The exciting sequel! Now that I feel more confident claiming to speak for three other individuals, here’s the list of books that define the Freymiller children. They are not the favorites or even ones that we’ve all read, but I think that they provide us with a common lexicon. This task is quite an ambitious undertaking as I do not exaggerate when I say we grew up in a library.
1) Watership Down by Richard Adams
I got a lot of flack on including this as a movie instead of a book in my previous Buzzfeed inspired list, so I thought to amend this grievous error by describing in full detail the importance of this work to the collective Freymiller child psyche. I don’t know if I can.
Our mom read to us almost every night growing up, and while I was in elementary school, we were read this incredible odyssey (see number 4) featuring almost completely rabbits. This was for me in my crazy-about-anything-furry phase, so hearing about rabbits as main characters was all I really wanted. It took me many years to realize that what I considered to be a children’s book actually had layers of allegory and literary devices.
I still remember being engrossed by the tales (or tails?) of El-ahrairah and the Thousand. And the goofy and easily fooled Rowsby Woof! Oh Rowsby Woof!
Some of my best friends growing up were Fiver, Hazel, the bloody-minded but courageous Bigwig, and, of course, Kehar. Don’t even start talking to me about primroses.
2) Lord of the Flies by William Golding
This may seem a bit… disconcerting to those not acquainted with my family, but when we’re all together and ganging up on a single individual (as is inevitable with a group of four) we generally begin to chant softly “Kill the pig, slit it’s throat. Kill the pig, slit it’s throat.” So, we have that from this book.
Otherwise, I think we just enjoyed knowing that there were other children out there potentially further along in the downward spiral into primativism. It was comforting.
3) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
This is partially, or mostly, between my older brother and I, but he recommended this book to me somewhere around middle school and I found it the most hilarious and heart-wrenching story I’d ever read. I still find it hilarious.
You have flies in your eyes.
4) The Odyssey by Homer
I have vivid memories of sitting in bed listening as my mom said the words “and the rosy fingered dawn” for the umpteenth time. This, I think, was my first introduction to mythology and I loved it. It’s safe to say that my life would have turned out very differently if I hadn’t been exposed to the Homer at such a young age.
5) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Well, I think our mom started to worry about us getting a moral compass (see #2 and #7) so she read this to us pretty regularly, just to make sure we still knew what right or wrong was. I think she also wanted us to have a mix of female characters in the midst of all our male rabbits and male school children and male Greeks and whatnot.
Needless to say Scout was and is my role model.
6) The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
A classic children’s book. Do you know how much wordplay there is in this book? The answer is a lot. More than you could shake a stick at. Enough to choke a horse. Take how many you think and double it and then double it again and then again and then double it again and then twice that.
I always wanted a dog like Tock, but it turns out sticking a clock into a dog isn’t feasible… yet. I believe in the powers of modern science.
7) Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
It was a toss-up between this and The Fountainhead, but I just remember my older brother reading the beginning of Atlas Shrugged to me when I was home sick. Fond memories.
You’ve got to love this book if for no other reason than no one else is gutsy enough to stick in a 32 page monologue and still get published.
8) Grover Sleeps Over by Elizabeth Winthrop
Nostalgia thy name is Grover. Our mom makes the best Grover voice. Somewhere between Fozzie the Bear and Yoda.
9) The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Took me far too long to realize that the fiction didn’t stop within the pages of the narrative proper. For the longest time I thought the entire forward section to the 25th anniversary was factual, and I thought William Goldman was a terrible person. Then I started to figure things out. Like the slight problem that there is no country of Florin or of Guilder. It all fell apart from there.
I’ve never felt so lied to by fiction before.
10) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Well… Ender was a third, right? And I’m the third child… So I always imagined that my older brother and sister were Peter and Valentine and that meant I got to be Ender and got to save the world by unknowingly sacrificing my soul. I was really excited about that idea.
It didn’t turn out to be true (though if you look at my future plans I may still someday end up in space), but we stilled enjoyed saying things like “The enemies gate is down”. Before it was cool, I might add.
11) House on Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
Although I wanted this list to be 10 in order to satisfy some inborn need for evenness, I couldn’t not include some A.A. Milne. Again in order to instill that moral fiber into us, we got the Milne treatment. Don’t know if this really counts as “moral”, but it has something akin to character.
My childhood is pretty well summarized by the invention of the game Pooh-Sticks and by the day that Piglet got a bath. And if you ever hear me saying “tiddly pum” or “if you ask me, which nobody does” this is where it comes from.
I’m sure I’ve missed some big names, and I’m sure my siblings will correct me, so watch out for another addendum, but this is, for me, a good portion of our development. If you need a summer reading list, you could do worse.