest time" in front of the air conditioning unit in the dining room. and I would lay on the dining room floor and read my books. My sisters would get up and leave after a while, and I would just stay there in the cool until my mom kicked me out because I wanted to keep reading my books. So I loved it.
WOMAN 8: When I was in middle school, I got to be a gate guard at the pool, which meant I would just sit at the front desk, and people would come in and sign the book to get into the pool. And I spent hours and hours and hours of my day sitting there and reading. I must have read 65 to 70 books that summer, which totally changed my life as a reader.
REBECCA: Hi, this is Rebecca from Louisiana. My favorite reading memory is from the summer I was 15. I was volunteering at a local hospital in the marketing department. While this wasn't particularly interesting, it had the great benefit of an hour-long lunch break.
So every week, I would take my lunchbox, hand a book and go over to the children's hospital and sit in this atrium area with huge floor-to-ceiling windows and comfy benches. It was there that I had many literary adventures. And that was the location where I first read my lifetime favorite book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
I didn't know anything about this book when I picked it up. I didn't know when it was set, who the characters were, or even that it was written in letters. In fact, I skipped over the first couple pages trying to get past the letters until the plot. Only to realize that the letters were the plot.
This book and its sweet characters have stayed with me long past my volunteering days and into my professional life across states, across time zones. But I always seek to recapture the joy of experiencing those characters for the first time in the atrium of the children's hospital when I was 15.
[CHEERFUL OUTRO MUSIC]
ANNE: Readers, I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane and peek between the pages of My Reading Adventures. Order your copy for your favorite junior reader or for yourself and see the notes from today's episode at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/341.
I'd love to see photos of your reading journal in action. Tag us @whatshouldireadnext in your Instagram posts and let us know how My Reading Adventures is making a difference in your family's reading lives.
I'll also be sharing a few videos to give you a visual glimpse into the journal. So if you're not already, follow me on Instagram @Annebogel so you can see those videos when they come out.
Subscribe now in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts so you'll always get the latest episodes as soon as we release them each week.
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Thanks to the people who make this show happen! What Should I Read Next is produced by Brenna Frederick, with production assistance by Holly Wielkoszewski, and sound design by Kellen Pechacek.
Readers, that's it for this episode. Thanks so much for listening.
And as Rainer Maria Rilke said, "Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading." Happy reading, everyone!
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• My Reading Adventures by Anne Bogel
• Sweet Valley High series by Francine Pascal (#1 Double Love)
• Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
• A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
• The World According to Garp by John Irving
• Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews
• The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
• Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
• A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine l’Engle
• Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
• Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
• The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
• A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
• Giants in the Earth by Ole Edvart Rølvaag
• The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows