Since I’ve been writing young adult novels for the last few years, mostly aimed at kids around 13 years old, and since I am leaving that behind to begin writing an epic fantasy series geared toward adults after I publish WOT #3, I thought it would be fun to create a list of books I loved when I was a 13 year old kid — The books that both consciously and unconsciously influenced my storytelling of the last few years. So here are my favorite books from childhood. You’ll no doubt notice they are nearly all sci-fi or have a sci-fi angle.
Rocket Ship Galileo
I’ve written about this novel before. It was one of my first blog entries. Also Heinlein’s first novel. A fun story about a bunch of teens building a rockets ship and taking it to the moon where they find…oh I won’t spoil it.
The Alvin Fernald Series
Clifford B. Hicks
The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald Alvin’s Secret Code, Alvin Fernald, Foreign Trader, Alvin Fernald, Mayor for a Day, Alvin Fernald, Superweasel.
These were just some of the titles in the Alvin Fernald series. They were all published in the 1960s and early 70s. So, why was I reading them in the 80s? Because that’s the kind of library we had in my small town. Books stayed in the shelf a long while and not many new ones arrived to displace them. I loved the series though. Alvin was a bit of a brain, his sister a precocious tagalong, and his athletic best friend a stalwart companion. The adventures were always entertaining and usually had an interesting science based message behind them.
Bertrand R. Brinley
This series was one of my favorites. A club of young teen scientists who get into a series of crazy adventures in a small town. Made me wish there were some scientist kids in my small town who wanted to form a mad scientist club. While the science was a bit dated even by the time I read them, the stories still have a bold imaginative punch. What 13 year old science geek wouldn’t want to refurbish a submarine to explore the town lake or stage a UFO hoax? My Young Sorcerer’s Guild series is a loving homage to Brinley’s work.
The Danny Dunn Series
Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams,
I started reading these stories when I was around 10 years old and consumed a bunch of them before I finally moved on to more adult sci-fi. I think I read the last of them (Danny Dunn and the Heat Ray) when I was 13. That was when my dad, who thought I should be reading something a little more sophisticated, handed me Lucifer’s Hammer.
The Mote in God’s Eye
Larry Niven & Jerry Pournell
Not a book aimed at young teens, simply one I loved as a young teen. A dead space probe arrives in a solar system and leads to a military ship being pressed into service as a research and ambassadorial vessel. Great fun. Especially when you’re 13. I read this right after Lucifer’s Hammer. Right before devouring everything Niven and Pournell had written, along with nearly everything Heinlein wrote.
Marion Zimmer Bradley
A crew of teens from an elite space academy head out into deep space and struggle with interpersonal issues and the usual shipboard dangers. How could things go wrong with six brilliant, attractive, and hormonally crazed teens in charge of an interstellar space ship? I’m surprised it hasn’t been optioned for a series on the CW network. I was a great read as kid through (although the illustrations were definitely not age appropriate – not that I complained at the time).