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All Grown Up: Discovering Adult Fiction Based on Your Childhood Favorites

Rory O'Connor By Rory O'Connor Published on March 3, 2016

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Often what we love as children stays with us long into adulthood – this is true of me, at the very least -from dearly loved movies to comfort foods to favorite reads. While the beloved classics of my childhood may not hold up under my more discerning adult scrutiny (ahem, Nancy Drew), that does not mean that I don’t get all warm and fuzzy when I think about Nancy’s adventures.

Certain children's books are classic for a reason. Through their characters and themes, they become an ineffable part of our reading identity. So it only makes sense that thematically similar books, whether intended for younger or older audience, would be enjoyed based on said similarities That is my goal with these recommendations, to pair the books I loved as a child with books I've loved as an adult, based on their themes, characters, and storylines. Because who doesn't want to find out how Nancy Drew would fit into the world of adult fiction?!

If you Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene, you should read The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Both Nancy and Lisbeth, the protagonists in the aforementioned books, are insatiably curious with a bad habit of getting in trouble. If they are not supposed to know something, it becomes their personal mission to discover it.

If you liked the The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin, you should read Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. Both this series of books and this standalone novel feature strong, complicated bonds between female characters, especially as they come of age.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. At their surface, both novels feature hidden gardens and young, abandoned girls. Moving to England, the gardens they inhabit become intertwined with their families in ways that can never be undone, with unintended consequences.

Holes by Louis Sachar and The Rathbones by Janice Clark. The novels both feature long family histories, with a seeming "curse" on both. The Rathbones lacks some of the humor in Holes, but it makes up for it in atmosphere.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and Wild by Cheryl Strayed. While one is a novel and the other is a memoir, both are tales of isolated adventure. Brian and Cheryl , although vastly different in age, both most come to grips with memories of their mother while on their journey.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. On the surface, it may not seem like the two have much in common. If you look a little deeper, the two novels are surprisingly similar. Both Harry and Jane are orphaned, both are small and pale, both live with aunts who hold a grudge, both are tormented by the large, glutinous boy of the house, one lives under the stairs while the other lives in a small closet, both are told how ungrateful they are, and both find mentors in kind adults (Templeton and Dumbledore). Once at school, their lives are transformed in ways they never imagined and they form true friendships with another child (or children) while in attendance.

It's fascinating to analyze the ways the literature that I loved as a child has influenced my adult reading choices. Can you think of any adult counterparts for the books you loved when you were younger? It's surprisingly fun.

Science librarian, blogger, and nature lover. Survival is insufficient.

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