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When we asked you last week about the childhood books that you still think about, we had an outpouring of responses, both from readers of this newsletter and from Atlantic readers on Facebook. Many people described how the stories they grew up on shaped their understanding of the world: The Phantom Tollbooth taught you new ways to use your imagination; The Boxcar Children showed you skills such as teamwork and resourcefulness; and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret guided you through puberty. Some books fostered a lifelong love of animals, and others gave you dreams of running away to museums, even in adulthood.
We were so delighted by your recollections that we decided to make this second issue of more childhood favorites that we didn’t include in last week’s edition. Many of you mentioned books we’ve written about, like The Hobbit and A Series of Unfortunate Events, that illustrate how the themes of children’s classics carry over into adulthood—and how they take on new meanings as readers get older. A new book by the scholar Anne Boyd Rioux reveals the complicated history behind Little Women’s idyllic family portrait. And an essay by E. B. White recounts an experience he had as an adult—making friends with a pig—that preceded his writing a similar story in the children’s classic Charlotte’s Web.
Each week in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas, and ask you for recommendations of what our list left out.
Check out past issues here. Know other book lovers who might like this guide? Forward them this email.
What We’re Reading
“I was always drawn to stories where children escape the confines of adult supervision, but I was absolutely enchanted by the mature, practical, and sophisticated protagonist of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Even in her rebellion, Claudia was interested in culture and education. Every time I’m in New York I think about running away to the MET and sleeping in the exhibits.” — Abigail, a Books Briefing reader