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My 70's Bookshelf - Tales I Loved
I'm a Bookaholic
It's true. I'll read everything and anything, including the back of the laundry detergent. Of course I'd rather read books. And write them too.
I turned 7 in 1970 and 16 in 1979. That decade was a big book era for me.
The fun thing about being a kid (once my chores and homework were done) was having plenty of time to read.
Not all of these books were written during the 70's but that's when I read and fell in love with them.
Looking for a book for a teenage girl? Check out my recommendations.
Reading Places and Spaces
What's your favorite place to read?
My Favorite Reading Spot
One of my favorite spots was the apple tree behind my house, I'd climb up amongst the branches and breathe in the sweet scent of the blossoms and tuck into a novel.
During the summers, I'd wake up in the middle of the night because of the heat. Not being able to sleep again, I'd go out to the back porch and cuddle up on the couch there, listening to the soothing sounds of crickets and reading while I waited for dawn. As the sun rose, I'd watch the rose and gold tinted sky and the herons flying out to their perches on Shooter's Island.
The Era of the Horse Books
My family has always had a thing for horses.
It's probably my aunt's fault. I'm not sure if we were a horse family before that.
When I was little she had a beautiful pinto Quarter Horse named Lady. Lady was a champion barrel racer and one of the rooms at my aunt's house was cluttered with the multitude of ribbons and trophies that she'd won. Almost every ribbon in the collection was blue.
While I was growing up, my aunt worked as a horse trainer and stable manager for a number of prominent farms in her area. Today she boards horses for a partial living.
One of the earliest photos of me is on Lady's back.
At one point, my aunt talked my mom into getting her own horse. This bad boy was a paint gelding named Tonka. I don't remember him personally, but I grew up watching home movies of his escape antics.
Tonka, you see, was notorious for getting out of the corral. Nobody could figure out how he was doing it. The corral was too high for him to jump, and the latch was secure. Finally my parents set up a camera and managed to film one of his escapes. He'd spread his legs wide like a camel does and inch his way down right under the lowest slat of the corral.
I was already horse crazy by then, but on my 7th birthday my aunt cinched the deal by gifting me with a Shetland Pony.
Foxy was a dapple gray/brown gelding with a blond mane and tail. He and I fell instantly in love and he remained one of my dearest friends and confidantes for many years. My parents weren't quite as thrilled. Although we had plenty of land for a horse, it was probably a financial burden. Ponies eat a lot, and vet bills for horses aren't cheap.
I was about 15 when my parents decided to give Foxy to a pony-ride place. I'm still sad about it today.
I can't really blame them though. Foxy might have been a gelding, but he sure wasn't aware of that. He'd consistently get loose and trot off to chase the mares at a stable a few miles away.
One of the last straws was when a local kid set his dogs on Foxy. The vet bills were stupendous and I spent months salving his wounds while they healed.
Right now I don't own a horse, but I'm still nearly as horse-crazy as I was as a young kid. Rest assured that as soon as I can acquire land enough, I'll have a horse once again.
No surprise then, that a good percentage of my childhood reading was books on horses.
This classic story about the life of a horse might be the reason that I'm such an animal lover and advocate. I must have read it over and over about 8 times. Probably more! I especially recall reading it in the back seat of the car when we went to visit my new baby cousin.
The Fury Series
My mom and aunt had this whole series from when they were kids. Fury is the story of the love between a wild stallion and an orphaned boy. I didn't know it had been made into a TV show (that aired before I was born). The horse that played Fury - Highland Dale aka Beaut, was said to be one of the smartest horses in existence. He also starred in Black Beauty and many other shows and movies.
King of the Wind
...and anything else Marguerite Henry ever wrote.
Another book I read several times. I cried every time Agba and Sham were in danger. This is the story of the Godolphin Arab, one of the stallions who founded the thoroughbred breed.
His bloodline lives on today, and even now, nearly 300 years since his birth, some of the most famed racehorses (and Triple-Crown winners) of all time - including Man O' War, Secretariat and Eclipse, trace their ancestry back to this nearly-rejected stallion.
Marguerite Henry is also the author of the Misty series (about a Chincoteague Pony and the family who loved her, another favorite series of mine. .
Bambi and other Animal Stories
Whether because of horses or despite them, my family also encouraged my love of many different animals and the science surrounding them. I'm not sure how I managed to grow up without getting a biology degree..
One of my early stories is of how my grandmother (who was partly crippled with a bad back) would babysit me by setting me down in front of an ant hill, reading a science book about ants and suggesting I observe the critters.
As a kid, our pets included the pony, dogs, snakes, insects, gerbils, and just about any orphan baby or wounded wild animal we happened to come across. The only pet I wasn't allowed to have was a cat. (Mom thought they were dirty.) And that changed when I was about 15.
The real novel of Bambi is much better than the Disney version! Another book that cemented my love for animals, the woods and environmentalism. Took me a long time before I'd eat venison!
Since Charlotte (or her ancestresses) might be considered the original writer, she deserves mention here.
Mom read this to us at bedtime, and it was one of my favorites. As often happened with the books she chose, I couldn't wait for bedtime to come around for the next chapter and ended up reading it on my own. I've probably read this book at least eight times. .
Funny, witty and made me cry. Some book.
My First Meeting With the Goddess
Growing up in a family of atheists and agnostics, we weren't encouraged to pursue religion, but weren't discouraged either.
By the time I was 9 or so, I already knew I was a little "different" and that others didn't see the same ghosts and Earth Spirits that I did. But at the time, I still didn't have a name for any of what I was sensing.
I'd gotten my first library card at age 6 and by this time I was a hardcore user, especially of the Folklore section. One day, this book fell off the shelf and perhaps set me on the Wiccan/Witchcraft path that I follow to this day.
The Maid of Artemis is the coming of age story of a girl in Ancient Greece. As with many (all?) girls approaching womanhood, she is sent to the Temple of Artemis at Brauron, where she sets upon the journey from girl to woman.
Brauron is a real archaeological excavation site. Many of the parents of girls sent there commissioned statues of their daughters as a thank you to the temple. While visiting, the author witnessed a fragment of one of these statues, the hand of a young girl, cradling a dove. The tenderness with which the girl's hand held the dove moved the author so much that it became the inspiration for this novel.
A warning to the reader: As an animal lover, the eventual fate of Ala's bird may be hard to take. I know that I cried. Still, I highly recommend this evocative and heart-wrenching book. The memory of it has stuck with me and given me courage all my life.
Why Johnny Can't Read and I Can
Grandma was a teacher by trade. Because of her affiliations with the Communist Party, it was very hard for her to keep a job. In those days you had to swear a loyalty oath.
By the time I was growing up she had become a part-time remedial reading teacher and I was taught to read right alongside her adult students.
This book was Grandma's gospel.
By the 70s (and throughout the 80s, Grandma was working on her own phonics book. Sadly, she never finished it. Guess who got to be her editor? It breaks my heart that my copies of it burned in the house fire.
The School Book Club
Once a month, my school would give out a catalog for the Scholastic Reading Club. I'd save up my allowance (a whole 75 cents per week!) and buy books.
Fortunately, Mom would often chip in a little extra for that, since she values reading. She is a writer after all!
This is one of the books I got from the club and it IS a treasure.
Ariane's husband died in the crusades, leaving her the mistress of his castle, and with barely enough coin to feed herself and her one remaining servant. Now strangers have overtaken her castle, searching for the treasure they believe her husband left behind. A beautiful story of true love lost and friendship gained. It includes a haunting and evocative song which I remember to this day.
Mad Libs - the Game That Drove My Family Insane
I loved playing Mad Libs as a kid. A very writerly game!
Mom made the mistake of bringing one of these home from a trip to Manhattan and I went nuts for it.
It was a great way to keep us amused during the two hour drive to my aunt's farm in upstate NY.
Everyone else got tired of it pretty fast though. Everybody except me. When they saw me coming with the book and a pencil, there'd be a series of groans. Just keep your Mad-libbing in moderation (as a kid, I didn't) and you should be fine.
Romance Blossoms On the Page
Thanks to my childhood best friend, I read a lot of Romance novels during the 70's. Mom wasn't thrilled, as the trend at the time was bodice rippers. Romance novels have changed a lot since then!
This particular novel takes place in Britain as the Normans are invading.
What do you think of Romances
Mom tolerated my romance habit, but wasn't happy with it. She figured I'd end up expecting relationships to be all fluff and rainbows. Not to mention having problems with the bodice-ripping parts.
During the time, I also began writing several rather lousy romances of my own. Thanks to a house fire, no copies of those manuscripts survive to this day. I can't say that's a bad thing,
I do actually have one romance novel in progress, though Dark Moon Gates and the sequel, Unquiet Memories has put that one on the back-burner. It's a SF/Fantasy romance set in the same world as my novella Nenfari.
Yesterday we were talking about my romance in progress (I'd decided to give it a few days attention) and how this genre has changed since I was a teenager. She was glad to learn that I wasn't planning a rape scene. (Which was her opinion of romance novels.)
Romance is one of the hottest selling genres, so I'm glad she didn't talk me out of them. I still read them now and again as a secret guilty pleasure. Hopefully I'll finish what I'm calling my "Lutero book" (after the hero) in the near future.
Mom Fights Back
Actually, some of these books probably pre-dated the romance novels. Having grown up in the 40s and 50s, Mom was determined that her daughters would know that anything was possible.
To counteract the romances, she supplemented my reading by making sure I had the Notable American Women Dictionary, and other feminist-oriented books. Face it, the 70s was the rise of the feminist era.
Great Women Paper Dolls
From Boudicca to Joan of Arc, Elizabeth 1 to Amelia Earhart, and so many in between, I adored this coloring book/paper dolls.
Boudicca was, and still is, one of my heroes.
Grandpa spearheaded my journey into science fiction reading. We'd sit around the counter of his kitchen and he'd harrangue about some amazing book he'd read. Or he'd recite a poem.
Grandpa was an orator, so good that the Communist Party once asked him to run for mayor! He worked as a ship's carpenter and a Union organizer. Please remember this started before the McCarthy era when Communism got villified! I actually wrote my 2nd degree "Birth Religion" paper on growing up as a child of Communists.
His voice was inspiring. Rich and rolling and a pleasure to listen to. I could listen to him for hours -- good thing, because he could talk for hours.
Once he told me about a novel he'd read in which the hero's love interest turned out to be an insect. Years after he passed, and just at the end of the book I was reading. I realized I was reading the same exact book he'd once talked about. Sadly I don't even recall the title!
He was also a prankster. One of my favorite stories: He'd read some science fiction book in which our world was being overtaken by aliens. The only way you could tell them apart from humans was that they happened to like ketchup in their coffee.
Grandpa practiced for weeks. He drank coffee with ketchup until he could do so with a straight face. Then he went into the local diner and probably to the horror of the waitress and any nearby patrons, poured several spoons worth of ketchup in his coffee. Did anyone think he was an alien? Probably not. Doubtful anyone in the diner was as well-read as him. I'm sure he got some strange looks though.
Stranger in a Strange Land
This was Grandpa's suggestion to me and became one of my favorites.
Possibly one of the most famed science fiction books of all times, this is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human born on Mars and later returned to Earth.
This book actually inspired at least one religion, and the Church of All Worlds exists to this day. I really hope they don't grok their dead though. (Actually, I'm sure they don't.)
May you never thirst for good books!
My best friend and I fell in love with this book and the whole series. We were about 12 or so, thus no worries of dying at age 21! One of our ongoing games of "let's pretend" took place in this world.
My first partial novel (the one in the shoebox under my bed) was adapted from our game. Since fan fiction isn't publishable, I changed many things about the world. This book fell by the wayside when Dark Moon Gates came along. Maybe I'll come back to it someday.
Logan's Run started my love for science fiction and fantasy which continues to this day in my own writing.
I've read about 90% of Anne McCaffrey's books -- and she's written many.
I loved the Killashandra Ree Character and was as entranced by her story as she was by her crystals. Come to think of it, I'm pretty entranced by crystals too!
Hunters of the Red Moon
This novel was fascinating: both the hunt itself and the depth of the characters. MZB has always been one of my favorite authors, and this is one of the books that hooked me on her.
The Fantasy Realm Comes Alive
Science ficiton was fun, but not entirely my genre (though I might surprise both of us someday). Hard SF was just a bit beyond an intuitive learner like me. The technicalities of FTL travel and mechanics of science just didn't hold interest.
Fantasy, however was more my realm. I soon became famous for haunting the folklore section of my childhood library. Vampires, werewolves, faery tales, books of spells, anything like that and I read it with a voracity. I probably still have outstanding library dues, since I'd borrow stacks of books at a time! No surprise that's what I write now, myself.
Don't get me wrong, my fantasy novels are very based in fact and science, and especially in my love of zoology and botany. The world of the Assassin's Flower books and the Lutero novel was realized in all aspects of what it might be like on a planet where a day (a full rotation of the planet) is a year long (from our Earth perspective).
Likewise, Dark Moon Gates is also very based in my actual practice of magick and my extensive studies into Sidhe and faery lore. All the magick in it is based on actual rituals I've performed. Or magick I would perform if put in Willa's situation.
Reading Time is Teatime
I drink a lot of tea. There's nothing like curling up with a good book and a cup of Earl Grey. I'll take mine light with a dash of sugar, thanks!
I notice that my protagonist Willa and her family and coven spend a lot of time drinking tea also.
What can I say? For me, tea has always been a social thing. Mom and I and our writer friends would hang out with a cuppa. Every time Mom sends a care package, she includes an assortment of tea bags of different types and flavors. It's one of the many ways I know I'm loved!
Sure, a nice glass of wine is fine. But remember, I came into writing as a kid. And Willa, my present leading lady, is under-age too,
Somewhere in my weird and wacky brain there's a strong association between tea and writing/reading.
What do you like to eat or drink while you're reading? Let me know in the comments section below.
© 2014 Lionrhod