Books You Passed Around as Kids

Josie Leavitt - March 22, 2016

Reading is thought of as solitary passion, but it’s actually one that’s shared. Readers talk about the books they’ve loved and they want to share them, regardless of the age of the reader. The books we read as children, at least for me, were the ones with the biggest impact. I struggled as a child with reading. Undiagnosed dyslexia made letters seem almost foreign to me until about age eight. When I was able to read fluently, I found that a whole new world had opened up. One of the things that made me happy as a reader was hearing from friends what they loved and what they shared with me.
I have a very clear memory of being in fifth grade when my good buddy Andrew was talking at lengthbrain about The Great Brain and how much he loved it. He lent me his copy and I devoured it, and read all the books in the series. Andrew and I would brainstorm pranks we could pull at our Quaker school. We would spend hours thinking up things we knew we would never do, but thought would be hilarious. When I was done with the book, I shared it with my friend Melissa and then she shared it and it just kept going.
Sometimes the books shared were innocent, but as we got older and were in middle school the books took a decidedly grown-up turn. I was fortunate to be a teen when Judy Blume books really took off. Her books were in the school library, right there in plain view. I am fairly certain I was the first one to read Forever. I told my best friend Trish about it and we tittered in the lunchroom about the sex scenes. Pretty soon every girl in my class had read the book. The school administration was not happy that every girl in seventh grade was writing a book report about foreverForever. They quickly said to us, “You can read this book, but it is not acceptable for an assignment.” We hated the injustice of that but complied because they didn’t pull the books from the library.
I also remember passing around Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack and The Outsiders. We were suburban kids of a certain privilege and these books showed another view of the world. I was riveted, as were my friends. We didn’t know it, but these books were helping to round us out as people by exposing us to different lives and different ways of being in the world. As I got older I shared my mom’s Jackie Collins’ books with my friends during the summer. Should a 13-year-old have been reading Jackie Collins? No, and that’s precisely why we did.
So, readers, my question is: what books did you and your friends pass around when you were a kid?

9 thoughts on “Books You Passed Around as Kids

  1. Pam Matthews

    The only one I really remember is Forever. And boy howdy, did that one copy got passed around to ALL the girls in the class! Sixth grade, 1979…..

  2. Carol B. Chittenden

    After the Gulliver’s Travels debacle, I stopped sharing. That was in seventh grade, when I received the book for Christmas. The part about urinating on the Lilliputian fire created shock waves! I don’t remember what I shared at a younger age, except that someone lent me the first Nancy Drew, which I devoured. But it was my last: my mother deemed it “trash”, and forbade further investigation. By the time I was old enough to subvert that judgement, other books were more interesting.

  3. Jen Lawson

    The most popular were V.C. Andrews novels, but we also passed around Stephen King and the Clan of the Cave Bear books in junior high.

  4. Shanda Perkins

    I vividly remember passing around ‘Are You There God, I’m Margaret’ to all of the girls in my 5th grade class. In fact, we were reading it in a group during free time one day, and our grey-haired-bun-wearing-stick-in-the-mud-super-strict teacher Mrs. Davis caught us. I was scared, thinking she was going to abscond the copy I’d personally bought from the book fair, but instead, she smiled over the large bow on her high-necked blouse and said ‘Young ladies, you are at the thrust (giggle) of an important time in your lives. If you feel uncomfortable speaking with your mothers, please know that you can always come to me if you have questions about your bodies and the changes you may be experiencing.” Then she winked at me and walked back to her desk.

  5. Laura Purdie Salas

    I love this post. We passed around Forever, too! And other Judy Blume books, like Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret. A few years before that, I remember passing around John Bellairs’ spooky books with my friends. I’m going to try to remember some more!

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle

      Your mention of John Bellairs’ books (LOVE them!) reminds me of this wonderful second grader, Sam P., whom I taught in Manhattan years ago. I overheard him in a corner of the library recommending House with a Clock in Its Walls to a friend. “But if you really want to see what John Bellairs is made of,” he said, “read The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn.”

  6. Cheri

    I was very fortunate to have friends who loved to read, whose parents were as open to finding new books as mine were. There were many books one of us would read and suddenly we’d all have a new obsession to talk about (The Outsiders was definitely one of them!). I remember reading (and sharing) my first adult novel in eighth grade (Barbara Delinsky). We thought we were so grown up.

  7. Melissa

    I was in junior high and high school when the Harry Potter books first came out. My friends and I all read them. While we didn’t go to the midnight release for any of the books, many of us pre-ordered them so would go to the bookstore the next day to pick it up. I vividly remember going to the beach one day in the summer and laying on the sand reading “Order of the Phoenix” while most of my friends were in the water!


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