freermotherandchild During a visit my twelve-year-old niece paid to my place last weekend, I took her to the guest room, where I keep my children’s and YA literature, and chose some books with her to borrow over the summer holidays. Many of my books there are classics, the majority are books I read when I was a kid myself. So after my niece had picked out a few titles on her own, I handed her several others which I think she might like. I especially recommended Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce, and my niece ended taking the whole Song of the Lioness quartet. Today I am informed she is by now on her second reading of the whole set.

I love recommending and borrowing favorite books to my nieces. I don’t always succeed in whetting their appetites for certain books: For example, they refuse to read Anne of Green Gables or Daddy-Long-Legs, claiming these are too old-fashioned for their tastes. On the other hand, they love Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries, and Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel and Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief series are a huge success with my eldest niece, 14, who reads in English.

The latter has also made some foray into my romance novels by now, her present favorite author being Marian Devon. My sister, the girls’ mother, doesn’t read romance at all and actually frowns upon it a bit, but doesn’t try to curtail her daughters’ reading either as long as they read in a variety of genres. So with her, too, I try to point out the best authors and books that I’ve got, while letting her make her own choices.

All of this gives me a lot of satisfaction for a number of reasons.

a) I feel the huge amount of books I buy is justified the more when others read them, too.

b) There are some books I love so much that I think they would enrich anyone’s life. So handing them to my adored nieces is practically a duty.

c) I can give my nieces food for thought by confronting them with strong, admirable (sometimes also controversial) fictional characters. Alanna of Trebond is a good example here, as are some of Sarah Dessen’s and Meg Cabot’s heroines.

d) I can teach my nieces that romance, be it in fiction or in their own lives, is nothing to be ashamed of. (And before you wonder: I plan to teach this to my nephew, too, but he’s only seven and thus a bit too young right now.)

Do you hand your favorite books to the next generation, too? What authors and titles come to mind? And how well do you succeed in awakening their enthusiasm for certain books? Or do you think many books are really just for one generation?

– Rike Horstmann