Anne Lamott, the honest, hilarious author of many heartbreaking and hopeful non-fiction and fiction books, recently came to my city. She spoke for a while, and I sat, poised with my phone, tapping away notes on all of the funny and wise words she offered up despite a broken microphone and a venue with poor acoustics. She said she’d keep the reading and commentary brief because she had toured the country and interacted with audiences enough to know that people really come to ask questions, that we all are just seeking opportunities to connect.
And the moment when I felt like she was speaking directly to me came when someone asked which authors she loves, what books have meant the most to her.
Lamott’s answer contained a nod to an author friend in the audience. But her real response was focused on the books she read as a child.
“I was a girl who found literal salvation in chapter books,” she explained and I recorded in my notes. “Pippi Longstocking, Beezus and Ramona, Little Women.”
An audible “ahhh” rose up from the audience. We congregants were not all the same age, had driven to this church to hear Anne Lamott from different parts of the city. But if the reaction told anything it was how many of us had also been lost — and perhaps, found — in those same pages.
As parents, we get the joy of rediscovering the books we loved as kids. I am even more thankful to the late, brilliant Beverly Cleary for the Ramona and Henry Huggins and other series she penned now that I’ve re-read them all with my son. And after writing this piece, which compiles teacher choices for the best middle-school reads, I know I have many more new (to me) bindings to crack.
For some reading — and re-reading — inspiration, here, some of our favorite public figures share their favorite childhood books, too.
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John Krasinkski 1 of 7He and the cast said farewell to "The Office" recently but the actor hasn't stopped being a fan of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach. , which he appropriately described as "a feast for the imagination!"
"I was always a HUGE fan of all things Roald Dahl. Every book from James and the Giant Peach to The BFG to The Witches, nobody wrote more imaginative stories for kids. These worlds he created had the nonsensical appeal of Dr. Seuss, while at the same time, the characters were all written with wonderful complexities and enormous heart," he told FIrst Book.
Anne Hathaway 2 of 7Which magical world did Anne Hathaway love being transported to so much that she still harbors a tiny hope she will find a way in?
The Secret Gardenby Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Hathaway has admitted, ""I wanted to be Mary Lennox so badly. I still have a soft spot for gardens and I'm always going off to see if I can find locked doors inside them."
Anne Lamott 3 of 7Anne Lamott, today the author of more than a dozen books and an avid Tweeter, says she lost herself in the pages of Ramona and Beezus, Little Women andPippi Longstocking when she was a child.
President Barack Obama 4 of 7Where the Wild Things Are by the late Maurice Sendak is the POTUS pick for favorite children's read.
"I love this book," he said of the artful classic.
Meredith Vieira 5 of 7Is it a surprise that Vieira identified with a lovable troublemaker character, even in the early days of her life? Her choice for favorite childhood book is Eloiseby Kay Thompson.
I loved Eloise, for everything she wasn't. She wasn't pretty, she wasn't the model child -- she was a little devil, and I envied her spunk. I grew up in a typical suburban home and wanted to live in the Plaza Hotel. After I brought my daughter Lily home from the hospital, Eloise was the first thing I bought her," she shared with Parents.com.
Neil Patrick Harris 6 of 7Harris says his favorite childhood book is an emotional classic that is often taught in middle school classrooms today: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson.
"My mother read to my brother and me before we would go to sleep. Well written, beautiful imagery, full of imagination," he recalls.
Scarlett Johansson 7 of 7Our children may know the animated film better than the illustrated book, but Scarlett Johansson says she turned the pages of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, also by Roald Dahl, over and over.
"I was in second or third grade when my sister read this to me. I remember that when she was finished, I insisted she start right over again. I attribute my love of drama to having heard her do all the characters' voices," she revealed on Oprah.com.
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