Subscribe to our Books Briefing email newsletter, where every Friday, you’ll receive a newsletter like the one below, containing a selection of timely criticism, literary essays, reading recommendations, and more. Sign up here.
Childhood may be fleeting, but the stories, heroes, and fantasy worlds of children’s books somehow always manage to carve out space in readers’ hearts long after they’ve grown up. Of course, there’s the magical world of Harry Potter, which has continued to inspire countless films and plays today. For one writer, rereading the boy wizard’s confrontations with mortality became instrumental in helping her grapple with her own trauma as an adult. The author Lev Grossman explains how in other mythical worlds (such as C. S. Lewis’s Narnia), characters—and through them, readers—still must work through earthly problems. And in Michael Ende’s Momo, which depicts an imagined society where time is stolen and saved, adult readers may find that they are eerily similar to the story’s villains.
The act of rereading can sometimes diminish the luster of childhood favorites. The Hardy Boys series, which was edited 60 years ago to remove racist content from many of its entries, makes for a “knotty” kind of nostalgia for one writer, whose boyhood was both shaped by and excluded from the “lily-white” Americana depicted in its stories. But all this is to say that there is value in the dissonance that comes from rereading children’s stories. While the characters and plots have stayed the same, how have readers changed since they last picked up their favorite books from childhood?
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
The knotty nostalgia of the Hardy Boys series
“Rereading the Hardy Boys series has been an opportunity to untangle my nostalgia around the sleuths, who inadvertently helped me understand my identity through a fictional world not exactly built with boys like me in mind.”