The Books I Loved in Seventh Grade

Even though I moved out of my mom’s house and into my own place about eighteen months ago, there’s a moderate-sized pile of stuff still lingering in her basement: A half-dozen boxes full of glitzy prom shoes, a childhood shell collection, hard copies of a few papers from high school I was particularly proud of,  faded Girl Scout projects, and other things that managed to survive the severe bedroom/drawer purge that I always conducted the first week of summer.

It finally came time this past weekend to begin sorting through it all, in a final purge, deciding what tiny artifacts of my childhood would be kept, tossed, or shelved in the garage for a yard sale. My favorite thing I unearthed, though, was my end-of-the-year portfolios from elementary and middle school–fifth through ninth grade–each folder containing my best writing samples and a few with recorded lists of all the books I had read during that school year.

I’ve always been a voracious reader–I remember sneaking in chapters under the covers after bedtime, checking out the maximum books from the library (according to my seventh grade report, I went to the library every Saturday, the entire school year), and reading them all before they’re due, never going anywhere without a book in my bag–but seeing the numbers in front of me, in my own handwriting, was really surprising. It was like having Goodreads stats from ten years back. I was surprised to see I managed to read more books in a school year back when I was thirteen (and definitely at least a slightly slower reader than I am now) than I can read in an entire year! I feel like I’m reading constantly–I read at least an hour every day, if not more–so I can’t imagine how I managed to eat/sleep/go to school/do homework/be a kid and read that much all at the same time! In hindsight, my time management skills (or, maybe, my mom’s, who made sure I got everything done) were pretty impressive.

The tiny sliver of my brain that loves numbers (this is a very small sliver, and it’s mostly dominated by my interest in book sale stats, WIP word counts, and my own pathetic bank account digits) wishes I had more records. I’d love to know how many/which books I’ve read in my entire lifetime.

So, without further ado, the lists!

In fifth grade, with my lovely reading teacher, Mrs. Neff…(please excuse my egregious spelling!)

Reading List_0001Reading List_0002

These are the only two lists in the folder. I don’t know why there are two separate lists–maybe we did one every semester, or kept a different list for Fall and Spring half years–so the records are a little incomplete. I feel like I must have read more than what’s listed here, but maybe not. Also, I’m disappointed I didn’t rate the books on this list, but it’s interesting to see whether I picked up a book thanks to a recommendation (either through a friend, teacher, librarian, or the Reading Olympics list) or through my own library perusal. Though completely anecdotal, the list seems to reflect that recommendations are important guides for younger readers (at least, it was for this young reader)!

I still remember the moment when Harry Potter was recommended to me in fifth grade that year. I was an after school safety and one of the teachers in charge of the program pulled out one of those Scholastic book fair order packets and pointed out the little blurb and book cover of book one. “Apparently this is supposed to be really good.” I still have the book that arrived a few weeks after my mom offered up the $5 check. Obviously, that set off a reading binge! I begged and pleaded for the second and third books for Christmas and finished both before going back to school in January.

Now this list is more complete: It’s the motherload of book stats. Every single book I read in seventh grade, from September until June 2001-2002:

Reading List_0003Reading ListReading List_0004Reading List_0005

It’s funny to see the series I practically ate for breakfast. (Redwall, anyone? Redwall Minecraft (aka “AbbeyCraft”) is in the works!) And how I bent the rules (ranking was only 1-5) to satisfy my need to express how I really felt about a book. Despite the guidelines, I gave The Red Pony a “negative one”–and I still remember how much I disliked that book, a good indication of how much I would dislike Of Mice and Men in later years, though I did like Cannery Row–and a ten to Ella Enchanted, one of my favorite books of all time. The level of difficulty I gave for Seabiscuit (“Hard!”) makes me laugh because I still remember when my dad gave me that book as a random gift one day and I picked it for that month’s required book report. I had never read a book that difficult before–it was advanced non-fiction–and it wasn’t that it was hard to read, but hard to read on a deadline. I recall panicking to finish the book by the end of the month, struggling through the chapters, needing to look up words I was unfamiliar with constantly. I had never been that challenged by a book before, nor read one so slowly. But the work was worth the effort. I still vividly recall many of the descriptions in that book, though I haven’t opened it’s pages since I read it TWELVE years ago. I remember the descriptions of the rubber suits that the jockeys would run around the track in, in mid-day heat, to lose weight, and the single leaves of dehydrated lettuce that they’d reward themselves with.

I still remember many of the characters and plots of the books on these lists. It’s kind of fantastic, when you think about it, how books stick with us for so long. Mia from Princess Diaries and Grandma Dowdel from A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder.

I’ve been interested recently in figuring out my writer DNA, as encouraged by Robin LaFevers and reading through these old lists has been a good way to jog my memory for my favorite and biggest impact books.

Do you remember what books you read in fifth and seventh grade? Have some of them stuck with you, all these years? Were they your favorites, or the ones you really despised?

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11 thoughts on “The Books I Loved in Seventh Grade

  1. I read The Red Pony in eighth grade. I really don’t remember much about it, except that I loathed it with every fiber of my being. Usually, I loved every book we read in school (and the dozens of others I read in my free time), and I was excited to be reading a classic (our school didn’t do much of that in middle school).

    Then I hit high school, and the two English teachers there were in love with Steinbeck, so I read one of his novels every year thereafter. I remember hating Of Mice and Men when we read it, and The Pearl, and The Grapes of Wrath, and rereading OMAM in college didn’t help matters. But finally, my senior year, I was assigned East of Eden and at last, I found one of his novels worth reading. I still love that book, and Travels with Charley was good, too.

    I’d like to reread some of these now to see if time has made any difference in my opinion of them, although I really don’t hold out much hope for Of Mice and Men. :)

    • Yes! Another The Red Pony hater! [virtually high fives] I wouldn’t normally be this excited, but everyone in my class LOVED the book and I remember feeling so alone in my opinions. I think we read it because it was on the Reading Olympics list that year. I’m glad you finally found a Steinbeck book you liked! I’ve looked at The Grapes of Wrath often, because many people who have told me that they didn’t like Steinbeck actually loved that book, but it’s so thick I struggle with investing the time to give it a fair try. It’s funny, if you think about it, that the two authors we’re probably required to read the most of in our public schools are Shakespeare and Steinbeck…which is a shame because if you don’t like one or the other, you have a hard road ahead of you for the next few years of literature courses! Seems to me trying out a variety of voices might be a better method…an introduction to lots of writing styles. Just a random thought.

      So not many classics in you middle school? What did you read? Any great contemporary literature? I always felt my reading experiences were pretty dated in school…nothing newer than 1950s.

      • Everyone seems to love that book! And all his others – I think I was the only one in my class who hated Of Mice and Men. At least I was good with the Shakespeare – I loved reading his plays! I have a couple of different books of his sonnets (one is the complete collection, the other just a selection), so I was excited to read more of his work. Unfortunately, we didn’t spend as much time on him as I’d have liked. But you’re right about the variety – a wider variety would have been nice.

        I actually don’t remember a whole lot of what we read in middle school beyond some S.E. Hinton books (The Outsiders; That Was Then, This is Now; Rumble Fish; and I think there was another one, but I can’t remember for sure) and A Day No Pigs Would Die (and I’d forgotten that one till I saw the comment below). I had one teacher who assigned Wait Till Helen Comes, and it’s the only book I’ve ever found that I disliked rereading. Another teacher recommended Time Enough for Drums, and it became one of my favorite books. I still love that one.

        I started reading classics for fun in high school, and my writing hasn’t been the same since. :) What did you read that made your experiences feel so dated?

      • I don’t remember anyone else liking Of Mice and Men…besides the fact that it was one of the shortest books we read that year! I recall reading The Ousiders by S.E. Hinton–that was one of those dated books I thought about–but I don’t recall any other Hinton books being part of the curriculum. Let me think really hard about middle school reading: The ones I recall feeling were dated in like the 1980s/didn’t reflect my experience were The Outsiders, The Face on the Milk Carton, December Stillness, Tangerine (though upon looking up, it was apparently published in 1998), The Day They Came to Arrest the Book, Hatchet, The Cay, and Say Goodnight Gracie. I also clearly remember all these book’s covers and thinking how out of style the clothes were. Now, I think I’d probably re-categorize/forgive a lot of them as historical fiction, and a lot of them are now children’s classics, but back then I recall feeling pushed to relate to these characters, to believe that these were “modern teenager experiences” and I just couldn’t. As I think about it, the only contemporary book that served as required reading was Holes–but I LOVED it and was so glad our teacher had us read it!

        I recall reading a lot of classics later in high school though, so many that I rarely picked up others “for fun” during my own time.

      • I remember reading Hatchet, but we read it in fifth grade, I think – I know it was in elementary school. And I don’t think The Face on the Milk Carton was ever a book I read for school, but it was one I read for fun. I didn’t think a whole lot about the cover of that one, though, and I remember the clothes in the movie feeling a little bit old, but not much. Then again, I think I saw the movie shortly after it came out?

        I don’t remember being pushed to relate to the characters, which is probably good, because I don’t think I would have related to any of them very well. Another book I read for fun that was similar to The Face on the Milk Carton was Twice Taken, which was excellent.

  2. Pingback: 10 Fun Facts I’ve Learned from Books | Hannah Karena Jones

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