9 books I’d give my 12-year-old self


Yesterday I came across an article on Bookriot, in which the author talks about the 12 books he’d give his 12-year-old self (assuming he had a time machine, of course). This got me thinking about myself at that age. I, like the article’s author, was a voracious reader. Most of my friends would beg their parents for video games or CDs or clothes, but I almost always asked for books.

So, which books do I wish I’d read as a child? I was very into fiction as a kid, and there are a few novels that immediately made the list. But, my current love of non-fiction is such that I’d need to include a few of those books, too. There are lessons I’d like to pass on, and stories I’d just want myself to “sit with” for as long as possible.

In the end I couldn’t think of 12 books, but nine did come to mind:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Yes, this non-fiction book about introverts is probably a bit advanced for a pre-teen (even me, who forced herself through 1984 and Animal Farm at the age of 10). But, my younger self would have had the same realization 30-something me had within the first 10 pages: I’m not weird, and I’m not alone. I wish I’d realized that a lot sooner.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
I somehow neglected to read this book as a child, only to have my sister demand I read it in my early twenties. The original YA dystopian fiction, The Giver is a must read to understanding the genre’s history. This background would have let The Hunger Games resonate even more.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud
About the time I turned 12 I wrote off comic books. They were either for kids or for boys, and I was too mature to read them anymore. It wasn’t until I reached college and was reintroduced to the genre that I understood that this wasn’t true. Perhaps this gem could have set me straight (and taught me a thing or two about storytelling).

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
Young girls can never have too many strong female role models, even the fictional kind. Kamala Khan, a.k.a. Ms. Marvel, is tough and resilient, whether she’s fighting bad guys or just trying to make her way through high school. After reading Understanding Comics, I’d be ready to appreciate this illustrated romp.

On Writing by Stephen King
Twelve-year-old me wanted to be an artist or an animator. While I still enjoy drawing and painting, I now admit that those are not my best talents. Perhaps if I’d come across King’s ode to his craft in my tweens I’d have taken the advice of multiple middle and high school teachers and pursued writing from a younger age.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards
While I’d love to nudge my younger self into writing, I don’t want to discourage her either. Even now, I’m still an artist at heart. This book was recommended by a college professor, and it’s one of the few required readings I held onto post-graduation. Pre-teen Sally would be keen to keep developing her drawing skills with Edwards’ help.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Reading the Harry Potter series as a kid is an experience I wish I’d had. I know 12-year-old me would have loved the series, and growing up with my favorite witches and wizards would have made it even more magical. I would not, however, give myself all seven books early. Patience is important, and besides, I’d have no one to talk about them with!

Holes by Louis Sachar
Another YA book that I read as an adult, Holes is just a great story. The weaving narratives are fun and intelligent, with the perfect amount of adventure and whimsy. I wish I could write a story as great as this.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
I don’t know exactly when my love of science fiction literature began, but this Newbery Medal winner would have been one of 12-year-old Sally’s favorite books. Again, I wish I could write a book even half as good as this one.

Which books do you wish you could gift your younger self?


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