I'd posted something related to this on a mailing list some months ago, but I thought I'd reproduce it here. It's a little (well, not quite little) list of the authors I enjoyed reading as a child and young adult, roughly in chronological order.
I haven't included the books I read after I left school — and anyway, I don't read any fiction these days. Except Enid Blyton, and that's for the nostalgia.
Undoubtedly the first 'author' I read independently. I still remember most of the nursery rhymes. It comes in handy even today in trivia quizzes, for some quizmasters get a kick out of asking "How high was the old woman tossed up in a basket?" or "Where was I headed when I met a man with seven wives?" (Any answers?)
Hans Christian Andersen
The Little Mermaid must be the first story that made me cry — that was of course before I grew up and decided that crying is not something that boys do. Boys can be so stupid sometimes.
I had a nice colourful book with Hansel and Gretel and the wicked witch on the cover, and I used to be mighty scared of that witch. Ran into the Grimm Brothers again in college when I had to study the phonetic patterns of the Germanic languages. Apparently the brothers did more than write fairy tales.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass have remained perennial favourites. Can write lots more, but will exercise restraint.
I'm not going into Blyton in detail, because her influence on me would deserve an entire essay. All I can say is that it was strong enough to determine my choice of career — I simply had to be a writer of some sort. However, I didn't foresee that I'd be rewriting mangled business copy someday... *sigh*
Didn't enjoy the Pooh books much for some reason. Maybe it's because I arbitrarily labelled the bear a complete dumbass. Must read them again with a less biased mind.
Read most of the Katy books (What Katy Did, What Katy Did Next, What Katy Did at School etc.)
Hergé (Georges Remy)
Read all the Tintin comics many times over (except the elusive Tintin in Congo and Tintin in the Land of the Soviets). Still can hold my own in a Tintin quiz, provided it's not in French.
Goscinny and Uderzo
When I first read Asterix I suppose it was the fights that interested me; years later it was the punning. Good enough to read many times over — you always find something new. Who would have thought that Canes Calidae meant 'hot dogs' in Latin?
The Folks at Indrajal Comics
Staple diet during school, when these were available for 60 paise each. Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon and the invincible Bahadur were the original fab four, and they were later supplemented by a motley gang that included Buz Sawyer, Kerry Drake, Rip Kirby, Garth and others. Marvel Comics (Superman, Batman, Whateverman) ranked a close second, along with Harvey Comics (Richie Rich, Casper, Little Audrey). Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle brought up the rear.
The William books are hilarious, though they seem to be written for adults rather than children. At least, I can appreciate the humour better now. (That applies to Asterix too, which I started reading when I was 10 or so — I wonder what I was laughing at then?)
Read a good many of the Lone Pine adventures, but they seemed overly long and tended to drag a little.
The adventures of Dr Dolittle and his animals kept me occupied on many a lazy weekend. Graduated smoothly to the slightly more credible James Herriot and Gerald Durrell some years later.
I enjoyed the Borrowers series, but Bedknob and Broomstick was a particular favourite. Also liked the Disney Film (which starred Angela Lansbury as the witch), though it didn't seem to have much in common with Norton's book.
Louisa M Alcott
Got Little Men as a prize for being a model student (or something equally improbable) in school when I was about six years old. Found it a crashing bore, but when I returned to it some years later I liked it so much that I read the 'prequels' (is there a better word?) as well as others in the series (Little Women, Good Wives, Jo's Boys).
Enjoyed the Pippi Longstocking tales (translated from Swedish, I believe). Would love to read them again.
The combined might of the Bobbsey Twins, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew kept me busy well into my teens. Enough said.
The Three Investigators
Robert Arthur is tops, William Arden is sometimes good. The others (MV Carey, Marc Brandel) are just about passable. Strictly no credit to that scoundrel Alfred Hitchcock, whom I once revered as the author of the series.
Capt WE Johns
Biggles' escapades used to be a hit among us boys. I wonder why the girls weren't interested, because there was really no gender divide when it came to Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.
Jay Williams and Ray Abashkin
Practically unknown today, these writers collaborated on the Danny Dunn series. Danny Dunn, along with pals Joe and Irene, did some fantastic things — they travelled in time, turned invisible, explored space, rigged up a weather machine and even built a homework-writing contraption. The books deserve to be better known, though the science in the books is obsolete enough to qualify as science fiction by today's standards.
The Russian Connection
Due to geopolitical and cultural reasons, I has access to a virtual farrago of children's books translated from Russian. Many may regard this as propaganda, but we kids didn't know — or care — because some of those books were darned good. Here are some I recall reading (I don't remember the names of the authors): Visiting Grandpa (very cute), The Adventures of Pencil and Screwbolt (quite surrealistic), When Daddy was a Little Boy (incredibly funny), The Adventures of Dunno and His Friends, The Adventures of Dennis, The Bronze Bird, The Maze. The last two dealt with 'adult' themes.
Other childhood favourites...
...include Johanna Spyri's Heidi, Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, CS Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Jack London's Call of the Wild, Maurice Sendak's brilliant Where the Wild Things Are and Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Then there were the abridged versions of HG Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, Herman Melville, Charles Dickens and Shakespeare — all of which used to be mandatory reading anyway in English class.
I'm sure I've left many books out, but it's impossible to be exhaustive when one is compiling a list of this sort. But one thing is certain — British writers make up the bulk of the list, though there are a good many authors from continental Europe accessible in translation. And considering the number of Hollywood movies I've been exposed to lately, I'm surprised to see how little America contributed to my choice of reading matter twenty years ago.